The Challenge of Human Rights

The Challenge of Human Rights

Past, Present and Future

Edited by David Keane and Yvonne McDermott

The Challenge of Human Rights takes a detailed and exploratory approach to topics across the field of human rights, and seeks to map a path for future research and policy development.

Chapter 5: The Right to Resist Reconsidered

Shannonbrooke Murphy

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, law and society, politics and public policy, human rights


Shannonbrooke Murphy The right to resist has ancient, cross-cultural and pan-ideological origins. Its antecedent legal and normative concepts include the doctrine of tyrannicide codified in Solon’s Law and the Athenian Decrees of Demophantus and Eucrates, transmitted into Roman law and advocated by jurists and philosophers including Cicero, Seneca and Plutarch,1 and manifested in the Confucian twin concepts of tianming (mandate of heaven) and geming (removal of the mandate).2 Of course it is also one aspect of the broader concept of jihad (struggle against oppression) in Islamic law.3 It has roots in the earliest conceptions of international law and in a wide spectrum of philosophical traditions. The right of ‘the people’ to resist ‘the sovereign’ under conditions of misrule is acknowledged in the just war theories of Grotius4 and de Vattel,5 as well as in the liberal democratic James F. McGlew, Tyranny and Political Culture in Ancient Greece (New York: Cornell University Press 1993) 88, 185–7. See also Oscar Jászi and John D. Lewis, Against the Tyrant: The Tradition and Theory of Tyrannicide (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1957). 2 Mencius (D.C. Lau trans, rev. edn, Beijing: Chinese University Press, 2003) for example book 1 part B:8, book II part B:14, book VII part A:31. See also Chung-Shu Lo, ‘Human Rights in the Chinese Tradition’, in UNESCO, ‘Human Rights: Comments and Interpretations’ (July 1948) UNESCO Doc PHS/3(rev.) 25, 185–6. 3 The Qur’an (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem trans, Oxford: OUP, 2004) 4:75...

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