By Nicole Banks Barrantes - International Relations degree student

After every human rights catastrophe, debates emerge discussing how States should protect their own citizens or, if not, international entities should work as “heroes”. Each inhumane act provokes critiques from outside actors who failed to protect or defend populations. It’s when International Public Law comes in, to justify itself as an effective tool to bring justice and liability where the citizen’s rights were not taken into account. As one of its obligations, international public law has to protect by requiring States to watch over individuals against human rights abuses.

Through the ratification of international human rights treaties, governments have the duty to put into place domestic measures consisted with their treaty obligations. It relates to laws and principles of general utilization regarding the conduct of nation states and international organizations among themselves, in addition to their relationship with juridical and natural people. It helps regulate human rights with the international human rights law, by laying down obligations which States are bound to respect. These obligations to protect demand States to keep safe individuals against human rights abuses. States must take positive action to grant the fulfilment of basic human rights. In reality, international public law hasn’t been as effective as it should be, or as it was thought of when created.

While the extensive majority of countries have ratified nearly all the major human rights treaties, rights violations remain common. The criminal justice system has proven to work poorly; it can happen because international public law has to undergo certain processes before intervening with a country. International public law can face different limitations concerning the role of power in global public health, financing international legal regimes, weaknesses of governments, the consent-based nature of international law, disturbing national sovereignty, long processes in the International Court of Justice.

Some believe that international public law does reduce the effectiveness of national sovereignty where nations are subject to laws which did not originate with the relevant sovereign power. Even if one specific government were actively involving in framing the relevant law, many would still interpret that, somehow, that such law is being imposed on the sovereign nation by foreign powers. This perspective has affected the effectiveness of the international public law process. Even if it claims to reach directly into domestic legal systems, treaties apply to situations and places that were not expected when they were first agreed.

Though it works as a body of law, responsible of regulating the interaction among states and many non-governmental actors, is the population expecting too much from this legal system? International public law can only move forward when there is a political consensus; in the absence of political disposition, it is impossible to subject new areas to international public law or to increase its works. Even though it applies during situations of emergency and conflict, and it sets out the basic protections that all individuals are entitled to, its compromising approach enlightens an utopian spirit.


MOXIE es el Canal de ULACIT (, producido por y para los estudiantes universitarios, en alianza con el medio periodístico independiente, con el propósito de brindarles un espacio para generar y difundir sus ideas.  Se llama Moxie - que en inglés urbano significa tener la capacidad de enfrentar las dificultades con inteligencia, audacia y valentía - en honor a nuestros alumnos, cuyo “moxie” los caracteriza.