The Objective International Responsibility of States in the Inter-American Human Rights System

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Gonzalo Sánchez de Tagle


The international responsibility of States is based on two legal precepts: first, a State must be subject to international obligations; and second, a State must be responsible for noncompliance with such obligations. Specific and concrete damages are not required for the allocation of international responsibility to a State. Given these elements, the Inter-American Human Rights System, through the Inter-American Court, will not hear disputes involving a State’s international responsibility without the existence of a specific and concrete human rights violation. While this seems appropriate, rulings by the Inter-American Court have subsequently opened the door to States’ objective international responsibility; i.e., responsibility under the American Convention on Human Rights that require no showing of a specific violation. In the author’s view, the international responsibility of States, similar to Public International Law, should be based on noncompliance without the need for a victim –especially in human rights cases. For this reason, the Inter-American Court is correct in holding States responsible for domestic laws that contravene its own human rights commitments under international treaties– regardless of whether or not these norms have been enforced.

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