Human Rights Governance and Institutions

As the number of human rights treaties, oversight bodies and tribunals has grown over the past 50 years, more and more states find themselves dealing with multiple human rights institutions and laws.  Scholars have not fully mapped this dense architecture of human rights institutions, not have we fully considered the implications of overlapping institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights.  I have a set of single- and co-authored projects that fill in this gap.  The first is a paper that considers the effects of overlapping human rights institutions on the fight against impunity in Latin America.  The second is a collaborative project with Alexandra Huneeus on the roles of both the ICC and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on shaping peace in Colombia.  A third project, co-authored with Jilliene Haglund, examines the density of the human rights architecture in Europe.  The abstracts are below.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Effects of Overlapping Institutions:  While much of the scholarly literature on the effects of international human rights institutions looks at the impact of one institution or mechanism in isolation, the human rights landscape is actually quite dense, comprised of regional and international treaties and enforcement mechanisms. States face multiple and sometimes competing demands from these various human rights institutions. This paper aims to address the interconnectivity of this human rights framework by focusing on the relationship between the Inter-American and UN human rights systems, the recommendations they issue, and the ways in which states implement and comply with these mandates. The analysis focuses on recommendations regarding accountability for human rights violations in three countries—Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico. This chapter asks, first, if the recommendations that these countries receive from the Inter-American and UN human rights systems are consistent on the topic of accountability and second, how states’ responses to these recommendations vary.  This paper will be included as part of a volume on the impact of the Inter-American Human Rights system, organized by the Inter-American Human Rights Network.

The Judicialization of Peace:  Colombia, the ICC and the Inter-American Court:  (With Alexandra Huneeus) Since 1984, Colombia has negotiated a series of accords aimed at pacifying its long-standing internal conflict. Over the same period, Colombian politics have been characterized by a rapid and pronounced judicialization of politics, which has extended to the politics of peacemaking. Not only did Colombia create a new constitutional court in 1991, but it also accepted the jurisdiction of two international courts (ICs): the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. All three courts have under their purview matters of accountability for atrocity crimes. Our paper examines how the judicialization of peacemaking alters the resulting agreements. Specifically, we ask how judicialization has changed the shape of justice and accountability as inscribed in three of the main agreements the Colombian government has negotiated: the Pactos de la Uribe (1984, 1986); the agreements demobilizing the paramilitary (2003-2006); and the agreements that have emerged from the current peace process in Havana (2012-2016). We find that the judicialization of politics has narrowed the scope of amnesty in these agreements, and that the terms of accountability have been specified in ever-greater detail, thereby limiting the discretion of the government. We further find, however, that the effect of judicialization extends beyond that of curbing amnesty.  Our analysis show that, over time, negotiators have learned to shape accountability mechanisms so as to deflect judicial review while meeting their core political objectives.

Overlapping International Human Rights Institutions: Juggling Multiple Human Rights Commitments in Europe: (With Jill Haglund)  As a result of the substantial growth of the international human rights regime in recent decades, states face an increasingly dense set of institutional commitments. Such commitments range from demands and recommendations issued by regional human rights institutions to those of the UN human rights system. Scholars often examine these institutions in isolation, analyzing the demands made by one institution at the expense of various others. Yet, the institutions do not operate in isolation, nor do states necessarily consider the requests they receive from these institutions independently. In this paper, we map the various demands international human rights institutions make on European states. Europe represents an exceptionally dense region, in which states are the recipients of demands from various human rights institutions, including the UN treaty bodies, the UN Universal Periodic Review, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Union, and other sub-regional institutions. Unlike much of the recent scholarship on international human rights law, which increasingly focuses on the domestic factors at work in explaining respect for rights, we focus our attention on the institutional design, which we suggest is an important factor in understanding the types of demands states receive and subsequently, the ways in which they respond to these institutions. This renewed attention on institutional design allows us to better understand the effects–intended and otherwise–of the dense institutional human rights environment in which many states now operate.

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