The Rights of Man and the Rights of the Man-Made: Corporations and Human Rights

Posted: 20 Jan 2015 Last revised: 18 Apr 2015

Date Written: January 7, 2015


Recent decisions of the US Supreme Court have stoked the long-standing controversy over the recognition of corporations as “persons” entitled to certain rights under the US Constitution on the same basis as citizens. It is less widely noted that in some fields of international economic law, firms are increasingly considered not just legal persons but bearers of human rights. This article critically examines the incipient arrogation of human rights discourse in the context of international investment law in particular, where the claims of firms are often articulated and adjudicated with language and standards borrowed from human rights law. This development constitutes part of a larger process whereby transnational economic institutions endow corporations with legal status, protections, and benefits. The article traces the implications of business corporations being considered as bearers of human rights for foundational debates regarding the proper scope and purpose of international human rights norms.

Keywords: Human rights, corporations, investment, personhood, international law, arbitration

Suggested Citation

Isiksel, Turkuler, The Rights of Man and the Rights of the Man-Made: Corporations and Human Rights (January 7, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Turkuler Isiksel (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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