Christian Tomuschat – Germany

Guest of the ilb 2004 in Berlin, Christian Tomuschat was born in Stettin, Germany, in 1936. From 1985 to 1996 he was a member of the Human Rights Commission of the UN, and since then has been an independent advisor to various other international bodies.

Christian Tomuschat – Germany

He is Professor at Humboldt University and Director of the Institute for European and International Law.

He has published ‘The United Nations at Age Fifty: A Legal Perspective’ (1995). – © international literature festival berlin. See more on Literaturfestival.

Tomuschat, Christian “Clarification Commission in Guatemala”
Human Rights Quarterly – Volume 23, Number 2, May 2001, pp. 233-258
The Johns Hopkins University Press


I. Introduction
A little more than two years ago, on 25 February 1999, the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) handed over the report containing its findings and recommendations to the Government of Guatemala and the former guerrilla organization URNG (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional de Guatemala), as well as to a representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. 1 The CEH constituted a centerpiece within the comprehensive peace settlement that the Government of Guatemala and the URNG had finalized on 29 December 1996 by concluding the final Agreement on a Firm and Lasting Peace. 2 Its establishment had already been decided more than two years earlier by virtue of the so-called Oslo Agreement of 23 June 1994. 3 This Agreement provided that the CEH shall clarify the human rights violations and acts of violence committed during the armed confrontation that affected Guatemala for thirty-five years. 4

The ceremony took place in the National Theater of Guatemala City. Official representatives of the Government and other public institutions, representatives of the URNG, and a broad sample of the population attended. Thousands filled the main hall of the theater, thousands more listened in the lobby, and thousands of others followed the events taking place inside the hall from outside on huge screens put up specifically for [End Page 233] that purpose. The coordinator of the CEH (also the author of this article) held the responsibility of presenting the main findings of the report to the public. For the first time in the history of the country, an official body stated that, according to its judgment, genocide had been perpetrated at certain times in certain places during the civil war. Accordingly, emotions ran high. (Read more on Clarification Commission in Guatemala).

Christian Tomuschat, Visiting professor, EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies Department1. He is Professor of Public Law, International and European Law at Humboldt University Berlin, Germany, and at the University of Bonn for many years and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe.

He has served as an adviser to the German Federal Government on many occasions and as a member of several international expert committees such as the UN International Law Commission, the Human Rights Committee under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the EU Committee of Experts on the Pluriannual Programme for the Promotion of Human Rights in Central America. (Read more on coleurop).

He is the author or editor of many books, including International Law: Ensuring the Survival of Mankind on the Eve of a New Century (2001), Human Rights: Between Idealism and Realism (2003), and Vökerrechtliche Aspekte bewaffneter Konflikte (2004).

He writes: State sovereignty counts among the traditional foundations of international law. Article 2 (1) of the UN Charter sets forth that the Organization “is based on the on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members”. Although the text of this provision has remained unaltered for more than half a century and could be found in largely identical terms in textbooks of the late 19th century,1 its real meaning has undergone dramatic changes during the last century. Today as during the heyday of so-called “classic” international law, States are juridically “sovereign”, but the powers deriving from that premise have greatly shrunk.

Progressively, by their common efforts, States have built institutions and mechanisms designed to protect certain collective interests. In particular after the horrors of the Second World War, it was generally realized that humankind kind shares a common destiny which should not be tied to the whims and fancies of ruthless power wielders in criminal States. But the development of a new concept of mutual responsibility has gone far beyond just condemning grave breaches of standards of lawful conduct.

For many decades already, new rules are evolving according to which any excessive use of sovereign powers should be excluded. From an anarchic society, the States of this globe are travelling towards a new legal regime which may be labelled “international community” – notwithstanding all the setbacks which this concept has suffered many times. (Read more on Council of Europe).

Palabras del Sr. Christian Tomuschat, Coordinador de la CEH, con ocasión de la entrega del Informe de la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico. (Read more on

Kurzfassung: Christian Tomuschat wendet sich im vorliegenden Beitrag gegen die These Paul Kirchhofs, Europarecht fließe nur über die Brücke des nationalen Zustimmungsgesetzes nach Deutschland. Zwar könne nicht geleugnet werden, daß eine vertragliche Bindung nur über das Zustimmungsgesetz zustande komme, nach der Zustimmung sei aber eine einseitige Lösung der Bundesrepublik nicht möglich. Tomuschat sieht in den Kompetenzverschiebungen zugunsten der Union nicht die Gefahr eines Demokratiedefizites, vielmehr kann er sich vorstellen, Zuständigkeiten noch in weiterem Umfang als bisher auf Institutionen der EU zu verlagern. Der Gefahr der Aushöhlung des nationalen Rechts könne durch eine strikte Anwendung des Subsidiaritätsprinzips begegnet werden. (Mehr darüber hier).

His book: Human Rights between Idealism and Realism.


about Guatemala;

his german website;


about Quebec;

World Socialists Website;

Indigenous Power;

german Labournet;

Amnesty International in Argentinien;


Alternatives to Treaty’s.

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