A Feuerbachian Inversion: From Sovereign Rights and Subjects Duties to Citizen Rights and State Duties
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The responsibility to protect (R2P) and the Protection of Civilians (PoC) are emerging international norms (or principles) with similar origins and covering similar ground. One of the most attractive features of R2P and PoC is the priority it gives to human rights over state rights. R2P emphasises that states to not have rights to intervene but harmed civilians have rights to protection and states have responsibilities. This radical inversion carries into international norms the 'Feuerbachian' inversion of domestic norms imposed on Westphalian sovereigns by enlightenment thinkers-who insisted that subjects did not have to prove their loyalty to sovereigns but that states had to justify themselves to their citizens. However, there remains concern at potential overreach and abuse and the ways in which the risk of such abuse may be limited. The reservations are at least as firmly grounded in western and Westphalian traditions. However, I will argue that the latter fear should not trump the feelings of empathy for unprotected civilians whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by conflict. The risk of abuse should be recognised and addressed by legal and institutional means.
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