Conference: What’s Wrong with Rights?



A McDonald Centre conference
Christ Church, Oxford
Thursday 21 May – Friday 22 May 2015

  • How absolute are rights?
  • Do rights trump other moral considerations?
  • What is the difference between natural rights and legally recognised rights?
  • Do rights do justice to proper claims of the common good?
  • What is the status of rights in a society’s transition from conflict to peace?


  • Professor Nigel Biggar, moral theologian, University of Oxford; author of In Defence of War and “Individual Rights versus Common Security? Christian Moral Reasoning about Torture”
  • Lord (Simon) Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, former Justice of the Supreme Court
  • Dr Pierre Hazan, Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherche en Action Humanitaire de Genève; author of Juger La Guerre, Juger L’Histoire
  • Rev. Nicholas Mercer, former Lt.-Col.; the British Army’s chief legal adviser in Iraq; and Liberty Human Rights Lawyer of 2011-12
  • Professor John Milbank, theologian, University of Nottingham; author of “Against Human Rights: Liberty in the Western Tradition”
  • Baroness (Onora) O’Neill, philosopher and chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission; former President of the British Academy;  author of “The Dark Side of Human Rights”
  • Professor Esther Reed, theologian, University of Exeter; author of The Ethics of Human RightsContested Doctrinal and Moral Issues
  • Professor Julian Rivers, lawyer, University of Bristol
  • Professor David Tombs, theologian and scholar of peace studies, University of Otago, New Zealand; author of Rights and Righteousness: Religious Pluralism and Human Rights
  • Lt.-Col. (ret’d) Tom Tugendhat, former Principal Adviser to the Chief of the Defence Staff; author of The Fog of Law;
  • Professor Paul Yowell, lawyer, University of Oxford; former postdoctoral fellow with the Oxford Law Faculty for the AHRC project Parliaments and Human Rights.

Please visit for details and registration. The conference will run from 10:30am on Thursday 21 May to 1pm on Friday 22 May. Cost: £60 full rate / £30 student rate.

Download the conference flyer.

Download the conference programme.



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(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)

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