Critiques on International Human Rights

It is a matter of the fact that international human rights groups and movements have played significant roles in advocating and protecting human rights. Through human rights, people easily interact with each other and promote equality, security, and liberty among them. It is also through human rights that the more powerful people in the society are rationed from abusing others. However, there are also critiques of these human rights. This paper seeks to discuss and respond to two main critiques of human rights by David Kennedy.

Human rights particularize too much.

            According to David Kennedy, the focal critique of human rights is that they tend to encourage conflict and discourage politics among the right holders. When one realizes that he is obliged to a certain right, one becomes a right holder (Harry, 2002). According to Kennedy, “it is distribution work that ensures that different rights are recognized, implemented, and enforced.”101 The negotiations in arrangements in distribution work among individuals become less tenable and difficult when encouraging these people to view themselves as holders of the rights.

It is good to note that where the right of one person ends, the right of another person starts. As such, it is important to make sure that “as one enjoy his or her rights, he or she does not interfere with the rights of others.”113 For example, conflict mat erupts where one interferes with other rights by assuming that he has absolute rights, which is wrong.

To this extent, therefore, it is correct that human rights are good on one side where they promote equality, security, liberty and protects the powerful people from oppressing the others in the society especially the poor, but also encourage conflicts where people infringe on the rights of the others claiming that their rights are abused.

According to David Kennedy, he argues that human rights fortify the state. In most cases, rights are prioritized and considered to have existed since time immemorial. The fact is, regardless of everything, rights are granted, enforced, recognized as well as implemented by the state. In case of any human rights violation, the state implements a remedy. Kennedy argues that “human rights are the backbone of an organized and structured government or state that enjoys freedom.”115 According to him, freedom in this context is the ability of a state to be organized. Kennedy highlights that the only people who can enjoy the freedom are citizens(Harry, 2002). This inspires native political predispositions, which cannot be changed. In case a “citizen tries to change the communal form, he/she becomes alienated in one way or another.”

Strengthening the city

David Kennedy’s critique is both correct and problematic. The fact that human rights make a state-organized and structured brings out the correct side of the critique. This is because a state which doesn’t consider implementing and enforcing human rights is a state full of chaos without any order or structure.

 For example, a state where there are no human rights, it means that everyone can do anything they want to do without any order, which makes the state chaotic. The rights also help in the maintenance of native political tendencies, which creates order and structure within the state. For example, the right to vote has helped in maintaining order in governments’ through electing leaders.

Human rights promise more than it can deliver.

According to Kennedy, it is apparent that “human right promises more that it can deliver.”116 Basically, human rights promise just to the people, whereas justice in different parts of the world is not phenomenal. As Kennedy argues, justice should never be compromised in any way in the world but unfortunately, in different city-states, especially where democracy has not matured enough, justice is denied to the person, which undermines human rights. This is both correct and problematic. For example, in countries where democracy is immature, there are a lot of injustices in the court of laws where rulings are based on corruption.

The problem with Kennedy’s idea of human rights is the fact that he claims that “the right holder imagines and experiences freedom only as a citizen.” This means that noncitizens are alienated and have no rights; thus, they cannot enjoy freedom in a foreign state. For example, immigrants are considered as aliens who should not live freely in a foreign state like citizens. The fact is international human rights should be applied in every state; thus, they should be applicable to both residents and non-residents. This kind of argument eventually causes discrimination and racism.


1. David, Kennedy. “International human rights movement: part of the problem?.” Harv. Hum. Rts.

J. 15, (2002): 101.

2. Kennedy, 113

3. Kennedy, 115

4. Kennedy, 116

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