Chicago Journal of International Law


In conferences and panels on human rights practice in Brazil, I often resort to a simplified analogy between soccer matches and international human rights litigation and advocacy, one certain to be understood in the world's premier soccer nation. The analogy concerns the expectations that a player or team brings onto the field at the beginning of any match, and those of a litigant (or attorney) seeking to bring her case before an international human rights oversight body. To begin, I tell the audience that the players expect fair play: that the other team has recognized the competition itself and its rules; that the other team has joined a league or confederation and has ceded to that body some control over the match; that the other side will respect the rules that have been established for match play and will abide by the determinations of the judges and referee during the course of the match. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, players expect that the other team will respect the final outcome of the match and will assume the consequences inherent in that decision. When the match decides a championship, one team expects that the other will surrender the championship trophy. Were soccer more like international human rights litigation, it would be an odd spectacle: teams would often play uncontested matches, flagrant fouls would be committed without penalties, players would routinely disregard the referees' rulings, and the losers would often return home self-declared victors. How does one play in these circumstances? [CONT]