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Paper on the Inter-American Human Rights System by Professor Jorge Contesse Selected for Presentation at International Law Forum

February 11, 2014 – 

In a competition open to all international legal junior scholars, Jorge Contesse, Assistant Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, has been selected to participate in the Third Annual Junior Faculty Forum for International Law. Contesse, a rising scholar on international human rights developments in the inter-American human rights system, will present his paper titled “A constitutional conversation on international human rights: the case of the Americas.” The 2014 Forum will be held July 7 – 9 at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

In his Forum application, Contesse argues that the “universalist, top-down approach” of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is at odds with current trends of constitutionalism in the Americas. Therefore, the Court, “to maintain its legitimacy as a regional tribunal with binding powers upon states,” must adopt a “transnational, bottom-up approach” to fundamental rights adjudication.

Professor Contesse explains that the inter-American human rights system (IAHRS), which consists of the Court and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, no longer addresses only issues pertaining to gross and massive human rights violations. “Today, individuals and groups bring claims to the IAHRS that relate to the infringement of rights by democratic — rather than authoritarian — governments. In other words, not only has the identity of the human rights perpetrator changed, but also the very nature of the underlined claims.” His paper will make the case that IAHRS engagement with domestic constitutional courts, legislatures and social movements “may help states to be more receptive toward the system’s decisions and, consequently, garner legitimacy.” 

The Forum gives junior international legal scholars an opportunity to present their research work for discussion by a specialized audience. Each junior scholar is paired with a senior scholar who reviews the prepared paper and guides the general discussion at the Forum. 

Professor Contesse, the author of several articles on constitutional theory and international human rights law, is a co-author of the new book No Nos Toman en Cuenta (They Don’t Consider Us), which charges the Chilean government with ongoing violations of its international obligations to guarantee the consultation rights of its indigenous people.