A World Court of Human Rights

About the Project

The year 2008 marked the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In order to commemorate this event, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs established a Panel of Eminent Persons, including inter alia former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, the UN Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, and other high-standing experts on human rights. The Panel elaborated on contemporary challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The outcome document “Protecting Dignity: An Agenda for Human Rights” identified eight themes for further research, including the establishment of a World Court of Human Rights. This idea was already discussed in the 1940s alongside proposals for a High Commissioner and an International Criminal Court. It is based on the firm belief that human rights violations require remedies and is now put in the context of the reform of UN human rights mechanisms in general.

Manfred Nowak and Julia Kozma were asked to elaborate a statute, which would serve as a sound legal basis for the following political discussions on a future World Court of Human Rights. The content of the draft statute was regularly put to a test during 2009 in discussions with distinguished human rights lawyers and experts of international law, such as during a conference organised by the Human Rights Law Centre of Nottingham and a conference in Berkeley, USA; furthermore, in a meeting with Martin Scheinin, another author commissioned with the development of a similar statute, a joint draft was elaborated.

According to its statute, the World Court shall be established by an international treaty, as a permanent organ associated with the United Nations. The statute does not include any substantive rights; rather, States have the possibility to choose from a list of human rights treaties which they have ratified and with regard to which they wish to accept the complementary and binding jurisdiction of the World Court. Taking into account the power that certain non-state entities exercise over individuals, the statute introduces the novel possibility of jurisdiction over non-state actors, such as business corporations, rebel groups, the United Nations and other inter-governmental organisations, if these entities make a declaration to this effect.

Further information: https://www.udhr60.ch/research.html

Project Data

Country: International
Persons involved: Julia Kozma, Manfred Nowak
Contact persons: Julia Kozma
Lead Organisation: Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GMR): Research Platform Human Rights in the European Context, University of Vienna
Project start: 12/2008
Project completed: Yes
Funded by: Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs