Corporations are people too? – on the status of non-human legal persons in public law

This paper asks whether non-human persons, especially corporations, can be the subject of human rights, whether they can possess such rights.The paper attempts to offer a general, conceptual analysis of this question, irrespective of the particular legal system. A danger exists, that corporate resources, which individuals seldom have, will mean that the most prevalent use of human rights instruments will be made to protect companies rather than individuals, and could even lead to the relative marginalization of humans within human rights law. This paperargues that corporations cannot be bearers of human rights. It shows that the European Court of Human Rights has assumed without discussion that such rights exist. It argues, through analysis of the theoretical justifications for human rights, that corporate human rights cannot exist. It suggests however attributing 'derivative rights', in some cases, to corporations.