The Horizontal Effect of International Human Rights Law in Practice

Lottie Lane
  • European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance, March 2018, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/22134514-00501001

The application of international human rights law in situations of interference by non-State actors

What is it about?

International human rights law does not typically apply directly to actors other than States. This article analysed the ways in which five United Nations human rights bodies deal with situations where an individual's human rights have been affected because of a non-State actor. The practice of the bodies show that two main methods are used, but that ultimately there are shortcomings in the protection of human rights and in the reasoning of the bodies.

Why is it important?

The article provides an up-to-date and in-depth analysis of the practice of the five UN human rights bodies and provides a thorough overview of the ways in which the bodies (and human rights law) treat non-State actors. The most significant finding is the identification of two methods for dealing with non-State actors under international human rights law: (1) holding the State responsible for the conduct of non-State actors; and (2) re-categorising non-State actors as public actors for the purposes of human rights.


Lottie Lane
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

I hope that this article will be useful to those researching or working in the field of non-State actors and human rights by providing them with a detailed overview of how different non-State actors are treated by the five UN human rights treaty bodies examined. The research forms part of my PhD thesis on the horizontal effect of international human rights law, which continues this analysis at the regional and national levels and suggests a multi-level governance approach to human rights.

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