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Human Rights

A Very Bad Idea

Raymond Geuss and Lawrence Hamilton

Interview of Raymond Geuss by Lawrence Hamilton

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Changing rights and wrongs

The transnational construction of indigenous and human rights among Vietnam's Central Highlanders

Oscar Salemink

In the context of the conflict-ridden relationship with the Vietnamese state and the growing transnational interference by their vociferous diaspora, this paper analyzes particular shifts in the framing of their rights. A notion of collective group rights that are by definition particularistic and exclusive has given way to individual rights (especially religious freedom) that are universal and inclusive. Simultaneously, a localized and communal emphasis has changed to a transnational one oriented toward international fora. Local interests and aspirations thus come to be framed as universal human rights that pertain to individuals, rather than local rights that pertain to collectives. In this light, recent attempts to theorize minority or indigenous rights appear to be ineffective and will probably be counter-productive.

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Roger Deacon

Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, by Michael Ignatieff. Edited and introduced by Amy Gutmann, with comments by K. Anthony Appiah, David A. Hollinger, Thomas W. Laqueur and Diane F. Orentlicher, and a response by Ignatieff. Princeton University Press: Princeton and Oxford, 2001. ISBN: 0691114749.

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Question of Rights

A Case Study of the Bhotia of Uttarakhand (India)

Sameera Maiti

The debate over the extent to which tribals and other indigenous communities have the right to use natural resources found in and around their traditional habitat is one which continues to take place even today. The present paper discusses this very issue in the context of the Bhotia, a tribal community living in the Himalayan foothill state of Uttaranchal (India); their rights to extract and use medicinal plants vis-à-vis the country's forest policy banning it; the issue of conservation of biodiversity and the place of local communities in such endeavours; the plight of the local forest dwellers in the wake of non-recognition of their rights on the forests, and their interaction with this situation. An attempt has also been made to put forward a few suggestions to solve this continuing and nearly universal problem in an amicable way not only among the Bhotia but also among other indigenous groups facing a similar situation. The paper is chiefly based on primary data collected through in-depth interviews, discussions and observations on the selected group.

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Ben Saunders

Arash Abizadeh has recently argued that political communities have no right to close their borders unilaterally, since by doing so they subject outsiders to coercion which lacks democratic justification. His conclusion is that any legitimate regime of border controls must be justified to outsiders. David Miller has sought to defend closed borders by distinguishing between coercion and prevention and arguing that the latter does not require democratic justification. This paper explores a different route, arguing firstly that the requirements of democracy do not provide us with practical guidance unless we also consider other values, such as rights, and secondly that being subject to coercion does not entitle one to democratic justification. These arguments suggest that Abizadeh is wrong to hold closed borders in need of democratic justification.

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The Human Rights Dialogue

Foundationalism Reconsidered

Maria Granik

In this article, I defend the need for meaningful dialogue about the foundations of human rights. The article consists of four main parts. Part I provides context for the argument by discussing the status of foundations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several other human rights legal instruments. Part II outlines the main criticisms of foundationalism by Michael Ignatieff and Richard Rorty. Part III deals with two main problems raised by anti-foundationalist positions. First, the motivation to defend and implement human rights is often tied to a rational understanding of why these rights are worthy of protection. Second, rejecting the search for rational foundations can itself lead to ideological problems, even if this search cannot ultimately succeed. Silence concerning justifications for rights informs our conversation about them, and making any concealed underlying assumptions explicit can be valuable. Finally, Part IV discusses ways in which a genuinely dialogical foundationalism can be possible - one that does not fall into the trap of dogmatism. More specifically, this section addresses the possibility of a secular foundationalism by examining Michael Perry's critique of this approach.

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Rights of Noncitizens

Asylum as an Individual Right in the 1949 West German Grundgesetz

Hanna-Mari Kivistö

Post–World War II developments concerning citizenship and access as one of the dimensions of citizenship are examined through the prism of noncitizenship and rights, using the drafting of the asylum paragraph of the 1949 Grundgesetz of the Federal Republic of Germany as a specific case study. The aim of this article is to look into the creation of the right to asylum in West Germany, to examine its political history by exploring its development and by searching for its conceptual, political, and rhetorical origins. The article investigates the birth of the unique conceptualization of asylum in the debates of the Parliamentary Council, the constitutional and quasi-parliamentary assembly responsible for the writing of the postwar Basic Law, and examines the political choices, motivations, and compromises behind its creation. To connect the matter of asylum to a wider problematic related to noncitizens and rights, the article benefits from the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt, with reference to her writings on human rights and refugees in the immediate post–World War II period.

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Rights and Risks

Evenki Concerns Regarding the Proposed Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline

Gail Fondahl and Anna Sirina

Indigenous peoples' rights to a healthy environment and to be able to participate in decisions affecting their environment are increasingly recognized in Russian law. In this article we explore the case of the Evenki living at the north end of Lake Baikal, who are faced with the construction of an oil pipeline through their home-land. The Evenki perceive significant potential risks to their livelihoods and lifeways due to potential environmental degradation from the pipeline, risks that destabilize their substantive rights. They also express frustration over their inability to participate in the pipeline planning—their procedural rights to decision making are not being realized. While the pipeline project is currently stymied over environmental concerns, environmental and cultural justice concerns of indigenous peoples could pose considerable de jure obstacles to its future progress, given the pipeline construction company's disregard of indigenous rights.

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Rights to Recognition

Minority/Indigenous Politics in the Emerging Taiwanese Nationalism

Kun-hui Ku

The demand for rights to recognition among the indigenous activists in Taiwan was part of a larger movement for democratization before the lifting of martial law and was supported by international concurrence. The transfer of power from the Nationalist Party (KMT) regime to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) marks a rising consciousness of Taiwanese nationalism. By examining public discourses/rituals and the debates about the organizational reforms, I show how the changing perceptions and status of the indigenous population within the state are used to legitimize the new national identity. By examining the political processes involved in the politics of recognition, on the other hand, I also explore how the indigenous activists exploit to their advantage opportunities that have arisen during the national restructuring.

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Helmut Graupner

The basic human right to sexual autonomy and self‐determination encompasses two sides: it enshrines both the right to engage in wanted sexuality on the one hand, and the right to be free and protected from unwanted sexuality, from sexual abuse and sexual violence on the other. This concept elaborated by the European Court of Human Rights, in the light of European legal consensus, suggests that the age of consent for sexual relations (outside of relationships of authority and outside of pornography and prostitution) should be set between 12 and 16 years. In any event the age of criminal responsibility should be the same as the age of sexual consent.