The Perspective of the Rebel: A Gap in the Global Normative Architecture

Christopher Finlay

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3 Citations (Scopus)
282 Downloads (Pure)


If people have a right to rebel against domestic tyranny, wrongful foreign occupation, or colonial rule, then the normative principles commonly invoked internationally to deal with civil conflicts present a problem. While human rights indicate aims that rebels might justifiably try to secure, the three normative pillars dealing with armed force provide at best only a partial reflection of the ethics of armed revolt. This article argues that (first) the concept of ‘terrorism’ and the ongoing attempt to define it in international law, (second) the laws of war and their application to armed conflict, and (third) the Responsibility to Protect, all cast as much shadow as light on the problem. Given the prevalence of political oppression and the occurrence of civil conflicts originating in attempts to confront it, there is therefore a pressing need to establish a place for the rights of rebellion in the international normative architecture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-234
JournalEthics & International Affairs
Issue number2
Early online date9 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • International Humanitarian Law; Responsibility to Protect
  • right to rebel
  • revolution
  • armed resistance
  • terrorism
  • law of war
  • Syrian civil war
  • J S Mill
  • Michael Ignatieff


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