Intercultural Human Rights Law Review

First Page



Academic freedom is generally considered a human right, both nationally and internationally. However, no legally binding international human rights instrument-neither at the global nor the regional level-provides express protection for this right; this includes the two most important global human rights treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of 1966. This begs the question: Does the right to academic freedom not-even so--have a "home" in either or both of the U.N. Human Rights Covenants? Can and should academic freedom be protected as part of the right to freedom of expression in Article 19 of the former Covenant? Or does Article 15 on "cultural rights" of the latter Covenant constitute the proper provision? Or is it, in fact, Article 13 on the right to education, also of the latter Covenant, that encompasses academic freedom? Yet another option would be for different aspects of the right to academic freedom to be considered addressed by different Covenant provisions, including but not limited to those cited. However, if the latter option applies, does - or should - not one of these provisions be seen to be the primary or overarching provision? This article will attempt to answer these questions, commenting on the adequacy or otherwise of the various approaches discernible. Shedding light on the matter may well facilitate the formulation of a General Comment on the right to academic freedom by the proper U.N. human rights treaty body - and in this way help dispelling some of the fundamental misconceptions regarding the true purport of this right.