The Human Right of Self-Defense

Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen, and I have a new article (PDF) forthcoming in the BYU Journal of Public Law. Here’s the abstract:

Does a woman have a human right to resist rape or murder? Do people have a
human right to resist tyranny? The United Nations Human Rights Council has said
“no”—that international law recognizes no human right of self-defense. To the contrary,
the Human Rights Council declares that very severe gun control—more restrictive than
even the laws of New York City–is a human right.

Surveying international law from its earliest days to the present, this Article
demonstrates that self-defense is a widely-recognized human right which no government
and no international body have the authority to abrogate.

The issue is especially important today, as many international advocates of
international gun prohibition are using the United Nations to deny and then eliminate the
right of self-defense. For example, the General Assembly is creating an “Arms Trade
Treaty” which could define arms sales to citizens in the United States as a human rights
violation, because American law guarantees the right to use lethal force, when no lesser
force will suffice, against a non-homicidal violent felony attack.

The Article analyzes in detail the Founders of international law–the great
scholars in the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries who created the system of
international law. The Article then looks at the major legal systems which have
contributed to international law, such as Greek law, Roman law, Spanish law, Jewish
law, Islamic law, Canon law, and Anglo-American law. In addition, the article covers the
full scope of contemporary international law sources, including treaties, the United
Nations, constitutions from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and much more.

The Article shows that international law—particularly its restraints on the
conduct of warfare—is founded on the personal right of self-defense.

As always, thoughtful comments are welcome. You don’t have to read all 119 pages in order to comment, but you do need to read enough to be able to offer a comment about the article itself, rather than abstract thoughts about the gun issue in general.

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