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Andreas von Staden

A large number of regional and global agreements for the protection of human rights exists in the world today that regularly provide for supervisory bodies and various procedures to monitor the extent to which States abide by their obligations and to settle disputes regarding their interpretation and application. Some of these bodies can issue legally binding decisions while others can only make formally non-binding observations and recommendations. Together these pronouncements spawn an ample universe of pronouncements on the human rights obligations of States. In this contribution I argue that the fact that many of these pronouncements are legally non-binding does not mean that they cannot be made subject to legally permissible enforcement, either collectively or individually. At the same time, assuming rational decision-makers, such enforcement is highly unlikely theoretically and indeed rarely observed empirically. In addition to the lack of reciprocal benefits arising from mutual compliance with human rights norms it is in particular the absence, or only weak presence, of positive international and/or domestic audience effects that could act as inducements to engage in enforcement. In their absence, or when they are negative, the cost-benefit calculations of rational enforcers will counsel against engaging in enforcement of human rights decisions.