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A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights$
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George Letsas

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199203437

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199203437.001.0001

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Human Rights, Legality, and the ECHR

Human Rights, Legality, and the ECHR

(p.17) 1 Human Rights, Legality, and the ECHR
A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights

George Letsas

Oxford University Press

The chapter seeks to locate the foundations of the ECHR rights within broader philosophical accounts of human rights. It argues that there is ‘no one-size-fits-all’ theory of human rights because human rights play different normative roles depending on the institutional setting under which they operate. Some theories of human rights, like John Rawls's, aim to provide the minimal conditions for the legitimate tolerance of non-liberal peoples at the international level. Other accounts of human rights, like the one which underpins the work of the United Nations, purport to identify political aims to improve human welfare that all states have a reason to promote. It is argued that none of these theories fits the institutional uniqueness of the ECHR, particularly the fact that the Convention imposes legal constraints on the use of state coercion by the Contracting States and has played an important role in domestic legal practice.

Keywords:   John Rawls, human rights, global justice, legality, state coercion, legitimacy of states, Ronald Dworkin

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