Prof Natasa Mavronicola

Reasons to Rethink Human Rights Penality

3:30pm - 5:00pm / Tuesday 22nd November 2022
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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Human rights law is often associated with the protection of personal autonomy and freedom against coercive and carceral State power, with viewing the criminalisation and coercive suppression of human activity with suspicion, and with closely safeguarding criminal suspects and defendants from excesses, abuses, and arbitrariness in the operation of the State’s penal apparatus. Yet human rights law, as interpreted and applied by authoritative bodies, is also replete with positive obligations to criminalise, police, criminally investigate, prosecute and punish human rights violations. This phenomenon may be referred to as ‘human rights penality’. In this talk, I make the case for rethinking human rights penality from the perspective of a constructively critical supporter of human rights. I identify some of the key ways in which human rights penality is bad for human rights, and invite those committed to human rights to rethink in more protective terms the obligations to which human rights penality is attached.