Human Rights

Human Rights

Human RightsHuman rights are moral principles describing certain standards of human behavior. They are rights inherent to all human beings. This is irrespective of nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language or any other status. Human rights are commonly understood as a set of interrelated, interdependent and indivisible rights. Governments have the aim of promoting and protecting human rights of individuals or groups worldwide.


The modern idea of human rights can be traced back as far as the 13th century with the creation of the English Magna Carta. The Magna Carta is believed to have set the foundation for future human rights documents. During this period, King John of England was forced to sign the Magna Carta as a consequence of violating numerous ancient laws and customs. This document did not only allow the church to be free from governmental interference but also allowed citizens to own and inherit property. Viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the development of modern democracy, the Magna Carta is considered to be the earliest and most commonly cited milestone in the history of human rights.
Another important milestone in the history of human rights was the creation of the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Both documents were influenced by the doctrine of natural rights. This implied that the rights of man were considered to be universal, valid at all times and in every place. Together with the United States Constitution and the United States Bill of Rights, these four documents served as the foundation for the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) . The United Nations has ever since played an important role in developing human rights instruments. The adoption of the International Bill of Human Rights in 1966 is only one of the many leading human rights instruments initiated by the United Nations.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considered to be the first global expression of human rights to which all people are entitled to. The document was drafted by representatives with diverse cultural and legal backgrounds. The document was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 as Resolution 217A. The UDHR and is commonly perceived as the standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The Declaration is not a legally binding document, but was adopted for the purpose of defining the concepts of “human rights” and “fundamental freedoms”, as outlined in the United Nations Charter. Although the Declaration is not a treaty in itself, it is believed by many international lawyers to be part of customary international law. Also, it is considered to be a powerful tool in applying diplomatic pressure on governments violating any of its articles.

The Declaration consists of thirty articles outlining fundamental human rights that need to be universally protected. A few of its articles are mentioned below.

Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Universality and interdependence

The principle of universality of human rights is at the forefront of international protection and promotion of international human rights. This principle, as stated in the United Declaration on Human Rights, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights treaties and declarations. For example, the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights held in 1993 emphasized that it is the duty of all states to protect and promote all fundamental freedoms and human rights, regardless of their political, economic or cultural systems.

All states have ratified at least one of the core human rights treaties. Over 80% of states have ratified four or more international human rights documents. This clearly reflects the consent of states to uphold human rights law. Also, it creates the legal obligation for them to give concrete expression to universality.

All human rights are inalienable and indivisible. Inalienability implies that they cannot be taken away from an individual or group. However, this could happen in specific circumstances. For example, the right to liberty could be restricted if the person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law. Indivisibility of human rights means that in order to guarantee civil and political rights, a government must also ensure the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. The principle of indivisibility recognizes that if a government violates a right such a health, it in turn also affects people’s ability to exercise other rights such as the right to life. Thus, this principle entails that human rights are not only indivisible and interrelated, but also interdependent.


Human rights violations occur when states or non-state actors deny, ignore or abuse basic human rights (including civil, political, cultural, social and economic rights). Moreover, violations of human rights can also occur when one of the abovementioned parties breaches any article of the UDHR or any other international human rights treaties. If a state or non-state actor violates United Nations human rights law, Article 39 of the UN Charter authorizes the UN Security Council to determine UN human rights violations. Violations of human rights are monitored by various committees and organizations. United Nations bodies and independent NGOs are only a few of the many organizations monitoring human rights abuses. Examples of such organizations are the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. These organizations collect and document alleged human rights violations. Also, they apply pressure to ensure the protection of human rights law globally.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1891x
Added: 11-02-2016 18:06
Last modified: 20-02-2016 13:58

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