This book tackles the sensitive question of the legitimacy of States’ resort to governmental secrecy under international human rights law, offering a comprehensive analysis of the practice of both States and international organizations. After retracing common patterns in the way in which State secrecy is defined, used and regulated at the domestic and international levels, the Author engages in an evaluation of the prominent case law of human rights treaty monitoring bodies.
The Author does so by ‘testing’ different uses and applications of State secrecy claims against the protection that international treaties provide to distinct human rights: the right of access to State-held information, the right to a fair trial, the right to an effective remedy and the ‘emerging’ right to know the truth about gross human rights violations. Subsequently, the Author deals with the question as to whether an international customary norm prohibiting the undue resort to secrecy in order to conceal serious human rights violations has come into existence. Attention is then paid to the growing relevance that secrecy has acquired in the practice of international organizations, either in relation to the classification of documents generated by the organization itself or as use by the organization of State-classified information.
The Author identifies some complexities, shortcomings and legal lacuna that can arise from the interplay among apparently colliding international commitments, which arguably trap States between disclosure and non-disclosure obligations. Some suggestions on how to overcome these problems are ultimately proposed.