Human Rights as Legal Rights

22 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2010

Date Written: June 10, 2010


This essay is a reply to Joseph Raz’s ‘Human Rights in the Emerging World Order.’ In that essay Professor Raz commits three errors about human rights. First, he identifies rights with the legal relations that these may entail. Second, he presents human rights as summaries of value, something that does not explain their peremptory force. Third, he considers human rights as continuous with interpersonal rights. A better account of human rights will be more sensitive to the distinctness of human rights as legal rights. Such a theory must, first, draw a clear distinction between legal rights and the legal relations these may be entail (something which Raz himself explained in his earlier analysis of rights). Second, it must highlight the way in which rights are peremptory reasons for action that escape the balancing of values or interests. Third, it ought to locate human rights in an institutional domain appropriate for international relations. Failing to see this distinct role of human rights as legal rights undermines our proper understanding of human rights and their justification.

Keywords: Rights, Human Rights, Legal Rights, Interpersonal Rights, International Relations

Suggested Citation

Eleftheriadis, Pavlos, Human Rights as Legal Rights (June 10, 2010). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 51/2010, Available at SSRN: or

Pavlos Eleftheriadis (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

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