Göteborgs universitet

Human Rights Justifications - HR Just

HR Just examines how States use Human Rights Justifications to explain and defend their actions and decisions.

Human Rights Justification (HR Just) is when States use human rights to explain and defend their decision and actions. HR Just aim to examine the consequences of when States use human rights as a governance instrument. Human rights justification is different from how the post world war design of human rights as a system of legal norms regulating states behaviour towards its citizens is intended to be used. The post world war system is a binary system based on States compliance and violation of human rights, not of States using human rights as a governance tool.

When States use human rights to justify their actions and decisions, the function of the human rights regime is renegotiated. It switches from seeing the individual as the rights holder and the State as the possible violator of individual rights to an instrument legitimising the actions of the State.

We propose that the consequences of Human Rights Justifications for the individual human rights protection against State violations must be identified and evaluated.

The risk is that international and constitutional legal development has not kept up with the political use of Human Rights Justifications. Law still sees human rights in the light of the binary compliance and violation, while States use them as governance instruments, leading to possible gaps in the individual human rights protection.

Project details

March 2023 to March 2026
3 million Euros – Horizon EU Funded
REA.C – Future Society, C.1.- Inclusive Society
Project 101094346 – HR Just

Coordinated by University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Coordinator: Visiting Professor (with tenure) Maria Grahn-Farley

Work Package 2 - Gothenburg


Maria Grahn-Farley, Visiting Professor - Coordinator of HR Just
Maria Nääv, Postdoc.
Denard Veshi, Researcher

Work Package 3 - Gothenburg

Justificatory practices of human rights: pluralism, norms, institutions.

WP 3 – outline

Historically, human rights discourse is most typically deployed as a form of critique of or corrective to state action: human rights are often used as a benchmark to evaluate state institutions and policies, to point out their failings, and to outline aspirations for them. However, a key insight of this project is that, increasingly, states themselves use human rights discourse to justify their positions and choices. Human rights, then, evolve from a system of protection of individuals and groups from state's power to a discourse that is used by states for use of their power and employment of their force. An important component of this WP 3 is to explore and shed some critical light on this practice.  Specifically, we will use an innovative empirically informed theoretical methodology to assess in which cases states legitimately appeal to human rights justifications of their conduct, and in which cases they use human rights discourse to mask illegitimate use of their force. This WP will explore why human rights (still) matter and the role of the state in this process while investigating local, European, and global dimension of human rights from different perspectives in EU law, legal philosophy and political theory.

Gothenburg Team

Maria Grahn-Farley

Coordinator, Visiting Professor

Ester-Herlin Karnell

Lead of Work package 3 (Theory), Professor

Maria Nääv

Researcher workpackage 2, Postdoc.

Johanna Gipperth

PhD Student: Work package 3 (Theory)

Olena Dotsenko

Researcher of Work package 5 (Migration), Associate Professor

Olha Bulhakova

Researcher of Work package 5 (Migration), PhD Student

Denard Veshi

Researcher of Work package 2, Doctor