Introducing 2013-14 CT Fellow Christopher McCrudden

Constitutional Transitions is pleased to introduce Christopher McCrudden, one of six visiting fellows to join the Center this academic year. McCrudden comes to NYU Law from Queen’s University Belfast, where he is a Professor of Human Rights and Equality Law, and the University of Michigan Law School, where he serves as the William W. Cook Global Law Professor. Currently in the third and final year of a Leverhulme fellowship, this year he is a Joint Straus / Senior Emile Noēl Fellow-at-Large at the Straus Institute. McCrudden is a Fellow of the British Academy, and a practicing barrister at the English Bar.

McCrudden’s current research project is entitled “An Integrated Theory of Comparative Human Rights Law.” More information on that project is available here. He describes his research objective as a reconceptualization of human rights law. His work incorporates the methodologies and perspectives of several disciplines in order to theorize the understanding of human rights, drawing on but broadening his long-term interests in questions of equality and freedom from discrimination. This year, his research will culminate in a discussion of the use of transnational judicial borrowing in the human rights context. As part of this work, McCrudden is helping to organize a conference at NYU Law which will address this phenomenon, focusing on the European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in particular.

Human rights norms, McCrudden explains, are most often understood in an international context, guaranteed by treaty and customary law, or a national context, primarily guaranteed by constitutional law. He offers a third perspective: a transnational legal understanding. Various inquiries have followed from this premise in work over the previous few years. This project has examined the relationship between human rights and human dignity, including the significance of importing the theological, philosophical and historical underpinnings of dignity into human rights discourse. A second aspect of the project has investigated the methodology of how courts in different contexts address rights based claims, searching for patterns in their reasoning. Work on both these issues will be published this academic year, the former in an edited volume entitled Understanding Human Dignity (OUP, 2013), and the latter in another edited collection, Reasoning Rights: Comparative Judicial Engagement (Hart, 2014).

Understanding where rights derive from and their implications for broader issues of governance, McCrudden explains, is especially important in transitioning societies, where political stress leads to more disputed and more dynamic conceptions. His recently published book, Courts and Consociations: Human Rights versus Power-sharing (OUP, 2013), looks at human rights in the particularly fraught context of divided societies emerging from conflict. The work examines the inherent tension between power-sharing as a method of ethnic dispute resolution on the one hand, and universalistic human rights on the other. The book, co-authored by political scientist Brendan O’Leary, observes that negotiated peace settlements are increasingly formed under international pressure, with demands for democratic and human rights norms to be incorporated. These demands, however, may be directly at odds with the power-sharing systems sought by the parties, which expressly incorporate group identities into the system of government.

The book explores this dynamic particularly in the context of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the power-sharing government established under the 1995 Dayton Accords. Despite the fact that the agreement had kept the peace for nearly fifteen years, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in its 2009 Sejdić and Finci decision that it was incompatible with the right to equality, since political representation was divided between Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, to the exclusion of Jewish and Roma citizens. The book argues that this conclusion was ill advised—not because it upheld human rights values, but because it failed to understand the limitations of such values. “If you’re going to be serious about human rights and their effectiveness,” he explains, “you need to be quite clear as to the limits. It will fall into disrepute if it claims to do too much.”

We hope you will join us in welcoming Christopher McCrudden to the Center. To read his full biography, please click here.


Introducing 2013-14 CT Fellow Wojciech Sadurski
(30 November 2013)

Introducing Fall 2013 CT Fellow Lech Garlicki
(2 November 2013)

Introducing Fall 2013 CT Fellow Mohammad Fadel
(2 November 2013)

Introducing 2013-14 CT Fellow David Dyzenhaus
(12 October 2013)

Introducing 2013-14 CT Fellow George Anderson
(12 October 2013)

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