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The Idea of International Human Rights Law$
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Steven Wheatley

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198749844

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198749844.001.0001

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On the Idea of Human Rights

On the Idea of Human Rights

(p.161) 6 On the Idea of Human Rights
The Idea of International Human Rights Law

Steven Wheatley

Oxford University Press

Chapter 6 turns first to the work of the philosopher John Searle to explain the objective reality of human rights, showing how states, through their discursive practices, created a notion of human rights that affirmed the importance of equal status, physical and psychological integrity, personhood, participation, and minimum welfare rights. In the first decade and a half of the existence of human rights, it was for a country alone to decide on the necessary measures (if any) to give effect to the rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All that changed after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, when UN Member States transformed a moral code of human rights into a network of binding international law obligations, with a role for secondary agents of justice that included both dystopia avoidance measures and the promotion of the utopia of ‘all human rights for all’.

Keywords:   John Searle, institutional facts, deontic powers, the reality of human rights, a dynamic code, secondary agents of justice, dystopia, utopia

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