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Book Review – Preventing Irreparable Harm: Provisional Measures in International Human Rights Adjudication

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Eva Rieter, Preventing Irreparable Harm: Provisional Measures in International Human Rights Adjudication (Intersentia, Antwerp, 2010, xl + 1200 pp., €129.00) ISBN 978-90-5095-931-5 (pb)

This year, Eva Rieter, assistant professor in public international law and international human rights at Radboud University Nijmegen, has authored an extensive volume which is the result of years of research on provisional measures in the international human rights context.

Provisional measures—also termed precautionary measures or interim measures—are those actions which international tribunals direct States to take (or refrain from taking) in order to preserve the object of the litis or to prevent irreparable harm to individuals in situations of imminent risk.  International judicial and quasi-judicial tribunals that issue such measures include those of the regional human rights systems, some U.N. treaty bodies, and the International Court of Justice.

Although several scholars have previously written about the use of provisional measures, such literature has typically focused on individual tribunals[1] or on particular cases[2]. Rieter’s tome appears to be the first comprehensive analysis of the use of provisional measures in the field of international human rights law.

In addition to the dearth of scholarly analysis of provisional measures, this subject has remained elusive to practitioners and academics alike because few tribunals publish their decisions on provisional measures, and those that do may not include reference to supporting international law or jurisprudence. These factors complicate not only the study of precautionary measures, but also the work of those hoping to attain coherence and consistency in—if not progressively expand upon—their use. In addition, the lack of transparency raises questions about the expectations of States vis-à-vis their potential obligations in this area of the law.

Rieter’s book examines the conventional and/or statutory authority to examine requests for provisional measures; the procedural rules governing their authorization and implementation; and the substance of nearly a century of decisions granting, modifying and lifting such measures. Its chapters address, first, the relevant tribunals and the competence of each (Chapters I and II), before turning to the use of provisional measures in specific situations of risk (Chapters III through XII), the kind of protective action required of the State (Chapter XIII) and, lastly, more specific questions of jurisdiction  and enforcement (Chapters XIV through XVIII).

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