In spite of the numerous studies and decades of analysis, the interface between private international law and human rights keeps scholars busy.
No surprise, thus, that the (current) 4th Commission of the Institut de Droit International is presenting a new Draft Resolution next August, on the occasion of the IDI biannual meeting, held on line.
The Resolution, whose reporter is Fausto Pocar, will be based on the preparatory documents – including the
Report of Jürgen Basedow, Rapporteur until The Hague session in 2019 -, the previous draft resolutions, the written proposals of amendments submitted at The Hague that could not be discussed, and the plenary discussions as they result from the minutes of the Hague session.
The text in its version of 27 January 2021, is available on line. It is preceded by a thorough introduction to the work done until that date and to the general and specific issues dealt with. For a proper understanding of the Draft Resolution, it is worth noting that it addresses, without necessarily espousing, the two main points of criticism at the Hague session: “the Draft Resolution then discussed did not capture sufficiently the relationship between private international law and the public international law dimension of human rights protection, sometimes indulging in technical descriptions of private international law issues that had no or a too limited human rights component”; and “it was observed that the consideration of human rights in that Draft Resolution might appear to the reader exceedingly influenced by western values rather than focused on a global vision which would better suit an Institute’s Resolution” (NoA: Having read the documents available online regarding the first draft resolution I personally fail to understand the first reproach, but I am probably too much familiar with PIL technicalities myself. No opinion on the second ground for criticism).
The current Draft Resolution consists of 20 provisions. In a nutshell, like the former one it addresses the impact of human rights on international jurisdiction, applicable law and recognition: the tripartite division typical to cross-border settings underlies indeed the narrative of the Resolution – although not in the unsophisticated way I am describing it. Also like the former text, the present one includes provisions devoted to specific heterogeneous areas (name, identity, marriage, parentage, property, corporate social responsibility…), to explicitly tackle human rights concerns germane to each area. By way of example: under the heading “Marriage” the following is written:
(1) Child marriage and marriage agreed upon in the absence of the free and full consent of the two spouses infringe upon human rights and shall not be recognized
Or, under the heading “Protection of property”:
(2) Where a change of the applicable law resulting from private international law is conducive to the loss of such right, the forum State shall grant the holder an equivalent right to the extent possible.
The Resolution is short; so are its articles, separately taken. The wording is clear, attention is paid to stay in the realm of PIL and, I believe, to avoid assertions that may not be palatable to the IDI majority of Public International Law members. The scholarly distinction still exists (not only at the IDI), whether one likes it or not, and the gap does not seem to be without consequences.
I fear human rights activists will feel a little bit deceived by the Draft Resolution, should it be adopted as it stands. It may indeed be in the nature of this kind of document not to be too ambitious. This one remains to a large extent programmatic; it defers to other instruments or fora; it openly prefers to promote the accession to, and the respect of existing international conventions instead of coming up with detailed, statutory-like proposals. It is soft in the proper sense of the word. However, to my mind, it is no less relevant because of this character, which is obviously a conscious choice following in-depth analysis and reflections. It may be the only one possible to date.
– Picture: Session of The Hague 2019. ©Marieke Wijntjes)