Are Human Rights too Human Centric?
Prof Frédéric Mégret
Abstract: The claim that human rights are too human-centric may strike as odd: this is, after all, their point. Human rights are the rights of humans and can hardly be blamed for not being something else. Or can't they? Human rights frames the key political struggle as between human beings and the powers that be (notably the state), in a way that promotes a strong notion of the centrality of human beings to all just political order. What remains persistently excluded from this framing is the almost too obvious exclusion of all-that-is-not-human from the heart of our thinking about justice. Successive critiques of human rights have successfully helped decenter its subject and extended the definition of who counts as "human," yet human rights' anthropocentrism is in a sense its ultimate taboo. But what if the fundamental limit of the human rights project lied not in its own frequently underlined internal limitations (those that relate to its limited ability to indeed be emancipatory for humans), and more in its incapacity to think of human emancipation in terms other than the subjugation of nature and other species? What if human rights are not only anthropocentric but more specifically speciesist?
Prof Frédéric Mégret is an Associate Professor of Law. In March 2015, he was made a William Dawson Scholar by McGill University. He held the Canada Research Chair on the Law of Human Rights and Legal Pluralism from 2006 to 2015. Before joining the University of McGill, Professor Mégret was an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto, a Boulton fellow at McGill University and a research associate at the European University Institute in Florence. Professor Mégret is the author of “Le Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda” (Pedone, 2002). He is currently co-editing the second edition of “The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal” (Oxford University Press, 2014) with Professor Philip Alston.