Domesticating International Human Rights Law

Conversation Details

Dates of conversation: 
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 to Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Conversation type: 

Summary available

Thank you for joining the New Tactics online community for a dialogue on Domesticating International Human Rights Law. Human rights are inherent, universal and indivisible, and have found expressions in various international and regional human rights instruments. National constitutions of various countries have adopted these human rights standards. Yet human rights violations are common practice in many parts of the world. Local human rights groups and practitioners have done tremendous work in translating/adopting these human rights standards/principles in their day to day work. They have found novel and innovative ways of translating international human rights standards into practical and meaningful things for local people.

This dialogue provides an opportunity for these practitioners and groups to learn from each other and share their novel and innovative approaches in domesticating international human rights laws/standards.

In this dialogue, human rights practitioners shared and discussed how international legal instruments can be implemented within a state’s domestic legislature. Domesticating international law promotes, strengthens, and re-enforces human rights. However, many states are reluctant to sign onto international treaties and conventions. How can civil society and non-governmental organizations work together to influence domestic legal instruments?

Components of domesticating international law

  • Build awareness of international law
  • Foster a functional domestic legal system
  • Incorporate human rights law into culturally accepted customary law:  In some countries, customary law plays a very large role, and often contradicts international law. Non-governmental organizations can facilitate the introduction and negotiation of international law into customary law. An example of blending international law and Sharia-inspired customary law in Indonesia.
  • Involve multiple stakeholders

How do we use international law?

Incorporating international law into the domestic legal structure is a first step for advancing human rights. Legal efforts must be complemented by a variety of other mechanisms and tactics:


  • Exceptionalism – exceptionalism can be defined as a double-standard shown by a government, it is often manifested as a state’s commitment to rights abroad but not in the domestic sphere.
  • Lack of political will
  • Insufficient knowledge of international law amidst lawyers in the domestic sector
  • Holding governments accountable  – in many countries, governments communicate a commitment to human rights but fail to act upon their rhetoric.
  • Opposing the international sphere

Resources for NGOs and CSOs

Conversation Leaders

Masha Lisitsyna's picture
Masha Lisitsyna
Open Society Justice Initiative
mlohman's picture
Madeline Lohman
The Advocates for Human Rights
Nicholas Opiyo's picture
Nicholas Opiyo
The Coalition Aganist Torture - Uganda
freyx001's picture
Barbara Frey
University of Minnesota Human Rights Program
Michele Garnett McKenzie's picture
Michele McKenzie
The Advocates for Human Rights
Joey Mogul's picture
Joey Mogul
People's Law Office
Jarwlee's picture
Jarwlee Tweh Geegbe
Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)
PaulMageean's picture
Paul Mageean
Adam F's picture
Adam Fletcher
Association for the Prevention of Torture
Nurzat's picture
Nurzat Myrsalieva
Justice Initiative (Open Society Institute)
efarell's picture
Emily Farell
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Peace and Justice Initiative's picture
Peace and Justice Initiative
columike's picture
Columbus Igboanusi
League of Human Rights Advocates