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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X

Afr. hum. rights law j. vol.8 n.2 Pretoria  2008

 

ARTICLES

 

In search of philosophical justifications and suitable models for the horizontal application of human rights

 

 

Danwood Mzikenge Chirwa

Associate Professor of Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa

 

 


SUMMARY

This article critiques the dominant view that human rights do not bind non-state actors. It ties the dominant discourse to the natural rights theory and, to a lesser extent, the positivist school of thought. A critique of these traditions reveals that there are no insurmountable philosophical barriers to recognising the application of human rights to non-state actors and the private sphere. Drawing on Marxist and feminist philosophical schools, as well as African conceptions of human rights, it argues that the view that non-state actors should be bound by human rights can be defended philosophically. The article ends with an analysis of the various options through which human rights obligations of non-state actors may be enforced within a domestic constitutional framework.


 

 

“Full text available only in PDF format”

 

 

* LLB (Hons) (Malawi), LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) (Pretoria), LLD (Western Cape); Danwood.Chirwa@uct.ac.za
1 For the impact of globalisation on state sovereignty, see P Alston 'The myopia of the handmaidens: International lawyers and globalization' (1997) 8 European journal of International Law 435;         [ Links ] M Reisman 'Designing and managing the future of the state' (1997) 8 European journal of International Law 409 412;         [ Links ] S Sur 'The state between fragmentation and globalization' (1997) 8 European journal of International Law 421 422.         [ Links ]
2 In Southern Africa, eg, a number of TNCs have been involved in the provision of such important basic services as water and electricity. See generally D McDonald & G Ruiters (eds) The age of commodity: Water privatization in Southern Africa (2005);         [ Links ] DM Chirwa 'Privatisation of water in Southern Africa: A human rights perspective' (2004) 4 African Human Rights Law journal 218.         [ Links ]
3 See, eg, D Orentlicher & T Gelatt 'Public law, private actors: The impact of human rights on business investors in China' (1993) 14 Northwest Journal of International Law and Business 1 66;         [ Links ] L Saunders 'Rich and rare are the gems they war: Holding De Beers accountable for trading conflict diamonds' (2001) 24 Fordham International Law journal 1402.         [ Links ]
4 The exceptions in Africa are Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi and South Africa.
5 See UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Organisations with Regard to Human Rights, UN ESCOR, 55th session, Agenda Item 4, UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub2/2003/12/Rev.2.
6 GE Frug 'The city as a legal concept' (1980) 93 Harvard Law Review 1059 1099-1100.         [ Links ]
7 S Avineri Hegel's theory of the modern state (1972) 177;         [ Links ] A Gillespie 'Ideas of human rights in antiquity' (1999) 17 Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 233 251.         [ Links ]
8 H Steiner & P Alston 'Comment on some characteristics of the liberal political tradition' in H Steiner & P Alston (eds) International human rights in context: Law, politics and morals (2000) 361 363.         [ Links ]
9 See M Freeman 'Is a political science of human rights possible?' (2001) 19 Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 123 125.         [ Links ]
10 See Frug (n 6 above) 1088. See also A Pollis 'Towards a new universalism: Reconstruction and dialogue' (1998) 16 Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 5 12.         [ Links ]
11 Steiner & Alston (n 8 above) 363.
12 D Sidorsky 'Contemporary reinterpretations of the concept of human rights' in D Sidorsky (ed) Essays on human rights: Contemporary rights and Jewish perspectives (1979) 89.         [ Links ]
13 Steiner & Alston (n 8 above) 363.
14 See R Gaete Human rights and the limits of critical reason (1993) 114.         [ Links ]
