UN report proclaims self-defense is not a right
A report (pdf format) submitted by Barbara Frey, Special Rapporteur, whatever that is, to the UN Human Rights Councils's Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, whatever that is.
Re-reading it, I think the point is that the Special Rapper wants to class self-defense as something less than a "right" (i.e., as a manner of criminal defense) because if it were recognized as a "right" it would be something governments would be bound to guarantee -- and that leads right to Prof. Glenn Harlan Reynold's argument that a right to arms should be guaranteed as an international right. How could governments "guarantee" such a right (in the sense of doing something more than saying "you can plead this as a defense if prosecuted" -- as might be expected the UN document treats "rights" as something more than "the government must leave you alone" -- while outlawing the items a person needs to exercise that right? This leads to the anomaly that the report claims that the right to life is a "right," but the right to keep from having your life taken is not. I suppose it equates to -- you have a "right," however unenforcable, to be protected by government, but not to defend yourself if it fails to do so. As might be expected from the source, the concept of "right" is rather ineptly socialist: rights are what you may ask the government to do for you. (And of course strongly of the legal positivist school: rights are not something that pre-exist government, and any official declaration of them, derived from a deity, morality, or man's nature. Rather, in this view they are created by the document, or government, that acts to write them down. Created, as opposed to guaranteed).
"20. Self-defence is a widely recognized, yet legally proscribed, exception to the universal duty to respect the right to life of others. Self-defence is a basis for exemption from criminal responsibility that can be raised by any State agent or non-State actor. Self-defence is sometimes designated as a “right”. There is inadequate legal support for such an interpretation. Self-defence is more properly characterized as a means of protecting the right to life and, as such, a basis for avoiding responsibility for violating the rights of another. " [Not quite sure what babble means--More in extended remarks below]
21. No international human right of self-defence is expressly set forth in the primary sources of international law: treaties, customary law, or general principles. While the right to life is recognized in virtually every major international human rights treaty, the principle of self-defence is expressly recognized in only one, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights), article 2. 15 Self-defence, however, is not recognized as a right in the European Convention on Human Rights. According to one commentator, “The function of this provision is simply to remove from the scope of application of article 2 (1) killings necessary to defend against unlawful violence. It does not provide a right that must be secured by the State”. 16
22. Self-defence is broadly recognized in customary international law as a defence to criminal responsibility as shown by State practice. There is not evidence however that States have enacted self-defence as a freestanding right under their domestic laws, nor is there evidence of opinio juris that would compel States to recognize an independent, supervening right to self-defence that they must enforce in the context of their domestic jurisdictions as a supervening right.
23. Similarly, international criminal law sets forth self-defence as a basis for avoiding criminal responsibility, not as an independent right. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia noted the universal elements of the principle of self-defence. 17 The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia noted “that the ‘principle of self-defence’ enshrined in article 31, paragraph 1, of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ‘reflects provisions found in most national criminal codes and may be regarded as constituting a rule of customary international law’”. 18 As the chapeau of article 31 makes clear, self-defence is identified as one of the “grounds for excluding criminal responsibility”. The legal defence defined in article 31, paragraph (d) is for: conduct which is alleged to constitute a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been caused by duress resulting from a threat of imminent death or of continuing or imminent serious bodily harm against that person or another person, and the person acts necessarily and reasonably to avoid this threat, provided that the person does not intend to cause a greater harm than the one sought to be avoided. 19 Thus, international criminal law designates self-defence as a rule to be followed to determine criminal liability, and not as an independent right which States are required to enforce.
24. There is support in the jurisprudence of international human rights bodies for requiring States to recognize and evaluate a plea of self-defence as part of the due process rights of criminal defendants. Some members of the Human Rights Committee have even argued that article 6, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires national courts to consider the personal circumstances of a defendant when sentencing a person to death, including possible claims of self-defence, based on the States Parties’ duty to protect the right to life. 20 Under common law jurisdictions, courts must take into account factual and personal circumstances in sentencing to the death penalty in homicide cases. Similarly, in civil law jurisdictions: “Various aggravating or extenuating circumstances such as self-defence, necessity, distress and mental capacity of the accused need to be considered in reaching criminal conviction/sentence in each case of homicide.” 21
25. Again, the Committee’s interpretation supports the requirement that States recognize self-defence in a criminal law context. Under this interpretation of international human rights law, the State could be required to exonerate a defendant for using firearms under extreme circumstances where it may be necessary and proportional to an imminent threat to life. Even so, none of these authorities enumerate an affirmative international legal obligation upon the State that would require the State to allow a defendant access to a gun.
29. The severe consequences of firearm use therefore necessitate more detailed and stricter guidelines than other means of force. 26 Even when firearm use does not result in death, the injuries caused by firearm shots can be paralyzing, painful, and may immobilize a person for a much longer period of time than would other methods of temporary immobilization. 27 The raining handbook for police on human rights practices and standards produced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says that “firearms are to be used only in extreme circumstance”. 28 Any use of a firearm by a law enforcement official outside of the above-mentioned situational context will likely be incompatible with human rights norms.
[UPDATE: welcome, Instavalanch! Check out the main site if you like. I've recently discussed the Bloomberg suit fiasco, and a second amendment documentary I'm working on].