This article argues that international human rights law (IHRL) at a system-wide level produces paternalistic effects that undermine the work it is meant to do for rightsholders. Analyzing the work of four key United Nations human rights treaty bodies, we show how institutional arrangements exclude rightsholders from having a say on their own interests in what IHRL should mean for them, and we are instead left with a body of norms, guidelines, and institutions with self-serving dynamics that reinforce the position of IHRL institutions and only secondarily benefit rightsholders.

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