there are no [human] rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns.
The best reason for asserting so bluntly that there are no such rights is indeed of precisely the same type as the best reason which we possess for asserting that there are no witches and the best reason which we possess for asserting that there are no unicorns: every attempt to give good reasons for believing that there are such rights has failed.He concludes (p. 70) that "natural or human rights [...] are fictions."
I disagree. I suppose that human rights were fictions at some point in time, but only in the sense that creativity was involved in bringing the idea into the world. If 'murder' means wrongful killing then murder is equally a fiction, since the idea that some killing is wrongful had to be created or invented. Such things are not discovered in the way that planets are. Perhaps they are discovered in some sense, but I'm not sure why anyone would claim that wrongs can be discovered while rights cannot be. I might appear to be getting two senses of 'right' mixed up here: the sense of a good deed (as in "two wrongs don't make a right") and the sense of a moral entitlement. But isn't murder wrong precisely because the victim's rights (in the sense of entitlements) are violated by it? Murder is wrong because it wrongs the victim, and this means it is unjust. Which means that it violates his/her rights. At least that is so according to the standard kind of thinking about rights and justice.
Rights are not like unicorns, because unicorns are physical objects that may or may not be out there, like planets. They might yet turn out to exist, however unlikely this is. Witches are a different case. My grandmother once told me that some relative of ours had been a witch, but by this she meant something like a practitioner of folk medicine who was called a witch. I also attended a talk once by two people who claimed to be witches. From them I gathered that witches are spiritually-inclined, gothic hippies. If someone objects to Harry Potter books and movies on the grounds that they "promote witchcraft," can we just say that no such thing exists? I would want to know what they meant. They might mean that Harry Potter stories embody values incompatible with those of Christianity, rightly understood. And who am I to disagree? Well, I'm me, that's who, but I have no special right to pronounce what is and what is not the right understanding of Christianity. Witchcraft, like blasphemy (but unlike unicorns), is hard to identify without bringing in value judgments. Rights are, if anything, even more like this.
So to call human rights a fiction is to make a kind of value judgment, it seems to me. It is to take a stand against talking about human rights. Which seems a bit like speaking against the tide's coming in. This kind of talk is not going to go away. If it should do so then this ought to be for moral or pragmatic reasons, not metaphysical or epistemological ones.