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Ius Constitutionale Commune en América Latina


Dirección: Armin von Bogdandy

Coordinación: Mariela Morales Antoniazzi

About the Project:

For more information see the Spanish page
Our project on an emerging ius constitutionale commune in human rights (ICCAL) is the product of academic exchange between the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law and Latin American experts. ICCAL is a legal but also a cultural and political project steeped in the structural transformation of public law. It is characterized by its objectives, key concepts and challenges. ICCAL’s objectives are to promote the advancement and respect of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to guide the opening of national legal orders to international law and the configuration of effective and legitimate international institutions. Some key concepts are dialogue, inclusion and legal pluralism. Its challenges are deep social exclusion and inequality, coupled with high levels of violence and relatively weak state institutions. Main features of the project include a comprehensive approach to public law, principle-based argumentation and the high value placed on comparative law.

The idea of Latin American constitutionalism boasts of a long history. However, a new approach has developed in the 21st century - an ius constitutionale commune. Globalization and the opening of domestic legal orders have brought the question of how to understand the fundamental structure of public law to the forefront. The concept of a Latin American common law offers an answer to this question. It is similar to the notion of new European ius commune, or at the global level, to concepts such as the law of mankind, cosmopolitan law, global law, and transnational law to name a few. ICCAL is thus not mere emulation of European theories, but rather a construct of the Latin American context, which draws on other experiences with transnational constitutionalism around the world.
For an overview of the conceptual framework of the project please see:

Further Projects

The Dormant Clauses of Latin American Integration: Origins, Functions, and Paths for their Awakening - Public and Transformative Law, Ius Commune


Our Main Projects


1. Ius constitutionale commune in human rights for Latin America (ICCAL)
The project has three main objectives. Firstly, advancing a new public law based on three fundamental principles: respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy. In this sense, law is not conceived as a mere instrument of power; instead its emancipatory potential is highlighted. A second aim is to guide the opening of national legal orders towards international law; a comparative mindset is instrumental for this aspiration. With the goal of fulfilling the fundamental promises of their own constitutions, Latin American states have chosen to open their legal orders to international human rights law. They have done this by assigning constitutional rank and supremacy to international human rights treaties. Adopting such a stance signals a paradigm shift regarding a core concept in international law – that of sovereignty. Reframing sovereignty does not imply that the state and sovereignty are rendered meaningless. However, it does imply the transformation of such concepts in order for them to still make sense in current transnational dynamics. The third objective is to promote the role of institutions beyond the State to ensure the realization of the three fundamental principles – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – mentioned above. International institutions have provided support and strengthened human rights protection, and they are also well placed to address the problems raised by global governance.

The three key concepts are dialogue, inclusion and legal pluralism. Dialogue in ICCAL is limited to the phenomenon that takes place between courts. The special role that reasoning plays in justifying judicial decisions is highlighted. Dialogue does not require agreement, but it only works if the parties that engage in it understand themselves as participating in a common endeavor. If this element is missing the phenomenon can be characterized as interaction but not dialogue. Inclusion refers to the correction of a situation where persons are not in the capacity to participate in the main social systems: health, education, the economy, politics and even law. In other words, a new public law must combat exclusion. The notion of legal pluralism is instrumental in bringing the debate regarding the relationship between national and international law forward and away from the classical monism/dualism doctrines. Legal pluralism is better equipped as a concept to describe and analyze the post-national constellation. In ICCAL legal pluralism implies rejecting the notion that it constitutes a single legal order; rather it constitutes a mechanism for norms from various legal systems - which serve the same aims - to interact. This common law is made up of international norms, such as those contained in the American Convention on Human Rights, and of national laws with the same objective -- for example the clauses that open up domestic legal orders and interpretative clauses. Pluralism rejects hierarchy as a mechanism to define the relationship between different orders.


The first main feature is a new understanding of public law as a discipline encompassing both constitutional and international law. That is, ICCAL conceives public law in a comprehensive manner. Although legal orders remain distinct from one another, legal operators and scholars should view them as intertwined. Today, in the 21 countries that have accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court, when a legal question comes to bear regarding individual rights, legal operators must look for an answer not only in the national constitution, but also in the American Convention and in Inter-American case law. This stance signals a radical departure from the binary approach to constitutional and international law. Secondly, ICCAL is characterized by principle-based legal argumentation. This is a fundamental shift away from traditional legal formalism which is mostly rule-based. The new public law gives way to a different legal culture, one in which principles, these being understood as broader and more ethically charged norms, play a larger role. The third feature is the importance that is given to comparative law. The aim in this regard is for legal operators to feel part of a broader legal constellation, one that goes beyond the nation state. Comparison is a fundamental mechanism to understand one’s own system and to learn from others. There is much diversity within Latin America but there are also countless similarities and points of convergence. There are also common institutions, experiences and trajectories that countries in the region can draw on, thus furthering the idea of a common law.