15 Pollis (n 10 above) 10.
16 H Shue Subsistence, affluence, and US foreign policy (1980) 55.         [ Links ]
17 HLA Hart 'Positivism and the separation of law and morals' (1958) 71 Harvard Law Review 601 n 25.         [ Links ]
18 J Bentham 'An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation' in C Morris (ed) The great legal philosophers: Selected readings in jurisprudence (1959) 262 278.         [ Links ]
19 J Austin The province of jurisprudence determined (HLA Hart ed) (1954) 126.         [ Links ]
20 See generally H Kelsen Introduction to the problems of legal theory (trans BL Paulson & SL Paulson) (1992).         [ Links ]
21 Quoted in AJ Sebok Legal positivism in American jurisprudence (1998) 30.         [ Links ]
22 HLA Hart 'Utilitarianism and natural rights' in HLA Hart (ed) Essays in jurisprudence and philosophy (1983) 182.         [ Links ]
23 Modern adherents to the positivist school at least concede that inner morality is essential to every legal system, but they do not agree on what constitutes that inner morality. See JP Maniscalco 'The new positivism: An analysis of the role of morality in jurisprudence' (1995) 68 Southern California Law Review 989.         [ Links ]
24 See Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union v Dolphin Delivery Ltd [1986] 2 SCR 573 595.
25 IG Shivji The concept of human rights in Africa (1989) 48.         [ Links ]
26 C Sypnowich The concept of socialist law (1990) 88.         [ Links ]
27 K Marx 'Critique of the Gotha programme' in R Tucker (ed) The Marx-Engels reader (1978) 528.         [ Links ]
28 K Marx 'On the Jewish question' in D McLellan (ed) Karl Marx: Selected writings (1971) 54.         [ Links ]
29 RWM Dias Jurisprudence (1985) 398.         [ Links ]
30 AL Unger Constitutional development in the USSR: A guide to the Soviet constitutions (1984) 274.         [ Links ]
31 E Bloch Natural law and human dignity (trans DJ Schmidt) (1986) 178.         [ Links ]
32 Marx (n 28 above) 57.
33 As above.
34 See K Marx 'The holy family' in TB Bottomore & M Rubel (eds) Karl Marx: Selected writings in sociology and social philosophy (1963) 224.         [ Links ]
35 As above.
36 Marx (n 28 above) 57.
37 As above.
38 Unger (n 30 above) 274.
39 C Pateman 'Feminist critiques of the public/private dichotomy' in SI Benn & GF Gaus (eds) Public and private in social life (1983) 281.         [ Links ]
40 See eg R Lister Citizenship: Feminist perspectives (1997).         [ Links ] See also C Romany 'Women as aliens: A feminist critique of the public/private distinction in international human rights law' (1993) 6 Harvard Human Rights Journal 87 100-103.         [ Links ]
41 C Pateman The disorder of women: Democracy, feminism and political theory (1989) 43.         [ Links ]
42 See AX Fellmeth 'Feminism and international law: Theory, methodology, and substantive reform' (2000) 22 Human Rights Quarterly 658 668.         [ Links ]
43 As above.
44 H Charlesworth 'Worlds apart: Public/private distinctions in international law' in M Thornton (ed) Public and private: Feminist legal debates (1995) 243 245-246.         [ Links ] See also P Hunt Reclaiming social rights: International and comparative perspectives (1996) 86.         [ Links ]
45 See C Bunch 'Women's rights as human rights: Toward a revision of human rights' (1990) 12 Human Rights Quarterly 486 489-491;         [ Links ] DQ Thomas & ME Beasley 'Domestic violence as a human rights issue' (1993) Human Rights Quarterly 36 40;         [ Links ] UA O'Hare 'Realising human rights for women' (1999) 21 Human Rights Quarterly 364 369.         [ Links ]
46 Some have argued that African societies did not know human rights before colonialism. See eg RE Howard & J Donnelly 'Human dignity, human rights, and political regimes' in J Donnelly (ed) Universal human rights in theory and practice (1989) 89.         [ Links ] For a contrary view, see M Mutua 'The Banjul Charter: The case for an African cultural fingerprint' in AA An-Na'im (ed) Cultural transformation and human rights in Africa (2002) 68 78;         [ Links ] T Fernyhough 'Human rights and pre-colonial Africa' in R Cohen et al (eds) Human rights and governance in Africa (1993) 40;         [ Links ] CC Mojekwu 'International human rights: The African perspective' in JL Nelson & VM Green (eds) International human rights: Contemporary issues (1980) 85 86.         [ Links ]
