'What are human rights and where do they come from?', asks Professor Conor Gearty in the latest Burning Issue lecture from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
In the online public lecture, entitled 'The DNA of Human Rights' Gearty, a professor of human rights law and a practising barrister, looks at the history of human rights and ideas that have informed their development such as democracy and dignity.
Gearty challenges the notion that human rights are a western idea, a mere 'cultural accessory', or that they can be used to justify 'necessary evil' – as an excuse to go to war or to torture as part of interrogation for example.
The lecture explores the reality of what it is like to be deprived of one's human rights through interviews with a victim of torture and a psychologist.
Professor Gearty argues: "We risk our culture if we collude in the idea that our way of life is so valuable that we can afford to depart from it in order to secure it."
We also hear from a campaigner, an academic, a Palestinian student of human rights and a survivor of 7/7.
For Gearty human rights come from a "solidarity to the human race".
He says: "We're driven to engage in an energetic empathetic solidarity - a commitment to a common project which does not distinguish people by their colour, gender, nationality or wealth, but one which sees their humanity."
'The DNA of human rights' is one of the Burning Issue lectures – a short series of public talks by LSE academics which are available online.
The lecture series also includes 'Parasites – enemy of the poor' by Tim Allen, Professor in Development Anthropology. Professor Allen questions the effectiveness of mass drug administration programmes, such as those supported by the UK government, in controlling debilitating parasitical infections in the developing world.
Professor Emily Jackson tackles the provocative issue of assisted dying in the 'Right to Die'. While there is an absolute prohibition on assisting someone to kill themselves in the UK, Jackson shows that the line drawn between lawful and unlawful practices which may lead to someone's death, is not clear cut. She asks whether the law draws the line between the right place
The Burning Issue Lectures are supported by the LSE Annual Fund and Cato Stonex.