THE PRINCIPLE OF CONDITIONALITY OF RIGHTS
The right not to be harmed is a fundamental human right and, as such, may very rarely, if ever, be lost completely; however, it may be reduced. That certainly does not mean that it may suddenly drop from 100 percent to 70 percent. What it means is that the right not to be harmed constitutes a cluster of distinguishable rights, including the right not to be attacked; not to be attacked with deadly weapons; and not to be physically hurt, seriously injured, maimed, tortured, raped, or killed. A person's actions may trigger the loss of some of those specific rights and, in this sense, reduce the overall right not to be harmed.
Accordingly, a person who with the owner's consent destroyed a valuable piece of property has violated no rights of the owner and is usually guilty of no offense. And a person who while acting in self-defense applied more force than reasonably necessary is responsible only for that “extra” force because the aggressor has lost his right not to be attacked at all but retained a right not to be attacked with a disproportionate amount of force.1
These examples, illustrating the principle of conditionality of rights, prompt a vital question: how can people lose their rights to life, liberty, or property? Some scholars believe that victims are to be blamed for any misfortune that happens to them. For instance, a criminologist, Heinrich Applebaum, has argued that unless the police start cracking down on the victims of criminal acts, the crime rate in this country will continue to rise.2 In his view, the people who are responsible for crime are the victims: “They walk down a street after dark, or they display jewelry in their store window, or they have their cash