Proportionality in the Application of International Law

In several areas of international law, proportionality assessments are an integral part of the application of legal norms. Proportionality assessments imply the assessment of a means-end relation. They answer the question whether a given means is proportional to the goal it is designed to attain or not. Such assessments typically occur in areas of law where significant ethical values are at stake, and where those values do not easily lend themselves to quantification.

On the face of it, it would seem that whenever proportionality assessments are made, decision-makers’ primary focus is on the achievement of concrete justice rather than on the production of a principled decision based on rational rea-son. Not surprisingly, therefore, in the camp of international legal scholars, commentators have often been sceptical about the proportionality concept. Commentators perceive of the concept as an excuse for decision-makers to impose on the application of law their own subjective values. This skepticism, coupled with the prevailing trend seeing an increasing resort to proportionality assessments in the application of international law, raise the need for legal investigation. There is a need to investigate whether, in the application of international law, proportionality assessments can be made to co-exist, and whether in fact they already do co-exist, with an approach to law that values rationality and legal coherence. This is exactly what this project will do.

The project, of which professor Ulf Linderfalk is the Chief Investigator, engages two senior researchers. It is funded by the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation for a period of four years (2012-2015).