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Responsibility of International Organizations for Human Rights Violations

About the project:

The research has received funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)) under REA Grant Agreement n. PIEF-GA-2011-299446


1. Research Object

International organisations have proliferated enormously and continue to expand their scope of activities and range of policy fields. They engage in international policy-making and standard-setting, intervene in peace-keeping and military operations, and sometimes even act as a substitute for a state. Such increase in powers of international organisations inevitably multiplies the situations in which human rights may be affected by their acts. However, it is still unsettled whether and on what legal basis international organisations are bound by human rights, and what is the scope of their human rights obligations. Moreover, there is also a lack of international and domestic fora that could establish responsibility of international organisations and award victims a remedy. As a result, victims of human rights violations committed by international organisations are systematically deprived of their right of access to justice, and the violations remain unsanctioned. Thus, the continuous transfer of powers from states to international organisations has not been followed by a corresponding system of responsibility for international organisations.


2. Research Goals

The research aims in particular a) to identify human rights norms that bind international organisations and to determine their content and scope of application; b) to refine the rules on attribution of responsibility to international organizations; c) to identify authorities which can establish the responsibility of international organizations for human rights violations; and d) to clarify legal consequences of such violations and to explore possible remedies that victims of such human rights violations may have at their disposal.


3. Research Methods

The research project defines international organisations as global governance actors that may exercise international public authority in a multilevel legal system. It therefore first examines responsibility of international organisations as an institute of international public law as well as domestic public law, according to which no domestic or international public authority may interfere with human rights if it is not established and constrained by law. Human rights are thereby considered as the main legal constraints that apply to every exercise of public authority. Second, the research explores the variety of human rights standards and monitoring mechanisms that apply to international organisations, such as the UN, the WTO and the NATO. The potentials and limits of these different human rights standards and mechanisms are described and normatively assessed by a comparative analysis. Third, the research conceptualises the relationship between these standards and mechanisms in legal and political terms, and maps the structure of their functioning in the multilevel system of human rights protection.

Mateja Steinbrück Platise