Primary Obligations: Positive Human Rights Obligations in Context

  • Elisabeth Veronika Henn
Part of the Beiträge zum ausländischen öffentlichen Recht und Völkerrecht book series (BEITRÄGE, volume 280)


Human rights theory distinguishes between negative and positive obligations. Negative obligations constitute the traditional form of human rights obligations. They essentially require a State to abstain from intrusions and abuse. Hence, when a State commits an act from which it must abstain, this State violates negative obligations. This obligation is commonly known as the obligation to respect human rights. A violation of negative obligations consists of actions committed by persons, whose acts are attributable to a State, that is, State organs or agents acting in an official capacity of that State, and, under restrictive circumstances, private parties. On the issue at stake, one can think of inter alia gender-based violence committed by public officials, or custody rape, or intentional terror spread among the population by members of the armed forces taking women as hostage, raping and maiming civilians as a military strategy.

Copyright information

© Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V., to be exercised by Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, Heidelberg 2018 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Veronika Henn
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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