State Bystander Responsibility
European Journal of International Law, Vol. 21, pp. 341-385, 2010
46 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2010 Last revised: 19 Dec 2010
Date Written: December 13, 2010
International human rights law requires states to protect people from abuses committed by third parties. Decision-makers widely agree that states have such obligations, but no framework exists for identifying when states have them or what they require. The practice is to varying degrees splintered, inconsistent, and conceptually confused. This article presents a generalized framework to fill that void. The article argues that whether a state must protect someone from third-party harm depends on the state’s relationship with the third party and on the kind of harm caused. A duty-holding state must take reasonable measures to restrain the abuser. That framework is grounded in international law and intended to guide decisions in concrete cases. So after presenting and justifying the framework, the article applies it to two current debates in human rights law: when must a state protect against third-party harms committed outside its territory? And what must states do to protect women from private acts of violence? The article ends by suggesting how the same framework may inform analogous obligations outside human rights law.
Keywords: International Law, Human Rights Law, Responsibility to Protect, Obligation to Protect
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation