Are human rights general moral norms or are they conceptually tied to the political function of setting limits to the sovereignty of states? The essay steers a middle course in conceptualizing human rights as basic norms of political morality. Human rights emerge out of general moral claims held by individual human beings simply as such, but they play a particular role as necessary conditions of political legitimacy. Nevertheless, we should not identify them with those norms whose violation might justify restrictions on the sovereignty of other states. Such an equation would result in an all too minimalist conception of human rights. The essay defends a more ambitions conception. It integrates civil rights and human rights, particular states and global politics, democracy and collective self-determination under the perspective of a division of moral labor.