47 Mojekwu (n 46 above) 86.
48 JAM Cobbah 'African values and the human rights debate: An African perspective' (1987) 9 Human Rights Quarterly 309 321.         [ Links ]
49 Eg the rights to life, land, marriage, personal freedom, fair trial, welfare, conscience and association See K Gyekye An essay on African philosophical thought: The Akan conceptual scheme (1987) 154;         [ Links ] Fernyhough (n 46 above) 39 76.
50 J Mbiti African religions and philosophy (1970) 141.         [ Links ]
51 B Ibhawoh 'Cultural relativism and human rights: Reconsidering the Africanist discourse' (2001) 19 Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 43 53-54.         [ Links ]
52 Mutua (n 46 above) 75.
53 Mutua (n 46 above) 81.
54 Ibhawoh (n 51 above) 46.
55 As above. The communitarian conception of rights is not exclusive to pre-colonial African societies. Pollis notes that the values of human dignity and humanity also existed in Confucianism and Buddhism. In these societies, a community was responsible for ensuring 'the survival and security needs both of its members and those outside the communal group', 'for without this there was no human dignity'. See Pollis (n 10 above) 16.
56 See arts 27-29 and 20 & 31 respectively.
57 See eg HWO Okoth-Ogendo 'Human rights and peoples' rights: What point is Africa trying to make?' in Cohen et al (n 46 above) 74 79.
58 See HC Strickland 'The state action doctrine and the Rehnquist Court' (1991) 18 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 587 645,         [ Links ] noting that '[t]he state generally has no constitutional obligation to intervene in private disputes either to protect individuals from harm inflicted by other private entities or to force the wrongful private entities to compensate the victims of their wrongdoing'.
59 I Brownlie System of the law of nations: State responsibility: Part 1 (1983) 9; Phosphates in Morocco (Italy v France) (Preliminary Objections) [1938] PCIJ (Ser A/B) No 74 28; United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v Iran) (Judgment) [1980] ICJ Rep 3.
60 H Shue Basic rights: Subsistence, affluence, and US foreign policy (1980) 55; A Eide 'Economic, social and cultural rights as legal rights' in A Eide et al (eds) Economic, social cultural rights: A textbook (1995) 21 37.
61 DM Chirwa 'The doctrine of state responsibility as a potential means of making private actors accountable for human rights' (2004) 5 Melbourne Journal of International Law 1 13-14.
62 [1988] Inter-Am Court HR (Ser C) No 4.
63 n 62 above, para 172.
64 Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) & Another (2001) AHRLR 60 (ACHPR 2001).
65 2001 10 BCLR 995 (CC).
66 n 65 above, para 63.
67 See Chirwa (n 61 above) 26-28 33-35.
68 Lüth case (1958), 7 BVerfGE 198. The facts and holding as discussed herein are based on the English translation of the case in DP Kommers The constitutional jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany (1997) 361-368.
69 n 68 above, 363.
70 As above.
71 As above.
72 n 68 above, 367.
73 A Barak 'Constitutional human rights and private law' in D Friedmann & D Barak-Erez (eds) Human rights in private law (2001) 13 22; MJ Horan 'Contemporary constitutionalism and legal relationships between individuals' (1976) 25 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 848 864-866.
74 A Clapham 'The "Drittwirkung" of the Convention' in R MacDonald et al (eds) The European system for the protection of human rights (1993) 163.
75 The former provides that when applying a provision of the Bill of Rights to a natural or juristic person, a court 'must apply, or if necessary develop, the common law to the extent that legislation does not give effect to that right'. The latter provides that '[w]hen interpreting any legislation, and when developing the common law or customary law, every court, tribunal or forum must promote the spirit, purport and objects of the Bill of Rights'.
76 [1973] 1 IR 121 134.
77 [1988] I LRM 629.
78 As above.

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