The Costs of International Human Rights Litigation

Chicago Journal of International Law, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall 2001

Posted: 26 Feb 2002


This article begins by describing some of the understandable attractions of international human rights litigation - to plaintiffs, judges, advocacy groups, and international law scholars - attractions that were evident in the seminal Filartiga case. The article then explores some of the potential costs associated with this litigation, including costs to U.S. foreign relations, democratic values, and the international system. These costs might not be worthy of serious concern if this litigation had been confined to the Filartiga-type case - that is, a suit against a low-level foreign official, accused of engaging in universally condemned conduct, in a situation unlikely to pose foreign relations difficulties for the United States. But for a variety of reasons, including the structure of federal civil litigation and the amorphous nature of the international legal materials, the litigation has expanded far beyond the Filartiga model. The article concludes that, given the uncertain policy tradeoffs associated with international human rights litigation, courts should at least await specific congressional authorization before allowing further expansions of this litigation.

Note: This is a description of the paper and is not the actual abstract.

Keywords: human rights, international litigation, customary international law, Alien Tort Statute

Suggested Citation

Bradley, Curtis, The Costs of International Human Rights Litigation. Chicago Journal of International Law, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall 2001. Available at SSRN:

Curtis Bradley (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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