How Effective is International Human Rights Law? A Case Study of Domestic Violence in the United Kingdom

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis argues that international human rights law has only a limited amount of potential to be used effectively in relation to the issue of domestic violence in the United Kingdom. The possible use of human rights law through two strategies is assessed. The first of these is a litigation strategy. The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights indicates that a litigation approach could possibly be used effectively in relation to improving the criminal justice system as regards domestic violence. However overall it appears that using human rights law through a litigation strategy is unlikely to prove very effective in relation to domestic violence in the UK. It seems that an alternative strategy of using the statements of the international human rights bodies on domestic violence is also unlikely to be greatly effective, as evidenced by the finding that these statements do not appear to have had a major impact on UK government policy to date.

This case study of domestic violence illustrates the point that even though a practice constitutes a clear violation of human rights law, it will not necessarily be the case that human rights law can be used in an effective manner to combat that practice. Although the human rights movement has now evolved to such an extent as to allow domestic violence to be seen as a violation, it still appears to be the case that human rights law cannot be used in a very effective manner as regards this issue. It seems that in a situation involving a “non-traditional” human rights violation in relation to which a litigation strategy is problematic, international human rights law may only have a limited degree of effectiveness.
Date of AwardJul 2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast

Cite this