RWI Visiting Professor Mark Gibney Releases New Book

MarkGibney2Dr. Mark Gibney, the Raoul Wallenberg Visiting Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at RWI just released a second edition of his book “International Human Rights Law: Returning to Universal Principles”.

In the book, Gibney critiques a number of cases from the U.S. Supreme Court, the International Court of Justice, and the European Court of Human Rights. He argues that current international law misses most of the ways in which states fail to protect human rights standards.

We sat down with him to learn more about the book.

Why this book now?

Why now? I would like to think that the overall theme of the book – that universalism entails not only (human) rights but duties and responsibilities to meet and honour those rights – has been applicable from the outset. The whole point of human rights is that a state not only cares and protects its own people, but that it has a duty to care and protect the human rights of “others.” Unfortunately, this is not how human rights has evolved. So what I am calling for is a return to the universal values that were at the heart of human rights from the beginning, but which we have somehow lost sight of.

What’s new in the second edition?

The first edition came out before Obama became president so much of the second edition is merely updating. However, more than that is going on. When the first edition came out the whole notion of extraterritorial obligations was on the fringes, even among human rights scholars (let alone states). Since then, things have changed markedly. U.N. treaty bodies are now speaking about extraterritorial obligations and the number of Ph.D.’s on this topic is mind boggling. So an awful lot has changed in seven years.

Who should read it?

Like all (egotistical) authors my ready response is: everyone. But, like most things, I am much more serious than I appear on the surface. To be honest, I had my parents (and people like them) in mind when writing this. What I hear, time and again, from people who have read this is that it is like hearing me talk. So what I am saying is that this is something that John Q. Public – or Sven Ö. Svensson, in Sweden – should be able to read if s/he has an interest in human rights. But the aim, above all else, is to help people conceptualize “human rights” much differently than they ever have before.

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