My new paper on "Democracy and Human Rights Law," coauthored with Northwestern law professor John McGinnis, is now available on SSRN. The paper - which is currently under submission to law reviews - continues our analysis of the implications of the undemocratic origins of much of modern international law, begun in our Stanford Law Review article last year. The paper is highly relevant to recent debates over the Medellin case, and the United Nations Human Rights Council's efforts to establish an international law norm restricting speech that supposedly "defames" religion. Here are some excerpts from the abstract:
The undemocratic origin of most international human rights law greatly reduces the desirability of allowing it to change the domestic law of democratic states. Most international law is made through highly undemocratic procedures. Thus, on average, the quality of what we call "raw" international law rules that have not been ratified by domestic democratic processes is likely to be lower than that of domestic legal rules established by liberal democracies....
Our article does not rest on theoretical arguments alone. We describe several concrete effects of the nondemocratic generation of international human rights law. For example, we show how the influence of unrepresentative legal elites and authoritarian states has led to the establishment of potentially harmful international law norms in with respect to "hate speech," the "humanitarian" law of war, and comparable worth.
Nevertheless, our conclusions about international human rights law are not wholly negative. Our embrace of democratic processes as an effective generator of human rights . . . leads to a willingness to consider domestic enforcement of international human rights that directly strengthen citizens' control over government policy. We thus seek to reorient international human rights law from generating controversial substantive rights to protecting norms that will facilitate the leverage of citizens in controlling their own governments . . .
As we discuss in the paper, our position differs from the Bush Administration's view that adherence to human rights law (at least in wartime) should be at the virtually complete discretion of the executive. In our view, the executive is bound by domestic human rights restrictions imposed by the Constitution or by Congress and by international law duly ratified through the treaty ratification process in a way that indicates Congress' intent to impose an enforcable legal rule. However, the best way to address executive abuses is through judicial and congressional enforcement of US domestic law, not through imposition of unratified international law norms that are likely to be inferior to the domestic law they displace.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Democracy and International Human Rights Law:
- The UN Human Rights Council and the Influence of Nondemocratic States on International Law:
- The U.N. "Human Rights Council" Again Urges Speech Suppression:
- Should the United States Obey the Decisions of the International Court of Justice?
- Reflections on Medellin:
- A Texas-Sized Win for Texas in Medellin: