This article takes issue with the argument that human rights are not absolute and should be balanced in relation to competing communal aims. The balancing of qualified human rights is a key practice of the European Court of Human Rights and a great deal depends on a clear analysis of the ramifications of balancing for our understanding of human rights aims. The author does not seek to propose an alternative to balancing, but aims to show that it is not necessarily coherent with human rights principles or the kinds of functions international human rights institutions are thought to perform.