The origins of human rights regimes: Democratic delegation in postwar Europe

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The fiftieth anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights marks an appropriate moment to reconsider the reasons why governments construct international regimes to adjudicate and enforce human rights. Such regimes include those established under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These arrangements differ from most other forms of institutionalized international cooperation in both their ends and their means. Unlike international institutions governing trade, monetary, environmental, or security policy, international human rights institutions are not designed primarily to regulate policy externalities arising from societal interactions across borders, but to hold governments accountable for purely internal activities. In contrast to most international regimes, moreover, human rights regimes are not generally enforced by interstate action. Although most arrangements formally empower governments to challenge one another, such challenges almost never occur. The distinctiveness of such regimes lies instead in their empowerment of individual citizens to bring suit to challenge the domestic activities of their own government. Independent courts and commissions attached to such regimes often respond to such individual claims by judging that the application of domestic rules or legislation violates international commitments, even where such legislation has been enacted and enforced through fully democratic procedures consistent with the domestic rule of law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Law and International Relations
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9780511808760
ISBN (Print)0521679915, 9780521861861
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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