The Deterritorialization of Human Rights

Article excerpt

Abstract: The jurisdiction of Human Rights finds itself in a paradoxical situation for, on the one hand, these rights are affirmed as universal and, on the other, they emerged from within the boundaries of certain determinate states. That is why Western modernity is marked by a tension between the primary, determined territory proper to the emergence of human right and their universal, world calling. With regard to this tension the present study focuses on several key issues in our times: the deterritorialization of human rights and their progressive personalization; the redefinition of public space as the very interiorization of this deterritorialization; the "export" of certain national interests through manu military deterritorialization of the human rights but also of terrorism which, as the author of the present study argues, is actually the universalization of both terrorism and of its reverse - the creation of military bases "outside" any national jurisdiction.

Key words: human rights, jurisdiction, deterritorialization, state of exception, public space, democracy, cultural diversity

International politics and the territory of fundamental rights

"Europe and human rights" - here is a syntagm on the verge of synonymy. Europe - the continent of modern revolutions, the topos of a new form of citizenship;1 human rights - the same continent's espousal of what traditional wisdom once referred to as homo universalis.2 Notwithstanding all these, a certain - more or less explicit - tension operating between, on the one hand, the determinate territory of fundamental rights (which was initially confined to only several western nations), and, on the other hand, their universal, hence world, validity (aiming at a transnational political and juridical vocation) has been noticeable from the very beginning. More precisely, we are dealing here with a sort of conceptual chiasm between law itself - which, in order to be universally legitimate, must aspire towards universality - and its initial territoriality (i.e. jurisdiction) - which has been restricted to only a few states. This is a genuine challenge that is still impelling modern nations to "project" this new form of legitimacy (which, once again, is universal and, geopolitically, global) beyond their own frontiers.

We might therefore say that the universalization of human rights implicitly presupposes their own deterritorialization,3 that there is a certain dialectics (chiasmatic, again) "regulating" - in a rather paradoxical manner - the relations between fundamental rights and "their" primary territory:

- thesis - the law always emanates from a particular territory

- antithesis - the same law (which is meant to be universal) proves to be "indeterminate" as far as its initial territory is concerned

- synthesis - the return (conversion), as effectiveness, of the same "indeterminate" (because universal) law implies going beyond, transgressing its primary territory.

It goes without saying that this dialectical inference does not cancel the jurisdictional effectiveness inherent in fundamental rights. It is simply meant to highlight the fact that the jurisdiction of these rights entails - by its very operating modality - a second (symbolical) "territory": this is itself universal, a sort of "non-place" which is, "as such", invested (again symbolically) with the quality of being "improper" to any primary territory through the very operation of universalization, and hence globalisation, of the law itself. The return of modern law, which has thus been "deterritorialised," involves, therefore, a "reterritorialization" (of this very "indeterminate") which overrides the "purity" of the juridical domain, so as to integrate thus the political. In that sense, any statement bearing on human rights must be "universal." "Cosmo-politism" and "fraternity" engage here - as the subject of law - a veritable "citizen of the universe," a "universalized" subject, that is. …