General Questions to Guide you in your Readings:
o Do human rights “exist”?
o Does international human rights law herald the end of sovereignty?
o What is the relationship of animal rights and human rights?
o Why do individuals have rights?
o Are human rights excessively Western?
o Is rights culture inherently individualistic?
o Can human rights regimes in international law undermine the goals of human rights generally?
o Are human rights misogynistic?
o Is rights culture too formalistic?
o Are human rights a vehicle of imperialism?
o Are human rights too broad for their own good?
o Is there a hierarchy of rights?
o Are rights absolute?
o How should human rights contained in international treaties be interpreted?
o Do human rights evolve over time?
o Can rights emerge from customary international law?
o How can rights be limited internationally?
o What is the “margin of appreciation” in human rights law and how does it operate?
o What is the “living character” of international human rights treaties?
o What are “generations” of rights?
o What does it mean to say that some rights are jus cogens, and which ones are they?
o If there is a Universal declaration of human rights, why are there regional human rights instruments?
o Do human beings also have duties under international human rights law?
o What are the distinctive features of the African Convention on human rights?
o What are the distinctive features of the American Convention on human rights?
o What are the distinctive features of the European Convention on Human Rights?
o Why do new human rights treaties keep being added?
o What is the right to development?
o How does the right to self-determination relate to human rights?
o Why is it said of human rights that they are “indivisible, interdependent and interrelated”?
o What is the link between human rights and democracy?
- What is the scope of states’ duties under international human rights?
- Does a “violations” approach to economic and social rights make sense?
- What does it mean that states’ should protect the human rights of persons within their jurisdiction?
- What are the obligations that come with ratifying an international human rights instrument?
- In what circumstances is a state internationally responsible for human rights violations?
o When can a state dissolve a political party?
o What does the human right to elections encompass?
o How should the state regulate public demonstrations?
o Is criminalizing the denial of the Holocaust a violation of freedom of expression?
o Is the criminalization of apostasy a violation of freedom of religion?
o Is there a right to conscientious objection to military service on religious grounds?
o Is it legal under international human rights law for a secular state to impose restrictions on the wearing of religious symbols in the public sphere?
o Should states restrict freedom of expression when it is used for purposes considered by religions to be blasphemous?
o Is it a violation of freedom of religion for a state to impose legal restrictions on groups that it considers to be “cults”?
o Can international organizations violate human rights?
o Can the state be liable for violations committed by non-state actors?
o Can a corporation be liable for human rights violations?
o What are corporate codes of conduct and what is their potential for human rights?
o Can rebel groups violate human rights?
o What is the record of the US ATCA in holding corporations accountable for human rights violations?
o What is the “special character” of human rights treaties?
o Why are certain reservations to international treaties considered invalid?
o What are the consequences of a reservation being found invalid?
o Who can decide that a reservation is invalid?
o Can a state pull out of all or part of a human rights treaty?
o What might be the implications of some human rights obligations having an erga omnes character?
o Does a successor state automatically become party to the human rights treaties to which its predecessors were parties?
o Who are “persons within the jurisdiction” of a state for the purposes of international human rights?
o When can a state not extradite?
o Do human rights obligations apply to an occupying power?
o Can a state be liable for abuses committed by corporations abroad?
o What is the scope of a state’s obligations to its own nationals abroad?
o Can a state be found liable for human rights violations that occur in a part of its territory that it does not control?
o What are the merits of the monist model of international law incorporation for human rights?
o What are the merits of the dualist model of international law incorporation for human rights?
o Where does Canada stand in relation to other states in terms of implementation of international human rights obligations?
o How do different countries deal with contradictions between international human rights obligations and domestic law?
o What is the status of international human rights norms in X’s domestic law?
o Should one consider that human rights treaties are “self-executing”?
o What are the challenges of federal states in implementing international human rights?
o What is human rights conditionality and how does it work?
o What is the role of humanitarian intervention in favor of human rights?
o Do human rights treaties make a difference?
o Human rights and anthropology: how are human rights translated locally?
o What are national human rights commissions and what is their importance?
o What is the role of domestic courts in enforcing human rights?
o What is the role of social movements in enforcing human rights?
o What are the “social determinants” of human rights?
o What improvements is the Human Rights Council supposed to have brought to the Human Rights Commission?
