Embracing the tension between national and international human rights law: The case for discordant parity

Eyal Benvenisti*, Alon Harel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Individual human rights are secured by both constitutional law and international law. The coexistence of constitutional and international law norms is inevitably a source of conflict: Which (if any) provision should have the upper hand? This article argues that the conviction that one system is superior to the other is false. Instead, we embrace competition between constitutional and international norms, what we call the "discordant parity hypothesis." To establish the discordant parity hypothesis, we explore the arguments for the internationalists' and for constitutionalists' positions. The overriding power of international law is based on the importance of the state's publicly recognized duty to protect individual rights. The overriding power of constitutional law stems from its promise to individuals of being the masters of their destiny. Both claims are compelling and we embrace their equal standing and the inevitably resulting conflict. The constant tensions between international norms and state norms are ideally suited to ensure individual liberty.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)36-59
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Constitutional Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017. Oxford University Press and New York University School of Law. All rights reserved.


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