Private Law and the Making of Human Rights
hosted by Professor
Michael G. Plummer
Asser Institute; Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research
We often forget that individuals held transnational rights by virtue of private law long before international human rights skyrocketed to global prominence. These entitlements have been overlooked because they largely focus on contract and ownership, whereas canonical accounts emphasize human dignity as the main rationale behind the rise of universal human rights. But inalienable freedoms — traditionally comprising life, liberty and property as articulated by Locke — have been historically protected within the private sphere in order to encompass nationals and non-nationals alike, whereas their development in the political realm has been more limited. Drawing from recent work by Samuel Moyn and others on the history of human rights, this paper takes a genealogical approach to show that cosmopolitan fundamental rights originate in private law. By contrast, rights enabling political enfranchisement have mainly been enshrined in public law, which distinguishes sharply between nationals and aliens. It follows that the distinction between citizens and foreigners continues to pose a fundamental challenge to the universalist vocation of human rights today, and that the political enfranchisement of migrants and non-national citizens in terms of human rights remains problematic. León Castellanos-Jankiewicz
León Castellanos-Jankiewicz is Researcher in International Law at the Asser Institute and Academic Coordinator of the Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research. His work focuses on international human rights law, the history of international law, and minority protection. In 2019 his paper ‘Nationality, Alienage and Early International Rights' was awarded the inaugural David D. Caron Prize by the American Society of International Law. Previously, he worked as Postdoctoral Researcher for the Dutch team in the Project on Memory Laws in European and Comparative Perspective.
Prior to taking up his position at the Asser Institute, Castellanos-Jankiewicz was Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence. He has also been Visiting Research Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge (2017), Vienna's Institute for Human Sciences (2016) and Harvard Law School's Graduate Program (2015-16). From 2017 to 2018 he was Postdoctoral Mobility Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation. He holds a PhD in International Law from Geneva's Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (summa cum laude
), an MA in International Law from the Graduate Institute and a law degree from Anahuac Mayab University.
Castellanos-Jankiewicz has extensive teaching experience, having delivered courses on various aspects of public international law at Bocconi University School of Law (Milan), the Riga Graduate School of Law, the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University. He has conducted Masters thesis supervisions at the University of Amsterdam, has been daily PhD supervisor at the Asser Institute and holds the Teaching Certificate issued by the European University Insitute's Max Weber Programme for Postdoctoral Studies. In addition to his academic work, he has delivered expert legal opinions and workshops at the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Mexican Foreign Ministry and the Centre for Constitutional Studies of the Mexican Supreme Court.