Human Rights and Rule of Law: What's the Relationship?

153 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2005 Last revised: 14 May 2013

See all articles by Randall Peerenboom

Randall Peerenboom

La Trobe University - Faculty of Law and Management; Oxford University - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies


This article considers several explanations for the international human rights movement's sudden heightened attention to rule of law.

(1) The human rights movement has increasingly encountered conceptual, normative and political challenges. Perhaps, rule of law will be a "fruitful principle to guide us toward agreement and results," and "a touchstone for us in spreading the culture of human rights."

(2) We still live in a world where widespread human rights violations are the norm rather than the exception. Rule of law is seen as directly integral to the implementation of rights.

(3) Rule of law may also be indirectly related to better rights protection in that rule of law is associated with economic development, which is related to better rights performance.

(4) Rule of law is integral to and necessary for democracy and good governance. Attempts to democratize without a functional legal system in place have resulted in social disorder.

(5) Rule of law is said to facilitate geopolitical stability and global peace. According to some, it may help prevent wars from occurring in the first place. It also provides guidelines for how war is carried out, and is central to the establishment of a rights-respecting post-conflict regime.

(6) Post 9-11 concerns over terrorism have also focused attention on rule of law.

(7) In addition, rule of law provides a rhetorical basis for challenging the world's sole reigning superpower.

Taking each of these factors in turn, I critically analyze the relationship between rule of law and human rights, discussing theoretical issues, surveying recent case law and legal developments, and reviewing empirical studies.

Keywords: human rights, rule of law

Suggested Citation

Peerenboom, Randall, Human Rights and Rule of Law: What's the Relationship?. Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 36, 2005, UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 05-31, Available at SSRN:

Randall Peerenboom (Contact Author)

La Trobe University - Faculty of Law and Management ( email )

Department of Economics and Finance
Victoria 3552, 3086

Oxford University - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics