In Defense on Human Rights

Updated: Mar 18

By: Karima Bennoune


PDF: In Defense of Human Rights


This Article argues that international human rights law, and the human rights movement more generally, need more defenders than critics in the current international political environment. Groups ranging from academics to governments have taken stances critical of human rights, and this Article seeks to defend the rights framework from some of these while also arguing for the importance of human rights in today’s world. Noting that the field of human rights is not beyond criticism, this Article embraces some of those criticisms. However, it suggests that human rights law specialists need to spend at least as much time defending human rights law, and the universality of human rights, as they do criticizing it. Moreover, their criticisms need to be grounded in the reality of the theory and practice of human rights law to be useful and advance human dignity. Decontextualized hypercriticism risks playing into the hands of antirights actors, including some contemporary governments, as well as diverse fundamentalists and extremists.