Social Theory and Practice

Volume 41, Issue 3, July 2015

Anthony R. Reeves
Pages 403-434

Standard Threats
How to Violate Basic Human Rights

The paper addresses the nature of duties grounded in human rights. I contend that rather than being protections against harm, per se, human rights largely shield against risk impositions to protected interests. “Risk imposition” is a normative idea requiring explication, but understanding dutiful action in its terms enables human rights to provide prospective policy guidance, hold institutions accountable, operate in nonideal circumstances, embody impartiality among persons, and define the moral status of agencies in international relations. Slightly differently, I indicate a general understanding of dutiful action that permits human rights to see to the tasks of an institutional morality.