Unless human rights defenders are prepared to clearly and consistently articulate their conception of the ‘common good’, Finnis implies, on what basis should anyone be persuaded by a ‘pragmatic argument’ that rights to free speech or privacy, for example, are ‘rights declared in the European Convention and other standard bills of rights’ and therefore should be respected as the court dictates? 239 Was it ever realistic that decades after post-war human rights treaties were drafted, with the memory of their original purpose and context starting to fade, their survival could rely on a repetition of the mantra that we have ‘international human rights obligations’ and therefore judicial interpretations of them should be followed without question? Courts make decisions on the cases brought before them. They cannot possibly be expected to take on the burden of articulating the human rights ethic in a consistent and coherent manner. If this articulation is to come from anywhere, it has to come from human rights defenders and supporters, as the UDHR conceives, presented as the basis of debate and discussion, not missionarylike certainty. Unless the basic principles that underline human rights treaties are conveyed by those who support them, is hard to conceive how ‘human rights’ will ‘survive’. 240
Back to the future?