This project aims to provide a critical evaluation of the law and policy of whether and to what extent international human rights law is and should be applicable to states extraterritorially
This project is led by Ralph Wilde. The first phase, funded by a grant from the European Research Council, addresses whether and in what circumstances human rights law applies extraterritorially. This will be completed by August 2021. The main publication, a CUP monograph entitled ‘Human Rights Beyond Borders: Whether and How International Human Rights Law Applies’ will go to press then. The next phase, concerned with what human rights law requires when it applies extraterritorially, case studies, and enforcement, will commence in September 2021. The main publication, a CUP monograph entitled ‘Human Rights Beyond Borders: What International Human Rights Law Requires, Case Studies and Enforcement’, will go to press in August 2022. The final phase, concerned with interdisciplinary approaches, will commence in September 2022. The main publication, a CUP monograph entitled ‘Human Rights Law Beyond Borders: Interdisciplinary Approaches’ will go to press in August 2023. Existing publications from the project, a series of book chapters and journal articles, can be found below. More will be added when they are published. For the first phase of the project, Dr Karen Da Costa and Dr Lorenzo Gasbarri were the project Research Fellows.
Extraterritorial human rights concerns
States have an impact on human rights not only in their own territories. Also, often there is an extraterritorial impact - on people in the rest of the world.
For civil and political rights, relevant extraterritorial activity includes war, occupation, other military action, anti-migration and anti-piracy initiatives at sea, sanctions, extraordinary rendition, strikes by so-called ‘drones’ and the operation of extraterritorial detention and interrogation sites housing combatants and migrants, including refugees.
Just as the attacks on 9/11 resulted in a global policy focus on terrorist threats, so too the range and significance of extraterritorial actions commenced or continuing over and beyond the decade since then, have led to greater critical attention being focused on the impact on human rights outside their borders of the actions of states.
For socio-economic rights, the widening gap between the global rich and the global poor, and the increasing appreciation of ideas of interdependence and common responsibilities in the context of globalization, have led to a renewed focus on the obligations of the economically advantaged towards those less fortunate.
Also, concerns have been raised about the potentially negative effect of development assistance on civil and political rights, the misuse of aid money by oppressive governments, and the harm caused by economic sanctions to ordinary people. Moreover, fundamental challenges are made to the legitimacy and viability of the economic models promoted through development policies and enabled by the structures of international economic relations.
The potential role of international human rights law
Public policy on the obligations of States towards human rights outside their territories has a legal dimension in international human rights law.
However, for civil and political rights, it has been asked whether certain activities, notably those associated with the war on terror and the policies of President Obama of a similar nature, such as drone strikes, take place in a ‘legal black hole,’ usually taken to denote the absence of rules providing checks and balances against abuses.
Indeed, whether and to what extent international human rights law applies extraterritorially to these activities is contested, and uncertain. The case law and commentary is sparse and often highly situation-specific, and states take varying and mutually inconsistent positions on it.
Similarly, the extraterritorial application of socio-economic obligations is unclear and disputed. The two concepts associated an obligatory global redistribution of wealth – the ‘right to development’ and the target of 0.7% of GDP allocated to overseas aid, implicated in the Millennium Development Goals – involve fundamental disagreement and uncertainty on the quantum involved and, indeed, whether there is even obligation in the first place.
Critiques of development models include the charge that the global normative regime is, if anything, part more of the problem than of the solution. Moreover, whether obligations concerning the negative impact of aid policy on civil and political rights even exist is disputed and under-explored.
This project aims to provide a critical evaluation of the law and policy of whether and to what extent human rights law is and should be applicable to states extraterritorially.
Below are details of the project publications currently available. There are more to come. When they are available they will be posted here; if you would like to be sent a copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Human Rights Beyond Borders: Whether and How International Human Rights Law Applies (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press, goes to press August 2021)
- Human Rights Beyond Borders: What International Human Rights Law Requires, Case Studies and Enforcement (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press, goes to press August 2022)
- 'Human Rights Law Beyond Borders: Interdisciplinary Approaches’ (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press, goes to press August 2023)
- Ralph Wilde, 'Inter-State Claims (ECHR)', (Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law (EiPro), forthcoming 2020) (double blind peer review)
- Ralph Wilde, 'Extra-Territorial Obligations and Economic and Social Rights', chapter in Oxford Handbook on Economic and Social Rights (Malcolm Langford and Katharine G Young, eds. Oxford University Press, 2020) (double blind peer review)
- Ralph Wilde: ‘Pursuing Global Socio-Economic, Colonial and Environmental Justice through Economic Redistribution: The Potential Significance of Human Rights Treaty Obligations’ Chapter in Research Handbook on International Law and Social Rights (C. Binder, F. Piovesan, A. Úbeda de Torres, J.A. Hofbauer eds., Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2020) (double blind peer-reviewed)
- Ralph Wilde, 'Extra-Territorial Obligations and Economic and Social Rights', chapter in Oxford Handbook on Economic and Social Rights (Malcolm Langford and Katharine G Young, eds. Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2020) (double blind peer review)
- Ralph Wilde, 'International recognition and human rights treaties', chapter in Routledge Handbook of State Recognition (Gezim Visoka, John Doyle, Edward Newman, eds. Routledge, 2019) (double blind peer review)
- Ralph Wilde, The Trusteeship Council in: Weiss T, Daws S (ed.) The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations, Oxford University Press, 2018
- Ralph Wilde, Socio-economic rights, extraterritorially. In: Benvenisti, E and Nolte, G, (eds.) Community Obligations in Contemporary International Law (pp. 381-395). Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2018
- Ralph Wilde, ‘Anachronistic as colonial remnants may be...’ Locating the rights of the Chagos Islanders: a case study of the operation of human rights law in colonial territories. In: Allen, S, (ed.) Fifty Years of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Springer, 2018
- Ralph Wilde, The Unintended Consequences of Expanding Migrant Rights Protections. American Journal of International Law unbound, 2018
- Ralph Wilde, ‘Let them drown’: Rescuing migrants at sea and the non-refoulement obligation as a case study of international law’s relationship to ‘crisis’, EJIL: Talk!, Part I, posted 25 February 2017; Part II, posted 27 February 2017 [4,138 words in total]
- Ralph Wilde, ‘When forced migrants decide to make perilous sea crossings: the causal role of international law,’ American Society of International Law, 166 Proceedings of the 110th Annual Meeting: Adapting to a Changing World (2017, American Society of International Law) 166-9 [4 pages/2000 words]
- Ralph Wilde, ‘Dilemmas in promoting global economic justice through human rights law’ Chapter 5 in Nehal Bhuta (ed.), The Frontiers of Human Rights: Extraterritoriality and its Challenges, Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law (Oxford University Press, 18 February 2016, ISBN: 9780198769279), 127-175 [49 pages/25,000 words]
- Ralph Wilde ‘The extraterritorial application of international human rights law on civil and political rights’, Chapter 35 in Nigel Rodley and Scott Sheeran (eds), Routledge Handbook on Human Rights (Routledge, 2013), 635-61 [28 pages/15,000 words]
- Ralph Wilde ‘Human Rights Beyond Borders at the World Court: The Significance of the International Court of Justice’s Jurisprudence on the Extraterritorial Application of International Human Rights Law Treaties’ Chinese Journal of International Law (2013) 12(4) 639-677 [39 pages/17,000 words]
- Audio and video
Ralph Wilde's presentation on the global refugee crisis
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