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International Human Rights Commitments

The existence of international treaties and the motivation of states ratifying them have stood on the verge of the scholars’ interest for a very long time. The interdisciplinary character has placed the topic somewhere between international law and political science, while neither of the disciplines took international commitments as a separate field of study too seriously. However, in the last decades, there has been an apparent convergence between the two disciplines, resulting in the emergence of multidisciplinary researches and projects dealing with political aspects of international treaties. Particular attention has been given to human rights treaties because of their growing number and specific character. Human rights treaties lack the benefits of reciprocity for contracting parties which are common for other international treaties, especially in the area of the law of international trade. The obligations of the parties (states) are aimed towards their own citizens or persons under their jurisdiction. Therefore, when comparing with other types of international treaties, the motivation of a state to be bound by a human rights treaty is rather difficult to interpret. 

Research project International Human Rights Commitments deals with the “life” of an international human rights agreement concerning the Czech Republic (in comparison with other Visegrad countries, mostly with Slovakia). It tracks the reasons why the state signed and/or ratified selected international human rights treaties, and studies its performance during the negotiations. The project elaborates on the quantitative general overview concerning the Czech Republic and international human rights treaties and on the factors which influence behavior of the Czech Republic when (non)signing and/or (non)ratifying a treaty. The quantitative analysis regarding the most important human rights treaties is completed by data from other states of the Visegrád Group in order to compare performance of the Czech Republic in its Central European environs. The project further examines the compliance record of the Czech Republic with respect to selected treaties. Additionally, we seek to analyze how international treaties resonate in the public discourse. Finally, the project scrutinizes to what extent international human rights obligations are pursued in the Czech courts and to what extent Czech courts apply international human rights treaties and case law of the international human rights bodies or at least refer to them as a subsidiary element in reasoning.

Areas of Study

Commitment as a political decision of a state

Why do states ratify human rights treaties?
What kind of treaty and under what condition is the state most prone to ratify?
Who is the key decision maker in the signature/ratification process?
Do individual governments decide to commit to treaties close to their ideological position? (i.e. leftist parties more social-rights treaties?) 

Application of International Treaties before the Courts

The subsequent part of the project examines the significance of international treaties in the case law of the highest Czech judicial bodies: the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Administrative Court. We search for application of and references to international human rights treaties and case law of international human rights bodies in the judgments of the highest Czech courts. Again, a dataset covering various factors of references (intensity of a reference; a treaty or a body referred to; complicity with the foreign bodies’ case law; year of reference; referring institution; referring chamber; referring judge-rapporteur; a right in question etc.; success of the applicant) is going to be created in order to define conditions under which references are the most or least likely.
Do courts refer to signed, but not yet ratified treaties? If so, is it possible to say that they overtake possition of other branches of government?
Do courts refer to international treaties ratified, but not yet fully implemented in the CR?
It shall be also determined to what extent references to the international treaties and/or case-law are used by the highest courts as a strategic tool in order to strike down governmental policy.

Reservations to Human Rights Treaties

A special part of the project deals with the practice of reservations to human rights treaties. The analysis follows the pattern developed in previous portions – a comprehensive quantitative description of the issue at hand is complemented by a qualitative part based especially on the content of the reservations and interviews which will attempt to find motives for the adoption of reservations. The research shall determine how frequently the CR employs reservations to human rights treaties, what type of reservations to what types of treaties and provisions it uses and how these categories change over time. Another question asks if the reservations are then put into the practice in the CR and if courts follow the reservations or are rather willing to apply treaties in their entirety. 


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