A World Court of Human Rights

  • Manfred Nowak
Living reference work entry
Part of the International Human Rights book series (IHR)


Already in 1947, Australia proposed in the UN Commission on Human Rights the establishment of an International Court of Human Rights. While regional human rights courts were created in the following decades in Europe, the Americas, and Africa, the United Nations so far has entrusted only quasi-judicial treaty monitoring bodies with the examination of individual complaints, whose decisions are, however, nonbinding under international law. This is the reason why the author of this chapter, together with Julia Kozma and Martin Scheinin, drafted a Statute for a World Court of Human Rights in the framework of a Swiss initiative aimed at preparing a new Agenda for Human Rights on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This proposal goes beyond the model of regional human rights courts and also provides for an optional competence to hold international organizations, transnational corporations, and other non-State actors accountable for human rights violations. Despite the fact that the current political climate is not very favorable to innovative and future-oriented ideas to strengthen international human rights protection, this initiative was well-received by civil society and the academic community. There is, however, one significant exception: Philip Alston, one of the most prominent human rights scholars of our time, launched a fundamental attack on the very idea of a World Court of Human Rights, calling it a “truly bad idea.” After a short overview of the main reasons for a World Court and the main features of the draft statute, this chapter examines the various reasons put forward by Philip Alston against the World Court and subjects them to a critical review.


World Court of Human Rights Philip Alston Non-state actors Remedies Individual complaints 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.European Inter-University Institute for Human Rights and DemocracyVeniceItaly

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