The promise of international human rights law has been that universal standards would elevate local rights practices. But international human rights norms make a difference when they are internalized and integrated into domestic institutions. The chapter argues that regional human rights systems can promote that integration in ways that global mechanisms (human rights treaty bodies, the International Criminal Court) cannot. Regional human rights systems can integrate with domestic legal institutions when: (1) regional rights treaties are incorporated into domestic law; (2) regional courts regularly scrutinize and condemn national practices that fall short of regional standards; and (3) domestic institutions internalize the decisions of the regional court in interpreting and applying domestic law. A comparison of the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American System of Human Rights explores the conditions under which integrated regional human rights systems emerge and develop. The author suggest that the courts’ strategies for extending rights depend on the level of human rights fulfillment in the member states (their politico-legal contexts) and the type or status of the rights concerned, distinguishing between qualified and non-derogable rights.
Edited by Wayne Sandholtz and Christopher A. Whytock
Wayne Sandholtz and Adam Feldman
The European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights apply their respective regional treaties. But they also view the regional rights systems as embedded in a global human rights regime and interpret regional rights in light of broader international human rights norms. In doing so, they sometimes cite each other, importing and exporting human rights ideas and principles. Though the decisions of one court do not constitute formal precedent in another, we argue that cross-citations among them play a coordinating role. The regional human rights courts are thus constructing a nascent trans-regional human rights jurisprudence, an emerging frontier in international human rights.
Crisis, Accountability, and Opportunity
Wayne Sandholtz, Yining Bei and Kayla Caldwell
Non-compliance with, and criticism of, the decisions of international human rights courts are commonplace. Sometimes states seek to curtail a court’s authority, by pruning its competences, withdrawing from its jurisdiction, or shutting it down altogether. This chapter examines these more aggressive forms of backlash against three prominent international courts: the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Governments are more likely to engage in backlash against an international human rights court the more its decisions are seen by national leaders as harming their domestic political interests.