The International Legal Personality of the Individual

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This book scrutinizes the relationship between the concept of international legal personality as a theoretical construct and the position of the individual as a matter of positive international law. By testing four main theoretical conceptions of international legal personality against historical and existing international legal norms that govern individuals, the book argues that the common narrative about the development of the role of the individual in international law is flawed. Contrary to conventional wisdom, international law did not apply to States alone until the Second World War, only to transform during the second half of the twentieth century so as to include individuals as its subjects. Rather, the answer to the question of individual rights and obligations under international law is—and always was—solely contingent upon the interpretation of international legal norms. It follows, of course, that the entities governed by a particular norm tell us nothing about the legal system to which that norm belongs. Instead, the distinction between international and national legal norms turns exclusively on the nature of their respective sources. Against the background of these insights, the book shows how present-day international lawyers continue to allow an idea, which was never more than a scholarly invention of the nineteenth century, to influence the interpretation and application of contemporary international law. This state of affairs has significant real-world ramifications as international legal rights and obligations of individuals (and other non-State entities) are frequently applied more restrictively than interpretation without presumptions regarding ‘personality’ would merit.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages265
ISBN (Print)9780198820376
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 178797496