The concept of “rights” in legal discourse has at least two important functions. The first is the substantive function of describing what the right-holder is entitled to and, to be truly helpful, of also identifying the person or persons who are required to respect that entitlement. The second function of the concept of “rights,” particularly in human rights litigation, is to suggest that, in applying or even recognizing a right, the courts are not exercising the authority granted to them in order to impose their own views on the members of the society which they serve but are, instead, merely recognizing and applying some generally accepted entitlement. This chapter focuses on what we are referring to when we, as we so often do, start speaking in terms of human rights.
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