'A New Law on Earth' Hannah Arendt and the Vision for a Positive Legal Framework to Guarantee the Right to Have Rights

66 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2021 Last revised: 6 Oct 2021

See all articles by Melissa Stewart

Melissa Stewart

University of Hawai'i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2021

Abstract

Hannah Arendt contributed one of the most enduring and insightful examinations of the paradox of human rights in her articulation of the existence of a right to have rights. This article provides a unique intervention into the scholarship, arguing that the interpretation of a right to have rights most faithful to Arendt’s vision is the creation of an enforceable right, enshrined in positive international law, in which human rights can be realized separate and apart from the rights of citizens.

In the nearly 70 years since Arendt articulated the existence of a right to have rights, there has been a proliferation of human rights treaties, conventions, and declarations enshrining what are deemed to be universal rights guaranteed to all people. As this article outlines, even with these important advancements, the modern human rights framework fails to guarantee a right to have rights.

The plight of the Rohingya illustrates the tragedy that can unfold due to our failure to guarantee the right to have rights. The Rohingya have endured decades of persecution that culminated in a violent crackdown and massive displacement in 2017. Even with an investigation by the International Criminal Court, a case before the International Court of Justice, and the establishment of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the Rohingya are likely to persist in a state of rightlessness nearly identical to that described by Arendt nearly 70 years prior.

This article provides a solution. It argues that a right to have rights must be guaranteed through positive international law. The right would guarantee the legal personality of the individual under international law, thereby strengthening the individual as a subject of international law, and take the form of a procedural right to the restoration of human rights. As this article demonstrates, only when the right to have rights is guaranteed will the loss of a nationality no longer result in the loss of all rights.

Keywords: international human rights, international law, international legal theory, Hannah Arendt, Rohingya, refugees, statelessness

Suggested Citation

Stewart, Melissa, 'A New Law on Earth' Hannah Arendt and the Vision for a Positive Legal Framework to Guarantee the Right to Have Rights (October 1, 2021). Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 62, No. 1, (2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3791785 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3791785

Melissa Stewart (Contact Author)

University of Hawai'i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )

Honolulu, HI
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
231
Abstract Views
1,194
Rank
247,542
PlumX Metrics