Individualism in times of crisis – theorising a shift away from classic liberal attitudes to human rights post 9/11

Turner, Ian David orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8012-1480 (2019) Individualism in times of crisis – theorising a shift away from classic liberal attitudes to human rights post 9/11. In: The Philosophy of Legal Change: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Processes. Routledge. ISBN 9781138586284

[thumbnail of Author Accepted Manuscript]
PDF (Author Accepted Manuscript) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


Official URL:


A significant portion of human rights instruments in the world contain rights that are ‘freedoms from’ governmental intrusion, reflecting traditional liberal sensibilities that the state can be a danger to human rights. But the state is arguably no longer the principal threat to the security of the individual: human rights are being violated much more by non-state actors such as suspected terrorists. In 2017, for example, the UK was the victim of several terror attacks from individuals with alleged links to Islamist groups: atrocities committed on Westminster and London Bridges in London in March and June respectively; and a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May. In the so called ‘War on Terror’, to counter these Islamist atrocities, many, particularly those in the media, see human rights merely as a vehicle to secure the ‘undeserving’ rights of terror suspects over the more important rights of victims. The idea that human rights protect the ‘few’ over the ‘many’ has therefore contributed to a substantial disengagement with the topic of fundamental freedoms. Is it time, therefore, for a ‘rethink’ about the nature and significance of human rights?

Moreover, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2016, significant factors causing terrorism, particularly in Europe, are socio-economic ones: inequality, youth employment and drug crime. Indeed, in Changes in Modus Operandi of Islamic State Revisited, Europol, 2016, the vast majority of terrorist attackers in Europe have been young men with a criminal past, who were not strict Muslims and only recently converted to Islam. The attacker responsible for the terror attack on Westminster Bridge in London, for example, Khalid Masood, born Adrian Russell Ajao, was a Muslim convert, of African-Caribbean descent, with a history of violence spanning 20 years. Was Masood failed by human rights? In their seeming absoluteness (or at least those enshrined in America’s Bill of Rights), do human rights also attach too little weight to responsibilities, particularly to those on the periphery of society, who could so spectacularly turn against a society that allegedly alienates them? A re-engagement with human rights for the 21st Century, along the lines of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, for example, to encompass a rights debate that is less individualistic and more inclusive, which seeks to challenge marginalisation and foster a collective sense of duty and responsibility, is the principal aim of this paper.

Repository Staff Only: item control page