The Tradition of Civil Litigation in a New Age of International Law: International Perspectives on the Domestic Enforcement of Human Rights

Phillip Wardle


The enforcement of norms of international human rights law (‘IHRL’) and the provision of an effective and appropriate remedy for those who have had human rights abuses visited upon them represents one of the greatest contemporary challenges within international and domestic legal systems. In recent years a regime of domestic civil liability has emerged, largely within the United States, as an alternative means to enforce IHRL against offending individuals, governments and organisations. A particular feature of this regime has been the attribution of liability to non-state actors for human rights abuses. This article will examine these developments and chart the various advantages and disadvantages that civil litigation mechanisms represent for the enforcement of IHRL and victims of human rights abuses. The utility of this regime to remedy breaches of IHRL during and as a result of crisis situations and armed conflict will also be discussed. While focussing chiefly on the United States as the main source of domestic IHRL litigation jurisprudence, other systems of civil dispute resolution will also be examined.

Published online: 11 December 2017


international law; human rights; civil litigation

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