In the Latin America legal space there is a budding common culture growing around the body of law, doctrine and jurisprudence on human rights. The ius constitutionale commune project aims at systematizing these developments. A legal community is forming around the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American corpus iuris (made up of the decisions of the two organs of the system, the Inter-American Commission and Court). The fact that constitutions across the Americas share a series of values and principles centered on human dignity and human rights support the creation of such a legal culture and community.

Provisions that open up domestic legal systems, the pro homine principle and the conventionality control, are important catalysts of judicial dialogue. Both the domestic and the Inter-American legal systems benefit from this exchange and one can clearly observe how they have influenced one another. It is important to note, though, that the multi-level model of protection in place means that developments occur at a different frequency and pace across the countries of the region. Nevertheless, the ius constitutionale commune project describes an idea that is worth advancing in the context of democratic constitutionalism.


2. Handbook of Latin American Constitutional Justice (Handbuch der Verfassungsgerichtsbarkeit in Lateinamerika)
Constitutional justice plays a fundamental role in contemporary democracies by promoting the constitutionalization of the legal order and the protection and guarantee of human rights. Exemplary in this sense are the German, Spanish and Italian constitutional courts. In the Latin American context, the constitutional courts most often mentioned in this light are the Costa Rican and Colombian ones.
Continuities and ruptures in the formation and consolidation of constitutional orders, as well as convergences and differences between the countries of an apparently homogeneous region, reveal the need to rely on comparative law. Diversity and hybridity characterize the complexity of the different systems of constitutional justice. Nevertheless, certain characteristics are broadly shared: regarding institutional design (dependent on the judiciary but with a certain quota of independence), regarding the functions vested in them (enshrined in the Constitution or in law), regarding the terms served by judges (no appointments for life but also no short-term appointments), regarding the composition of the tribunal (either plenary or in smaller chambers), regarding the type of control exercised (neither completely diffuse nor purely concentrated, mostly mixed), regarding the force of decisions rendered (either binding or non-binding), regarding standing (a limited form of actio popularis is allowed), regarding the acts that may be scrutinized (constitutional reforms, international treaties, states of necessity, referenda).

The handbook is meant to be a descriptive and analytical tome on the creation, evolution and state of the art of constitutional justice in Latin America. The descriptive dimension of this work consists of depicting the institutions, processes and results of constitutional justice in the countries of the region, as well as in identifying the leading cases and future trends in their respective case law. The analytical dimension consists of comparing the institutional setting of constitutional justice in each country, including the role that international institutions play in it. Constitutional justice is central to understanding Latin American constitutional law; it is at the helm of a strategy to constitutionalize law and promote further legal and political integration between the countries of the region.

3. Legitimacy of international human rights tribunals
The project builds on the work entitled “In Whose Name: An investigation of international courts' public authority and its democratic justification” authored by Armin von Bogdandy and Ingo Venke. The work is summarized as follows: “Court judgments are epitomes of sovereign rule in many grand theoretical sketches. How may such judicial power be justified nowadays? Many domestic courts decide in the name of the people and thus invoke the authority of the democratic sovereign literally at the very beginning of their decisions. International courts, to the contrary, do not say in whose name they speak the law. This void sparks our driving question: how does the power of international courts relate to the principle of democracy? How can the rule of international courts be justified in accordance with basic premises of democratic theory? Our contribution first develops an understanding of international adjudication as an exercise of public authority, placing particular emphasis on the asymmetry between international adjudication and parliamentary politics. It unfolds legitimacy problems in the practice of international courts in light of the principle of democracy and sketches how to interpret and develop international law accordingly. Procedural adjustments and politicization are a common avenue for reacting to power vested in decisions, elections traditionally respond to the exercise of public authority, and systemic interpretation as well as a dialogue between courts might ease concerns that spring from processes of fragmentation. We ultimately suggest that domestic constitutional organs will retain a critical role in relieving the international level from shouldering the whole legitimatory burden, contesting and accommodating authority in a normative pluriverse. And finally, we contend that the idea of transnational and possibly cosmopolitan citizenship should further guide the democratic justification of international courts’ public authority”.


17.09.2015: Ius Constitutionale Commune en América Latina: una mirada a un constitutionalismo transformador

For an overview of the conceptual framework of the project please see: Armin von Bogdandy, Ius Constitutionale Commune en América Latina: una mirada a un constitutionalismo transformador.

08.06.2015: Coloquio Iberoamericano: Las Críticas Jurídicas de la Distinción Público-Privado y la Governamentalidad Neo-Liberal

 Juan Amaya, Profesor de la Universidad para la Paz

13.04.2015: Conferencia "Ius Constitucionale Commune" en la sala de audiencias de la Corte Interamericana

En el marco del 108 Período Ordinario de Sesiones de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, celebrado en San José-Costa Rica del 13 al 17 de abril de 2015, el profesor Armin von Bogdandy dictó el día 13 de abril de 2015 la conferencia titulada Ius Constitucionale Commune en la sala de audiencias de la Corte Interamericana. Dicha conferencia fue organizada por la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos y el Instituto Max Planck de Derecho Público Comparado y Derecho Internacional Público de Heidelberg, Alemania. La conferencia fue transmitida en vivo a través del enlace:

El Presidente de la Corte hizo entrega al Prof. von Bogdandy del “mazo” de la Corte, en reconocimiento por su extraordinario aporte al fortalecimiento de los derechos humanos.

05.03.2015: Coloquio Iberoamericano: Incidencia de la jurisprudencia de tribunales supranacionales, como la Corte Interamericana, en el ordenamiento jurídico peruano

Profesor Eloy Espinosa Saldaña, Magistrado del Tribunal Constitucional de Perú


30.01.2015: Coloquio Iberoamericano: Ius Constitutionale Commune: inclusión y pueblos indígenas

18.11.2014: Acuerdo marco de cooperación con la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

Con el objetivo de fortalecer las relaciones de ambas entidades y profundizar el conocimiento del derecho y difundir los instrumentos internacionales para la promoción y defensa de los derechos humanos, todo en beneficio de mejorar la administración de justicia, la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos y el Instituto Max Planck de Derecho Público Comparado y Derecho Internacional Público, con sede en Heidelberg, firman el día de hoy en la sede del Tribunal un acuerdo marco de cooperación.
El mencionado acuerdo, que tenía como antecedente un intercambio de cartas de intención del año 2002, incluye la posibilidad de realizar actividades de investigación y difusión del derecho internacional de los derechos humanos, así como de capacitación e intercambio de recursos bibliográficos entre ambas entidades.
Durante la firma de dicho acuerdo, el Presidente de la Corte Interamericana, Juez Humberto Antonio Sierra Porto, mencionó que ‘‘este acuerdo supone un paso concreto para unir esfuerzos con la academia, que permitan lograr una mejor difusión e investigación del derecho internacional de los derechos humanos’’.
El pasado mes de octubre, en la ciudad de Heidelberg, se definieron los términos de este acuerdo con el Director del Instituto Max Planck, Armin von Bogdandy, que cuenta con el aval de la Codirectora, Anne Peters. Al acto de firma en la Corte Interamericana asistió Mariela Morales Antoniazzi, Referentin para América Latina en el Instituto Max Planck de Derecho Público Comparado y Derecho Internacional Público, así como los jueces de la Corte Interamericana Roberto F. Caldas, Vicepresidente del Tribunal; Manuel E. Ventura Robles; Eduardo Vio Grossi; Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poisot y Pablo Saavedra Alessandri, Secretario de la Corte Interamericana.

27.10.2014: Coloquio Iberoamericano: 35. Aniversario de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Tendencias y desafíos actuales

13.03.2014: Décimo aniversario del Coloquio Iberoamericano

Celebración del décimo aniversario del Coloquio Iberoamericano y creación de la sección alemana del Instituto Iberoamericano de Derecho Constitucional


Seminario Internacional: Los principios del ICCAL y el derecho internacional económico: Posibles fortalecimientos recíprocos entre constitucionalismo transformador y un derecho sostenible del mercado globalizado, 27 y 28 de Noviembre 2014

Event Archive


Network Partners

Deutsche Hochschule für Verwaltungswissenschaften Speyer (DHV Speyer),
Partner: Prof. Dr. Karl-Peter Sommermann

Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas (IIJ) Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México (UNAM),
Partner: Prof. Dr. Héctor Fix Fierro, Direktor des IIJ-UNAM und Prof. Dr. Diego Valadés, Präsident des iberoamerikanischen Instituts für Verfassungsrecht

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Sao Paulo, Brasilien,
Partner: Prof. Dr. Flavia Piovesan

Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentinien,
Prof. Dr. Laura Clérico

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia,
Prof. Dr. Rodolfo Arango

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung,Rechtsstaatsprogramm für Lateinamerika,
Partner: Dr. Christian Steiner

Universidad del País Vasco,
Partner: Prof. Dr. Juan Ignacio Ugartemendia

Heidelberg Center, Universidad de Heidelberg und Universidad de Chile,
Partner: Prof. Dr. Rainer Grote, Dr. Walter Eckel und Andrea Lucas

250 Profesores de la red del Coloquio Iberoamericano

Related Projects

orden jurídico en un mundo globalizado – construcción del ius constitutionale commune de las comunidades indígenas (Rechtliche Ordnung in einer globalisierten Welt: Herausbildung eines gemeinsamen lateinamerikanischen Verfassungsrechts in Bezug auf die Rechte indigener Völker)

ius constitutionale commune a través del diálogo entre tribunales: un nuevo enfoque de la estatalidad constitucional en América Latina (Gemeinsames lateinamerikanisches Verfassungsrecht durch den Dialog der Gerichte: Ein neuer Zugang zur entstehenden lateinamerikanischen Verfassungsstaatlichkeit) con Universität Frankfurt

Gobernanza global con la UNAM, José María Serna

Crisis de la democracia y reforma de los Partidos Políticos, con Paloma Biglino y Javier Matia Portilla (Universidad Valladolid)

Project Management

Direction: Armin von Bogdandy

Coordination: Mariela Morales Antoniazzi

Other participating Research Fellows: Rainer Grote, Matthias Hartwig, Ximena Soley, Franz Ebert, Sabrina Ragone, Pedro Villarreal