The political conception makes sense of human rights strictly in light of their role in international human rights practice, more specifically by describing how they justify interventions against states that engage in or fail to prevent human rights violations. This conception is, therefore, normative and fact-dependent. Beyond this, it does not seem to have much to say about the actual nature of international human rights practice. The argument sustained here reinterprets the political conception by resorting to a heuristic device that explains how normativity can be fact-dependent: the Hartian model. The characteristics of H.L.A. Hart’s rule of recognition are useful to determine the characteristics of human rights practice from the viewpoint of the political conception. Also, they help to overcome some of the problems typically faced by the political conception, such as whether there is only one practice or many, whether the notion of human rights becomes too contingent on the way the world is currently organised, how agents can violate content-changing practices, or how reliance on current states of affairs leaves room for criticism of those states of affairs.