Civil Society under Attack: Investigating the ‘New Norms’ Deployed to Fight Back

Space of civil society in domestic orders is constantly shrinking. At the core of the battlefield is foreign funding. Domestic legislation is restricting actors’ ‘political activities’ when funded by ‘foreign sources’.
Human rights community with its uncritical faith in human rights law has interpreted right to freedom of association so as to encompass the right to foreign funding, and even responsibility to donors. Domestic governments are invoking arguments of sovereignty and self-determination, but are dismissed as illegitimate excuses.
In times of change international law is not a neutral observer. It is used and abused. How has the phenomenon of ‘shrinking space’ influenced international law? Are the new norms reinvigorating public international law or simply justifying the old structures? Is the zeitgeist of the time – the uncritical faith in human rights, actually part of the problem? Is faith preventing constructive dialogue with the ‘evil governments’?

More than a Battle of Acronyms: GATS, TRIPS, and FTAs Wreaking Havoc in Education in Africa – ETOs as an Antidote?

There is a real danger that education will be moved from international human rights to international trade law. The WTO’s GATS Agreement makes education a tradable services. Its TRIPS Agreement obliges WTO members to provide for strict copyright protection. GATS-plus and TRIPS-plus free trade agreements (FTAs) enhance trade liberalisation and compel even stricter copyright protection. This paper warns of the havoc in African education that commodifying education will wreak. It identifies as a vital component in reviving human rights – including education – as an effective legal category, the notion that human rights must be recognised to give rise to extraterritorial state obligations (ETOs) under international law. These are obligations of states, in certain circumstances, to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of those beyond their territory. The discussion will identify typical ETOs safeguarding the right to education in the international trade context.

Guarding the Guardians? The evolving role of the international human rights system in protecting journalists and the media

This paper addresses international responses to some of the most pressing global threats to the exercise of freedom of expression in the digital age: attacks on individual journalists and upon the media as an institution. Against the backdrop of heightened levels of violence and online harassment of journalists, as well as the public vilification of the media by populist leaders across the world, this paper critically examines the recent approaches of UN Charter-based human rights bodies, notably the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures mechanisms, to such physical and rhetorical attacks. It traces the evolution and takes stock of the significance of relevant Human Rights Council resolutions, particularly those dedicated to the “safety of journalists” which have been adopted since 2012, as well as the responses of relevant Special Rapporteurs to specific individual cases, including that of Jamal Khashoggi which has gained worldwide attention.

‘Here Be Dragons’: Mapping the Legal Contours of Jus Cogens in International Law

For all the debate that the topic of jus cogens has prompted in international law in the past decades and currently at the UN International Law Commission, it is astonishing how little international scholars have relied on elementary notions of legal theory and legal philosophy, a tendency which has only started to recede in recent years. This theoretical inquiry purports to be another modest step in the right path of reconciliation between legal theory and international law. After defining jus cogens and providing a theoretical scaffolding drawn from elementary works on legal theory, the household jus cogens prohibition of genocide is analyzed in light of such notions. As a result, jus cogens norms are characterized both as primary rules of behavior and as secondary rules of change for legal production, constituting an international public order that serves as a tool for international law to safeguard human security.

What future for Human Rights? Accommodating Human Rights Claims in International Investment Arbitration

Human rights and investment law seem not to stand at odds with each other as it was previously thought. The recent developments show that human rights considerations in international investment arbitration could be invoked either as a state defense or an investor’s rights.
There is a heated debate going on regarding the issues of whether investors’ rights included in investment treaties are human rights and whether a host state can use human rights as its defense to justify regulatory measures affecting the investment. In this presentation, I will assess pigeonholing human rights considerations in international investment arbitration from the human rights law perspective with an aim to show that while human rights can justify the host state legitimate right to adopt regulatory measures to protect human rights, the investor’s rights are not human rights although some rights granted to the investors in the investment treaties tend to echo human rights.

The Extraterritoriality of EU Law and Human Rights in Times of Change

The paper looks at the extraterritorial human rights effects produced by the laws and conduct of the EU in the area of trade. Extraterritoriality has become a complex and multidimensional legal problem. This complexity is due to the lack of clarity and legal certainty concerning the criteria as to when states and increasingly international organisations have a duty to protect beyond their borders and, if so, the nature and delimitation of such obligation. In the EU context new questions about extraterritoriality and human rights arise due to a series of further complex questions about the EU, the relationship between the EU and International (human rights) law and the position and justiciability of human rights within the EU legal framework. The paper aims at identifying and examining the human rights obligations that the EU is bound by and whether it is possible to define them as positive obligations and, more specifically, as extraterritorial due diligence duties.