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9 Int'l Legal Theory 135 (2003)
A Plea for Theory in Rethinking Human Rights

handle is hein.journals/intlt9 and id is 141 raw text is: A Plea for Theory in
Rethinking Human Rights
Siegfried Van Duffel
University of Ghent
Professor Edward Rubin has suggested that we
should rethink human rights as moral demands (obli-
gations and constraints) on the government's treat-
ment of its citizens. Such a thesis immediately raises
two sets of questions. First: What is the problem with
human rights? Why should we rethink them? Second:
How should we do so? And what exactly does it take to
'rethink' human rights? Though I am sympathetic to-
wards the ambitious goal that Rubin has set for him-
self, and though I share his dissatisfaction with the
language of human rights, I will suggest that his pro-
posals fail to provide clear answers to both sets of
Some of the difficulties that have arisen in formu-
lating the issue of human rights, Rubin suggests, go
back to the most basic aspect of the concept: the iden-
tification of protections against the government as
rights. Rubin argues that there is no convincing justifi-
cation for identifying these protections as rights, and
that another formulation of these issues will avoid
much of the confusion in recent controversies about
human rights and help us to understand the real issues



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