Public emergencies such as terrorist attacks, internal armed conflicts, and natural disasters test the theoretical and practical commitments of international human rights law. Conventional wisdom suggests that human rights are, by definition, universal, permanent, and inalienable entitlements. During times of crisis, however, international law permits states to suspend many human rights protections in order to safeguard national security and other broad societal interests. Experience has shown, moreover, that states tend to test the limits of their authority to suspend human rights during national crises, setting aside even peremptory obligations such as the prohibitions against torture and prolonged arbitrary detention. Public emergencies thus invite human rights theorists to grapple with fundamental questions regarding the character, scope, and salience of international human rights, as well as the relationship between human rights and state sovereignty under international law.
This event is co-sponsored by the William and Mary Law School.
Date and Location
Tillar House, American Society of International Law
2223 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008