"Is the Principal Function of International Human Rights Law to Address the Pathologies of International Law?"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
2017
Publication
University of Toronto Law Journal
Publication Type
Book Review
Abstract

I aim to provide a critique of Patrick Macklem’s thesis in The Sovereignty of Human Rights that the function of human rights in international law should be seen ‘in terms of their capacity to monitor the structure and operation of the international legal order … requir[ing] the international legal order to attend to pathologies of its own making.’ I suggest an alternative account that seems to me to be more consistent with much of the practice that he describes, which I rearrange to provide a more convincing narrative. The function of human rights in international law does have the function that Macklem attributes to it, among others, but to claim that this is the function of international human rights law is to underestimate the complexity of human rights as well as their true significance (at least in my view). An analysis of international human rights law must take this complexity into account if a coherent and convincing explanation of the normativity of international human rights law is to stand any chance of being identified.

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