This article examines whether customs, treaties, and historical facts have caused the ethical human rights obligations of economically powerful states to assume a legal quality. The author argues that the legal quality of these obligations may arise from the global harm principle of international law and human rights obligations found in treaties. As a consequence, states may be held accountable for the human rights violations of transnational corporations. Further, the author examines the possibility of pursuing claims under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute for torts committed in violation of international treaties as another avenue for enforcing human rights obligations.
Stephen J. Powell, Should or Must?: Nature of the Obligation of States to Use Trade Instruments for the Advancement of Environmental, Labor, and Other Human Rights, 45 Alta. L. Rev. 443 (2007), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/26