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Norm Conflict in International Law: Whither Human Rights?

Marko Milanovic

University of Nottingham School of Law

April 2, 2009

Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2009

The article examines norm conflicts, defined as situations where one norm constitutes, has led to, or may lead to a breach of another, and particularly those norm conflicts in which one of the conflicting norms is a rule of human rights law. Such instances occur more and more every day, are increasingly litigated, and can be of great political importance. For example, a human rights treaty might prohibit the preventative detention or internment of persons under any circumstances, while the UN Security Council might pass a resolution actually authorizing such detention, say in relation to suspected terrorists. What does then happen when a state's obligations under a human rights treaty conflict with its obligations under the UN Charter?

In that regard, one possible solution is that pursuant to Article 103 of the UN Charter, obligations under the Charter - including binding Security Council resolutions - prevail over conflicting treaty obligations of the UN member states. The article will explore whether the Council can displace international human rights treaties, and if so, how can such a development be curtailed or avoided. It will elaborate on various forms of norm conflict resolution and avoidance, and will discuss the recent jurisprudence of the House of Lords (Al-Jedda), the European Court of Human Rights (Behrami and Bosphorus) and the courts of the European Union (Kadi). The article thus provides a systematic overview of the impact of norm conflicts on the protection of human rights in a fragmented international legal order.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 79

Keywords: international law, norm conflict, human rights, fragmentation, Behrami, Al-Jedda, Kadi, Bosphorus

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Date posted: April 3, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Milanovic, Marko, Norm Conflict in International Law: Whither Human Rights? (April 2, 2009). Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1372423

Contact Information

Marko Milanovic (Contact Author)
University of Nottingham School of Law ( email )
Law and Social Sciences Building
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD
United Kingdom
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