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Universal Duties: The Responsibility to Protect, the Duty to Prevent (Genocide) and Extraterritorial Human Rights Obligations

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image of Global Responsibility to Protect

Human rights are (universally) declared to be universal, yet under the dominant interpretation the responsibility to protect these rights have been severely restricted by territorial considerations. In that way, while a state has human rights obligations within its own territory, these obligations either change or else disappear altogether when it is acting outside those borders. This article examines three recent challenges to the territorial approach to human rights. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) initiative to prevent widespread human suffering involves domestic obligations, but it is also premised on states having certain international obligations as well. In Bosnia v. Serbia (2007), the International Court of Justice interpreted the Genocide Convention as establishing a duty to prevent genocide – in other lands. Finally, the newly created Extraterritorial Obligations (ETO) Consortium is presently in the process of drafting principles that would set forth the extraterritorial obligations of state parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


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