o What might be the efficacy of state reports to UN treaty bodies?
o What are the biggest problems associated with reporting to treaty bodies?
o What is the record of individual petitions before (treaty body)?
o Is the Security Council bound by international human rights?
o What led to the creation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights?
o What are the powers of the High Commissioner for Human Rights?
o How do the regional systems relate to the universal ones?
o What are the current efforts to create an Asian human rights protection mechanism?
o How are the judges of human rights tribunals selected?
o What are the specificities of the African human rights protection system?
o What is the role of regional human rights Commissions?
o What is Protocol 11 reform of the European Convention on Human Rights?
o What would be pros and cons of an international human rights court?
o Under international law, can states exercise civil jurisdiction over acts of torture committed abroad by non-nationals, against non-nationals?
o Can international human rights courts order provisional measures?
o Can an individual victim of torture sue a state domestically for civil damages?
o Can a head of state be prosecuted domestically for acts of torture by the courts of another state?
o How does one know that remedies have been exhausted and can the rule ever be waived?
o How is the procedure of the UN treaty bodies distinct from that of regional human rights courts?
o What is the standard of evidence before international human rights bodies?
o What sorts of reparations can international human rights bodies order?
o What are the current limits of sovereign immunities?
o How does the distinction between personal and functional immunities affect the search for remedies in international human rights?
Session 17: Death Penalty
o What is the status of the death penalty in international human rights law today?
o Assuming that a country uses the death penalty, what are the conditions under international human rights law that constrain its use?
o What techniques of killing have been found reprehensible from the point of view of human rights?
o How has international human rights law framed the issue of extradition when the death penalty was at stake?
o What are sufficient assurances from a state that it will not impose the death penalty?
o What is the record of litigation at the ICJ concerning the death penalty?
Session 18: Freedom of expression and the prohibition of hate speech
o How is the US concept freedom of expression distinct from freedom of expression as a Charter right in Canada?
o How is the European concept of freedom of expression distinct from the US’s?
o Should manifestations of freedom of expression that are deeply offensive to religions be prohibited?
Session 19: Canada and terrorism
o What have been the relative roles of the Charter and international human rights in framing Canada’s response to terrorism?
o How has Canadian case law shaped the issue of the extra-territorial human rights obligations of states in international human rights law?
o Should surrender to Afghan authorities of prisoners where there is a risk of torture be considered a violation of the prisoners’ human rights?
o What is the status of security certificates in international human rights law?
o Is the freezing of assets of organizations suspected of supporting terrorism compatible with international human rights law?
o What has been the role and impact of international human rights mechanisms in shaping Canada’s response to terrorism?
Session 20: The “veil”
o In deciding whether the “veil” can be worn in certain public spaces or institutions, should a country’s tradition of secularism be taken into account?
o Are limitations to the ability to wear religious symbols in school on the basis of a tradition of secularism compatible with international human rights law?
o Should secular states be allowed to use religious symbols in public buildings?
Session 21: Terrorism and Human Rights
o What has been the impact on human rights of the Security Council dealing with the problem of terrorism?
o Is racial profiling justified under international human rights law in an age of terrorism?
o What is the significance of irregular renditions from the point of view of international human rights law?
o How has the right to a fair trial been affected globally by the fight against terrorism?
o How has the “war on terror” blurred the distinction between international human rights law and international humanitarian law?
o What recourses does international human rights law offer to those detained outside the judicial process because of their alleged participation in terrorism?
Session 22: Prisons, detention, disappearances
o Does solitary confinement qualify as torture?
o Is prison overcrowding inhumane treatment under international human rights?
o What could be the impact of the new Committee on disappearances?
o How does the question of disappearances change issues of jurisdiction?
o What rights does a disappearance violate?
o What is appropriate reparation, in international human rights law, for a disappearance?
Session 23: Poverty and Human Rights
o What is the role of international human rights law in shaping the Millennium Development Goals?
o What are the obstacles to invoking rights language for the poorest members of society?
o What role might civil and political rights have in fighting extreme poverty?
o What is the impact of discrimination on poverty?
Session 24: Global Trade and Human Rights
o What implications does the international protection of intellectual property have for the enjoyment of the human rights to health?
o Are grave human rights violations a valid ground to stop trading relations with another country?
o Are sanctions an effective means of enforcing human rights?