East European Yearbook on Human Rights

Article

Primus Inter Pares? In Search of ‘Fundamental’ Human Rights

Keywords hierarchy, jus cogens, International Court of Justice, European Court of Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Authors Julia Kapelańska-Pręgowska
Author's information

352363 Julia Kapelańska-Pręgowska
Chair of Human Rights, Faculty of Law and Administration, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland.
  • Abstract

      International human rights law is one of the most developed and codified regimes (branches) of public international law. Since 1948 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the number and scope of human rights standards evolved considerably. Prima facie this tendency reflects a generally positive phenomenon and is driven by the human rights approach in international law, but at the same time it may raise questions of the system’s efficiency, internal coherence, hierarchy of rights and mechanisms of protection and monitoring. Against the richness of human rights standards, designations such as ‘fundamental’, ‘essential’, ‘basic’, ‘crucial’ or ‘core’ are being used and ascribed to diverse concepts (inter alia, customary international human rights, erga omnes obligations, non-derogable rights, jus cogens or absolute rights). The article explores the provisions of general human rights instruments – the UDHR, the two Covenants and regional treaties, as well as relevant case-law of the ICJ, ECtHR and IACtHR in search of a definition and catalogue of fundamental human rights.

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