12 Aust. YBIL 82 (1988-1989)
The Sources of Human Rights Law: Custom, Jus Cogens, and General Principles

handle is hein.journals/ayil12 and id is 90 raw text is: THE SOURCES OF HUMAN RIGHTS LAW:
CUSTOM, JUS COGENS, AND GENERAL PRINCIPLES
BRUNO SIMMA*
AND
PHILIP ALSTON**
1.     Introduction
The question of the sources of international human rights law is of major
significance. As international human rights endeavours expand their scope and
their reach, and as their potential ramifications become greater, the need to
ensure that the relevant norms are solidly grounded in international law assumes
increasing importance. The last few years have witnessed an ever-expanding
number of contexts in which those norms are being invoked. International
development assistance has become far more human rights-conscious than was
the case a decade ago, labour rights issues are intruding further and further into
the international trade regime, and the very legitimacy of governments is being
regularly assessed on the basis of their compliance with international human
rights norms. What then are the sources of the norms that are being invoked?
In many situations treaty law provides a solid and compelling legal
foundation. But despite a steady increase in the number of States Parties to
international treaties in recent years, reliance upon treaties alone provides an
ultimately unsatisfactory patchwork quilt of obligations and still continues to
leave many States largely untouched. Thus treaty law on its own provides a
rather unsatisfactory basis on which to ground the efforts of international
institutions whose reach is truly universal, such as the General Assembly and the
Commission on Human Rights. The prospects for developing an effective and
largely consensual international regime depend significantly on the extent to
which those institutions are capable of basing their actions upon a coherent and
* Professor of Law, Law School, University of Michigan.
** Professor and Director of the Centre for International and Public Law, Australian
National University.

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