Cette conférence est annulée


08h00 – 11h00
Room 176 Delattre / Faculté de médecine
56 rue du Port / Lille

Human Rights v. Politics

What ‘Right’ Is Right?

Professor Benedetta Barbisan

  University of Macerata

‘Human rights is the idea of our time’, Louis Henkin perceptively contended, and not only because, as he observed, it is ‘the only political-moral idea that has received universal acceptance, but because rights-based arguments are capable of an exceptional penetrating power in public debates and the political arena. Indeed in our days ‘it is usually not long before a problem is expressed as a human rights issue. Rights talk does fulfil an essential practical function in politics, when movements need to attract emphasis and support on the issues they claim as morally or materially necessary: if a new claim presents itself in the shape of a ‘right’, it naturally derives a certain touch of nobility from the ideal aspiration it supposedly aims to foster, favoring the demand of that particular prerogative in search of legal recognition.

The difference in essence between a particular aspiration or desire, fiercely and tenaciously sustained and proclaimed, and a right is sometimes just a matter of nuances: after all, if we know that not every ‘right’ can be straight considered a right, it is as much certain that there is no way to exclude that a ‘right’ is potentially a right. But, if telling what this difference consists of is far from having reached an ultimate definition, I am suggesting that there are in fact times when we cannot free ‘rights’ from the grip of the scare quotes and I have elaborated three objections to arguments that seem to make this difference negligible:

  • the minimalist objection, rebutting the idea that there cannot be anything else but an immediate, simple acquiescence on the moral premises of a ‘right’. Indeed, this argument implies that a ‘right’ cannot but attract the moral agreement or acceptation of people.
  • the progress objection, refuting the premise that granting a new right is always eo ipso a new step towards progression.
  • the justice objection, contesting the assumption that acknowledging a right would unquestionably reinforce justice inside that given society, implying that more ‘rights’ bring necessarily more justice for everybody.


Benedetta Barbisan is associate professor of Comparative Public Law at the University of Macerata (Italy). She has been visiting scholar at Boston College Law School, research assistant at Harvard Law School, visiting researcher at Yale Law School, visiting professor at King’s College London and fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg.  She has authored a first book on Marbury v. Madison and the origin of judicial review in the United States and a second, alongside with Giuliano Amato, on the dialogue between the Italian Constitutional Court and European Courts. She currently teaches Comparative Constitutional Law and Human Rights & Constitutional Adjudication.

Conveners and Discussants

Dr Valentina Volpe – Dean Ioannis Panoussis

Co-directors Master in Human Rights, Security and Development – FLD


Noémie Delli-Vaneecloo – c3rd@univ-catholille.fr
Rafael Gomez – rafagoca@hotmail.com


Article édité le 7 mars 2018