Authority of International Institutions: The Case for International Human Rights Treaty Bodies

23 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2008 Last revised: 20 Feb 2015

See all articles by Başak Çalı

Başak Çalı

Hertie School of Governance

Alice Wyss

University College London

Date Written: October 4, 2008


International human rights law treaties and their monitoring institutions raise important questions about the moral standing of institutions outside of the state and on what terms such institutions should be understood in political theory. The unmatched institutional nature of human rights treaty bodies presents a challenge for political theorists as it is not clear what the theoretical conception of these institutions ought to be and what concepts are relevant in assessing the point of these institutions. The aim of this article is to supply an argument for what the appropriate conception of authority applied to human rights bodies, as a distinct type of international institution, should be. For this, we survey the repertoire of moral reasons available in assigning authority to human rights treaty bodies in the current literature and assess the strengths and weaknesses of such reasons. The central argument of the article is that a successful theory for the justification of authority of international institutions has to account, firstly, for the very purpose of the authoritative relationship and, secondly, provide special and sufficient content-independent reasons to comply with the directives of these institutions.

Keywords: Human Rights, International Authority, Legitimacy, Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Bodies

Suggested Citation

Çalı, Başak and Wyss, Alice, Authority of International Institutions: The Case for International Human Rights Treaty Bodies (October 4, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Başak Çalı (Contact Author)

Hertie School of Governance ( email )

Friedrichstraße 180
Berlin, 10117

HOME PAGE: http://

Alice Wyss

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

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