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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 April 2016
The preamble to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes a peculiar hierarchy between rebellion and human rights. The preamble affirms that “whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” According to the declaration, rebellion against oppression and tyranny is an act that individuals can only be compelled to pursue, and only once other choices are exhausted. Rebellion descends upon the oppressed “man” from without and he cannot refuse it. It is a force that takes over desperate men. Human rights, in turn, police against rebellion by prevailing in the law. They are the preferred weapon against two extremes: oppression and rebellion. And if rebellion is the space of compelled political action, human rights is the space of uncompelled, free, and authentic action against oppression and tyranny.
1 United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” 10 December 1948, http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
2 This question is obviously indebted to Talal Asad's work on the powers of human rights, the human, and the secular. Asad, Talal, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2003)Google Scholar.
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8 See “Map of OHCHR Field Presences,” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, accessed 21 December 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/Pages/MapOfficesIndex.aspx.
9 The reference here is to the International Workingmen Association and to the different Internationals that followed it.
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