The role of international law in the interpretation of socio-economic rights in South Africa

Petherbridge, Demichelle (2015-03)

Thesis (LLD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The 1993 and 1996 South African Constitutions protect socio-economic rights as justiciable rights. As legal guarantees, these rights have the potential to address the socio-economic hardship experienced by many South Africans today. However, their contribution towards this will depend largely on how these rights are interpreted. The 1993 and 1996 Constitutions oblige courts to consider international law when interpreting the Bill of Rights. This dissertation examines the relationship between this interpretative mandate and the Constitutional Court’s adjudication of the socio-economic rights entrenched in the Bill of Rights. In particular, this dissertation investigates whether the Court has developed a clear methodological approach to the consideration of international law in its interpretation of the Bill of Rights, and how the Court has applied such an approach to the interpretation of socioeconomic rights. This dissertation shows that, while the Constitutional Court has developed a methodological approach to the consideration of international law when interpreting the Bill of Rights, its approach remains embryonic. In particular, the Court has not fully developed clear analytic guidelines indicating how courts should consider international law sources. In addition, the Court has not fully explored the relevance of specific sources of international law to the interpretative exercise. Nevertheless, this dissertation argues that the methodological approach developed thus far provides the Court with an important means of engaging with international law in judicial reasoning, which can enrich the Court’s interpretative process. Moreover, a detailed investigation into the Court’s socio-economic jurisprudence reveals that the Court’s consideration of international law is inconsistent and sporadic. However, the analysis also demonstrates that when the Court has considered international law in its adjudication of socio-economic rights, it has done so in various ways and to various degrees. In addition, the analysis reveals how the Court’s application of the reasonableness model of review, developed within the context of positive duties imposed by socio-economic rights, limits a substantive consideration of international law in the development of the normative content of socio-economic rights. A key contribution of this dissertation is the detailed analysis of the Court’s methodological approach to the consideration of international law sources developed thus far, and the demonstration of how this can be applied within the field of socio-economic rights. In addition, this dissertation identifies relevant international human rights standards and adjudicative approaches pertaining to socio-economic rights and illustrates how the Court can engage with these sources to support and enhance the development of South Africa’s socio-economic rights jurisprudence.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die 1993 en 1996 Suid-Afrikaanse Grondwet beskerm sosio-ekonomiese regte as beregbare regte. As wetlike waarborge het hierdie regte die potensiaal om sosio-ekonomiese swaarkry wat tans deur baie Suid-Afrikaners ervaar word, aan te spreek. Die bydrae van hierdie regte is onderworpe aan die wyse waarop dit geïnterpreteer word. Die 1993 en 1996 Suid-Afrikaanse Grondwet verplig howe om internasionale reg in ag te neem wanneer hulle die Handves van Regte interpreteer. Hierdie tesis ondersoek die verhouding tussen hierdie interpretatiewe mandaat en die Grondwetlike Hof se beoordeling van sosio-ekonomiese regte soos verskans in die Handves van Regte. In die besonder, ondersoek die tesis of die Hof ‘n duidelike metodologiese benadering tot die inagneming van internasionale reg in terme van sy interpretering van die Handves van Regte ontwikkel het, en hoe die Hof hierdie benadering toegepas het ten opsigte van die interpretering van sosio-ekonomiese regte Die tesis toon dat, alhoewel die Grondwetlike Hof ‘n metodologiese benadering tot die inagneming van internasionale reg ontwikkel het wanneer die Handves van Regte geïnterpreteer word, die benadering nog grootliks onontwikkeld is. In die besonder het die Hof nie duidelike analitiese riglyne ontwikkel hoe internasionale regsbronne oorweeg moet word nie. Daarbenewens, het die Hof nie die relevansie van spesifieke bronne van internasionale reg vir die interpretatiewe oefening verken nie. Hierdie tesis argumenteer dat die metodologiese benadering wat wel tot dusver ontwikkel is ten opsigte van die interaksie met internasionale reg in terme van regspraak, die Hof se interpretatiewe proses kan verryk. Bowendien toon ‘n gedetailleerde ondersoek rakende die Hof se sosio-ekonomiese regspraak dat die Hof se oorweging van internasionale reg teenstrydig en sporadies is. Die ondersoek toon ook dat wanneer die Hof internasionale reg in die beoordeling van sosio-ekonomiese regte oorweeg het, dit op verskillende wyses en grade gedoen is. Daarbenewens onthul die ondersoek ook dat die Hof se toepassing van die redelike model van hersiening, ontwikkel binne die konteks van positiewe verpligtinge soos opgelê deur sosio-ekonomiese regte,‘n substantiewe oorweging van internasionale reg in die ontwikkeling van die normatiewe inhoud van sosio-ekonomiese regte beperk. ‘n Sleutel bydra van hierdie tesis is ‘n gedetailleerde analise van die Hof se metodologiese benadering tot die oorweging van bronne van internasionale reg tot dusver en hoe dit toegepas kan word ten opsigte van sosio-ekonomiese regte. Daarbenewens identifiseer die tesis relevante internasionale menseregte standaarde met betrekking tot sosio-ekonomiese regte. Dit illustreer hoe die Hof betrokke kan raak by hierdie bronne met die doel om Suid- Afrika se sosio-ekonomiese regspraak te ondersteun en te versterk.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96561
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