Towards an International Human Rights Judiciary?
Book chapter by PluriCourts co-director Geir Ulfstein, published in International Law and Changing Perceptions of Security, edited by Jonas Ebbesson, Marie Jacobsson, Mark Klamberg, David Langlet, and Pål Wrange (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2014, pp.296-306). Read the article (pdf).
The sharp increase in international courts and tribunals in recent decades, such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the WTO dispute settlement system, and the International Criminal Court, means that the international order is, progressively, subject to the rule of law.
Human rights are in the forefront in this development. We have regional human rights courts in Europe, in the Inter-American system and in Africa – but not yet in Asia. At the global level there are a number of global treaty bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee and the Committee Against Torture. These committees examine state reports, but many can also receive individual complaints. Hence, they have a judicial function. Human rights are also addressed by non-human rights international courts, such as the International Court of Justice.
But now the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), other regional courts and the global human rights system face criticism from different parts of the world – not only from traditional skeptics, but increasingly also from devoted supporters. The discontent relates to these institutions’ inefficiency and ineffectiveness in delivering justice, as well as their intervention in long-standing political, legal, cultural and religious traditions in member states. This has resulted in reform processes both at the global and regional level.
In the article, Ulfstein first discusses the functions of the ECtHR, then the global human rights treaty bodies and courts, and finally the role of national courts. The purpose is to examine to what extent the national, regional and global level act together as a comprehensive judiciary – even as a constitutionalized judicial architecture.