WPS 2015-07: The EU’s Human Rights Obligations Towards Distant Strangers

Aravind Ganesh

The EU has perfect human rights obligations towards distant strangers. My argument has two limbs: Firstly, in numerous policy areas, the EU asserts jurisdiction via ‘territorial extension’, which combines territorially limited enforcement jurisdiction with a claim of geographically unbounded prescriptive jurisdiction. Doctrinally, this strongly resembles the Lotus principle, and viewed analytically, amounts to a claim not just of power but of political authority. Thus, the EU creates not just factual effects, but legal effects abroad. Secondly, assertions of political authority, even if only de facto, give rise to perfect human rights obligations. I illustrate this by reference to the Strasbourg Court’s case-law, which demonstrates that the creation of legal effects extraterritorially suffices to give rise to extraterritorial human rights jurisdiction, and therefore obligations. I therefore reject accounts of human rights jurisdiction premised upon ‘capability’, ‘control’, or other aspects of mere power.

Aravind Ganesh 07-15 (PDF)