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Human Rights in the European Liberal-Democratic Order : Individual Obligations, Duties and Responsibilities

In light of the specific history of international human rights law,which came into existence as a reaction against arbitrary state interference, the hostility towards a focus on duties and responsibilities is understandable, and at least partly justified. It can, however, be argued that a ‘human rights’ system based solely on rights, without acknowledging certain duties and responsibilities, fails to deliver an answer to some, if not many, enormous problems facing democratic societies today.

Today’s world is increasingly being confronted with problems of an international and transnational scope, for which the current human rights paradigm seems to be inadequately prepared. How are we, for example, to protect the environment, if everyone has the ‘right’ to a clean and healthy environment, but corresponding duties and responsibilities fail to be clearly addressed? Or how can we reconcile the rights of immigrants with the needfor (some degree of) societal consensus, e.g. through integration? In attempting to formulate responses to these challenges, it has become apparent that the mechanisms contained in the contemporary humanrights paradigm, i.e. the balancing and limitation of certain rights, do not always suffice. It is increasingly felt that (at least part of) the answer must be based on individual duties which may - but not necessary always have to - counterbalance certain rights. 
The imposition of duties on individuals has generally been the prerogative of the sovereign state. However, since the emergence of the modern human rights framework, the factual and legal positionof the individual under international law has changed dramatically.Once, at best, an object under international law, the individual has now evolved, and is continuously evolving, into an independent actor on the international plain, with own rights and responsibilities.This tendency is probably most noticeable in the evolution during, especially, the last two decades within the field of international criminal law. In a certain sense, the international criminal framework has defined a minimum of internationally recognized behavioral rules which individuals must abide by, with this limitation that the prescribed behavior is mostly an obligation to respect the rights of other individuals, rather than an ‘original’ source of individual duties and responsibilities. Nevertheless, the definition of a basic international framework of individual responsibility can be considered a major achievement.

It is the goal of this doctoral dissertation to explore whether and, if so, which individual duties and responsibilities exist that can be considered so fundamental that they are applicable to any individual in a democratic society.


Date:30 Nov 2010  →  20 Jun 2018
Keywords:democratic society, human rights, fundamental duties
Disciplines:Law, Metalaw
Project type:PhD project