Rights Beyond Borders

60 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2009 Last revised: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Chimène Keitner

Chimène Keitner

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: December 14, 2010


The central question of whether, and when, a country’s domestic rights regime constrains government action beyond national borders has largely escaped comparative analysis. This Article seeks to fill that gap. Part I provides a typology of basic approaches to rights beyond borders, which I label country, compact, and conscience. Country-based reasoning takes a strictly territorial approach to regulating the government’s actions outside the national territory, even vis-à-vis citizens. Compact-based reasoning focuses on the entitlement of a given individual to assert rights against the government based on his or her status as one of the governed, regardless of territorial location. Conscience-based reasoning holds that a government should act the same way beyond its borders as it does within them.

Part II uses this framework to analyze the evolving jurisprudence of extraterritorial rights in three common law jurisdictions: the United States under the U.S. Constitution, Canada under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the United Kingdom under the U.K. Human Rights Act. This comparative analysis reveals the continued tenacity of country-based reasoning, which privileges the role of territory in conceptualizing domestic rights, even in an age of “globalization.” In the end, the most generative source of more expansive readings of domestic rights provisions might not be any comprehensive theory about the extraterritorial reach of rights, but rather individual judges’ own sense of fundamental fairness and the perceived need for a minimum set of judicially enforceable legal constraints on the action of the political branches. To date, such judicially enforceable constraints continue to be provided by domestic, rather than international, rights guarantees.

Keywords: Extraterritoriality, Constitutional Rights, Canadian Charter, U.K. Human Rights Act, Boumediene, Bagram, Hape, Khadr, Al-Skeini, Al-Saadoon

Suggested Citation

Keitner, Chimène, Rights Beyond Borders (December 14, 2010). Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 36, p. 55, 2011 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1480886

Chimène Keitner (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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