Populism and Human Rights

  • Veronika BílkováEmail author
Part of the Netherlands Yearbook of International Law book series (NYIL, volume 49)


Populism constitutes a challenge to human rights. While populists do not usually reject human rights expressly, they embrace a rather selective and instrumental approach to them, seeking to adjust the concept to their needs. The chapter deals with a particular aspect of the populist challenge to human rights. It identifies, and refutes, three main arguments that populists conventionally use to criticize human rights. These are the security argument, which claims that human rights have to yield to security concerns; the legitimacy argument, which contends that human rights have lost legitimacy, since they have been hijacked by particular groups and agendas; and the democracy argument, which castigates human rights for favouring the interests of minorities over those of the majority. The chapter shows that all these arguments, although they have some merit, suffer from major flaws. They either present the reality in an overly simplified and incomplete way or go against some of the basic premises on which the whole system of human rights is based. Due to that, populists do not propose any meaningful alternative to the currently prevailing conception of human rights.


Democracy Human rights Legitimacy Populism Security Terrorism 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of International RelationsPragueCzech Republic

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