Indirect Accountability for Extraterritorial Human Rights Violations – International Studies Perspectives – article

Indirect Accountability for Extraterritorial Human Rights Violations

Monika Heupel | International Studies Perspectives


This article examines how states and international organizations can be held to account for extraterritorial human rights violations. I develop and investigate the potential of what I call an “indirect accountability” mechanism. In indirect accountability relationships, accountability fora do not directly hold states and international organizations that commit extraterritorial human rights violations to account as these are frequently immune to direct accountability claims. Instead, they hold them to account indirectly by addressing accountability claims to an implicated third party, expecting that the third party will upload the accountability claims to the state or international organization. After conceptualizing the mechanism and its scope conditions, I conduct two brief qualitative case studies using the method of deductive process tracing to explore the potential of the mechanism. The first case study traces efforts to indirectly hold the United States to account for violating foreigners’ privacy rights in the context of mass surveillance. The second case study traces attempts to indirectly hold the United Nations Security Council to account for violating the due process rights of blacklisted terror suspects. Both case studies provide support for the mechanism.


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