Words, Words, Words: The Human Rights Discourse and the Arab Awakening
Australian National University - ANU College of Law
ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 11-21
POLONIUS: What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.
Hamlet Act II, Sc II
The Obama Administration’s use of the human rights discourse has not been an effective response to the popular revolutions in the Arab world (‘the Arab Awakening’), particularly to the protests in Egypt which forced the resignation of President Mubarak. The human rights discourse is useful to Western Governments which need a robust rhetorical response to inconvenient popular protests. They should not expect the protesters to accept the invocation of human rights norms as a substitute for effective political action to fulfill their demands.
More recent concrete US support for the political objectives of the Arab Awakening, particularly in relation to Syria, shows this lesson may have been learned, but suspicion remains that this support does not extend beyond the appropriate ‘theoretical vocabulary’. The futility of the human rights discourse in this period raises the question whether international law has an effective role to play in extreme political crises, such as popular revolutions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 8Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 4, 2011
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