Blurred lines of responsibility and accountability: Human rights abuses at mega-sporting events

Daniela Heerdt

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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“Blurred Lines of Accountability and Responsibility – Human Rights Abuses at Mega-Sporting Events”
by Daniela Heerdt
Public Summary
In the last two decades, mega-sporting events (MSEs) like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic and Paralympic Games became more and more linked to adverse human rights impacts. Cases of forced evictions of local communities, violent repressions of protests around MSE venues, or the exploitation of (migrant) workers on event-related construction sites provide just a few examples. This research demonstrates that delivering an MSE can impact a whole range of human rights, from civil and political rights, to economic, social and cultural rights. While the type and scale of the abuses differ per event, this study reveals that virtually every MSE comes with human rights abuses.

Addressing these cases of MSE-related human rights abuses to establish legal responsibility comes with a number of challenges that originate primarily in the mix of national, international, private and public actors involved in delivering MSEs, and in the various ways in which their actions are related and contribute to the resulting human rights abuses. Starting from an international legal approach, this study identifies a number of shortcomings of international law, particular international human rights law and international law of responsibility, in addressing these challenges and establishing responsibility for the cases at hand. Consequently, it proposes a shared responsibility approach and suggests that actors involved in MSE delivery would share legal responsibility to the extent that they made a relevant contribution to a single harmful outcome that presents a human rights violation. Finally, it argues for a reform of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s Ad Hoc Division for the Olympic Games as potential option for implementing he proposed shared responsibility approach into practice.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
  • Jägers, Nicola, Promotor
  • van Genugten, W.J.M., Co-promotor
  • Augenstein, Daniel, Co-promotor
Award date9 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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