Applying a Human Rights Based-Approach

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Rule of Law – A Fig Leaf or Catalyst for Human Rights Law Implementation?* Ylva L Hartmann**



Rule of law is experiencing an important upswing both as a policy area and as an area of action and assistance. On the contrary, human rights law is losing its central role on the international agenda. This can make one wonder if the rule of law is increasing in influence at the expense of international human rights law. Can a policy-concept – the rule of law – replace an international legal framework? This paper shows that the rule of law and international human rights law overlap partially, but far from completely, in normative content. Both notions are different in object and purpose – human rights focus on individuals’ rights protection and the rule of law on the structure of governance. The rule of law concept can be (ab)used by states to show their willingness for reform or enhancement of their governance structure at the expense of their citizens’ human rights. Yet, some studies show that the rule of law is a means of avoiding more severe human rights violations. One should be careful not to include too much in the notion of rule of law. This will risk its success and the abuse of it for other purposes than for what it was created. The rule of law can be used as a fig leaf for states trying to cover up their lack of human rights law implementation. Yet, used duly it can be a catalyst for improving human rights in a country since it has a potential to restrain arbitrary power, increase predictability and certainty – ultimately the goals the rule of law concept was conceived to safeguard in the first place

* Artikeln har tidigare publicerats i JT net 2016–17 [s. 156].

** LL.M. in Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, University Panthéon Assas, Paris II, France. Program Manager at the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights.

Parallellrapport till FN:s kommitté för ekonomiska, sociala och kulturella rättigheter

Med stöd av 15 andra organisationer lämnade MR-Fonden in en parallellrapport till FN:s kommitté för ekonomiska, sociala och kulturella rättigheter när Sveriges efterlevnad av sina åtaganden enligt ESK-konventionen granskades 2016.


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