Human Rights, Conflict & International Law

One of my lines of inquiry has been the conceptual relationship between human rights, conflict and international law This has resulted in two main projects, as well as a set of chapters in edited volumes, which are listed below. 

The Judicialization of Peace

Abstract: As international courts gain in influence, many worry that they will impoverish domestic politics— that they will limit democratic deliberation, undermine domestic institutions, or even thwart crucial political initiatives such as efforts to make peace. Indeed, many states are in the midst of withdrawing, or actively considering withdrawal, from international commitments presided over by international courts. The Article focuses on the currently unfolding Colombian peace process, the first to be negotiated under the watch of not one but two international courts, to show that these concerns misconstrue the way international courts actually work. Throughout four years of peace talks, many predicted that the International Criminal Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights would impede peace by demanding prosecution of war criminals. Instead, the 2016 Colombian peace accord opens the way to a far less punitive peace than many of those familiar with the courts and underlying treaties would have deemed possible. The effect of the engagement of the international courts in Colombia has not been to impose rigid conditions from afar, but rather to allow domestic players to reinterpret the content of Colombia’s international legal obligations: the terms of Colombia’s peace were produced through—not despite—the international courts’ ongoing deliberative engagement with the peace process. The Article draws on original empirical data to reveal precisely how the international courts enabled the construction of Colombia’s sui generis peace. The Article thus speaks directly to those voicing concern over the increased involvement of international courts in national politics in general, and in peace and reconciliation in particular. It also contributes to our knowledge about how, precisely, international law comes to influence domestic politics, and how, in turn, domestic politics shape international law. 

You can also read the scholarly exchange in response to our article here and here

Suggested Citation:  Hillebrecht, Courtney, and Alexandra Huneeus with Sandra Borda. 2018. “The Judicialization of Peace.” Harvard International Law Journal 59(2): 279–330.

State Responses to Human Security: At Home and Abroad

Abstract: The aim of this book is to analyse why and how states respond to human security, both at home and abroad.  Although states still define security as “the defense of territory” from military attack, increasingly security pertains to the protection of human beings from violence. This violence can emerge from rebels, drug traffickers, terrorism, and even environmental and demographic changes. While previous literature in this field has provided rich empirical detail about human security crises, it is generally quiet about how states respond to these crises.

State Responses to Human Security fills this lacuna by bringing in concepts from international security studies and focusing on states’ perceptions of power and the changing nature of human security. Instead of debating whether or not human security exists, the authors in this volume agree that human security has been redefined to include policies associated with violence toward individuals and groups, and draw on recent events in the Middle East, China and Mexico to understand how and when human security issues prompt state responses and affect international relations. The case studies analysed in this book suggest that states respond to human security threats differently, but in both the domestic context and abroad, power and perceptions matter greatly in shaping states’ reactions to human security concerns.

Suggested Citation: Hillebrecht, Courtney, Patrice C. McMahon, and Tyler White, eds. 2014. State Responses to Human Security: At Home and Abroad. Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge Press. 

Additional Reading

Courtney Hillebrecht and Patrice C. McMahon, “Aspiring Powers and Human Security:  A Case Study from the Haitian Earthquake,” in Human Security, Changing States and Global Responses, Sangmin Bae and Makoto Maruyama, eds. New York: Routledge Press, 2014.

Courtney Hillebrecht and Patrice C. McMahon, “Human Security Revisited” in At Home and Abroad: How States Respond to Human Security Threats, Courtney Hillebrecht, Tyler White and Patrice C. McMahon, eds.New York: Routledge Press, 2014.