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From the Utopianism of Human Rights to the Primacy of the Political

7th November 2008

From Human Rights to the Primacy of the Political?

Everywhere it seems that human rights are being overwhelmed by political expediency and brute power. Indeed, the efficacy of human rights, and the ability of the human rights movement and human rights law to deliver over the long-term, is being challenged. While some commentators argue that human rights are merely the pliant weapons of first world nations and neo-liberalism, others point up the ways that a noble cause is easily perverted by lofty aspiration.

What is, and should be, the relationship between human rights and politics? Does international and humanitarian activism have any practical and political credibility in the twenty-first century?

This conference will bring together academics, judges, practitioners, policy makers and activists from a wide range of fields and disciplines, offering a rare opportunity to confront and reflect upon one of the most relevant and challenging concerns of our age.

Confirmed Papers:
'Theory's betrayal of legality, is there no law after Auschwitz? An historical reconstruction that considers if juristic posturing colludes with negative political agendas'
Lorie Charlesworth, Law School, Liverpool John Moores University
'Dignity and the Accursed: Reconnecting Human Rights and Atrocity'
Stephen Riley, Law School Sheffield Hallam University
'The UN's return to the civilizing mission?'
Ralph Wilde, University College London Faculty of Laws
'Carl Schmitt and the Sociology of the Political'
David M. Seymour,School of Law, Lancaster Law School

We are also delighted to announce the UK premiere of Farnsworth and Leverton's film, The Judge and the General. The film examines the efforts of Judge Juan Guzmán to pursue General Augusto Pinochet and others accused of human rights crimes in Chile. "The Judge and the General has special relevance today, when terrorism and torture are top stories, and human rights abuses make headlines nearly every day..." Judge Guzmán, who will be present at the Conference, will talk about the film, his criminal investigations and the interplay between law, justice and politics in our post 9/11 world. For more details of the film, please go to:

For further details or to submit an abstract (maximum 250 words) please contact,

Closing date for submissions 30th September 2008


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