Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Workshop: Is There Anything Special About International Human Rights Law?

On May 16, 2013, the Centre for International Law and Human Rights at the University of Lancaster Law School will host a workshop on "Is There Anything Special About International Human Rights Law?" The workshop will be preceded, the day before, by a public lecture by Alan Buchanan (Duke Univ.) on "Human Rights: Taking International Legalization Seriously." The program is here. Here's the idea:
The requirement for a proper understanding of the idea of human rights has become a live one for academic and policy-orientated debate in moral and political theory and political thought. The most prominent of the debates in the United Kingdom relates to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the right of prisoners to vote. The results of the multidisciplinary enquiry will be of interest to those in the academy and in relation to domestic policy-debates as the UK public is increasingly sceptical about the function of a supranational Court in resolving questions of political controversy. The focus of the debate is on the way in which we interpret human rights treaties. There is general agreement that human rights treaties should be interpreted primarily in line with the 'object and purpose' of the instrument: the protection of human rights. But this circular argument is unhelpful in the absence of conception of 'human rights'. The international law concept of 'human rights' must necessarily be informed (it might be argued) by the idea of 'human rights' in moral and political theory and political thought with which it shares a family resemblance. The multi-disciplinary discussions in the workshop will focus on the following questions in ethical, philosophical and political thought, and their implications for understanding the idea of 'international human rights law': What is the moral basis of 'human rights'? What is the function and the distinctive claims of 'human rights' in world society? What are the sources of 'human rights'? How, and in what ways, should international 'human rights' limit the possibilities of political self-determination in democratic States?