Interpreting International Human Rights Standards: Treaty Body General Comments in Domestic Courts

Research output: Working paper


This paper explores the introduction of treaty body jurisprudence into domestic legal systems. Specifically it will consider the use of general comments by human rights treaty bodies. The contribution will begin with a brief introduction of the treaty bodies, as it is the nature of these bodies that warrants consideration of their jurisprudence as a legitimate interpretive tool. It will then present an overview of references to treaty body general comments in the case law across a selection of jurisdictions, including the UK and South Africa, as well as the EU as a supranational jurisdiction. Finally, it will analyse the impact that these domestic engagements with treaty body jurisprudence has on the interpretation of international human rights standards. It will consider whether the outcome of a court case that has relied upon general comments contributes to or detracts from the strength of the treaty body outputs. It is posited that in instances where rights are progressively recognised for protection, general comments serve as a chisel to aid in refining rights. In instances where the judiciary disregards or distorts treaty body guidance, it is suggested that the general comments act more as a hammer that weakens a particular right. Thus it is extremely important that treaty bodies take special care when drafting their opinions, comments and reports therefore some attention will be given to the issue of treaty body drafting.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh, School of Law, Working Papers
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2015

Publication series

NameEdinburgh Law School Working Papers
NameScottish Centre for International Law Working Paper Series


  • international human rights law
  • Treaty Interpretation


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