The Pro Homine Principle as a fundamental aspect of International Human Rights Law, by Dilton Ribeiro & Valerio Mazzuoli

Researchers from Brazil and Canada work together in a project seeking to understand current decisions of human rights adjudication bodies and the impact of the recognition of the human person as an entity with rights and duties as part of international law. Arguably, the recognition of the human person as an entity with rights enshrined in international law instruments, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights, changed the way international law addresses the human person and, consequently, the way international courts decide cases concerning human rights.

It could seem logical that international law should take into account the human person as a central aspect in cases concerning them. However, international law is traditionally envisaged as the law between sovereign and independent States. Human rights, on the other hand, concern the basic and most fundamental rights of the human person. Consequently, the existence of international human rights law, the human rights aspect of international law, seems something almost contradictory. The solution found to deal with this contradiction was to accept that international law concerns States and places a burden on them to implement and comply with human rights norms domestically.

Accordingly, theories arguing that the human person is indeed a central element of international law were usually push aside as philosophical conjectures without practical relevance. The authors, however, seek to prove this common belief is in fact not accurate. They affirm that States themselves agreed to add the human person to the core of international human rights law in declarations and treaties following the end of the Second World War. They call this paradigm shift the pro homine framework. Moreover, this structure was strengthened by international human rights courts and acknowledged by the International Court of Justice.  

To that end, they analyze human rights instruments and decisions from the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the International Court of Justice to conclude that “international human rights law is in constant change, but following one direction: the recognition of the human person as central aspect of international human rights law”.

Read the article:

RIBEIRO, Dilton; DE OLIVEIRA MAZZUOLI, Valerio. The Pro Homine Principle as a fundamental aspect of International Human Rights Law. Meridiano 47 – Journal of Global Studies, [S.l.], v. 17, mar. 2016.

Valerio de Oliveira Mazzuoli, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso, Faculdade de Direito, Cuiaba – MT, Brazil (

Dilton Ribeiro, Queen’s University, Faculty of Law, Kingston, Ontario, Canada (

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