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Human rights are a set of basic rights that many people believe belong to all humans by birthright. The concept is ancient, although the term only entered usage in the 1940s. Because many people, especially in the West, feel very strongly about human rights, a number of measures have been undertaken to protect them. An international organization, the United Nations, has a large division related to their protection.
The idea that people are entitled to a few basic rights by nature of their humanity is ancient. Many historical documents have codified some of these basic rights. Unfortunately, there is also a long history of neglecting these rights for certain groups. Many slave-owning societies, for example, felt passionately enough about human rights to include them in their legislation, and slaves were excepted because they were believed to be less than human.
In the 1940s, the Second World War called a great deal of attention to the concept. Many nations were deeply concerned by the actions of the Axis Powers, which greatly abridged human rights for a number of people, most prominently followers of the Jewish faith. At the close of the war, the United Nations was founded, and this became one of the major issues that the organization focused on. By 1948, the United Nations had issued a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, asking all member nations to sign it and defend the rights described therein.
As a general rule, most proponents of human rights believe that humans are entitled to their lives and liberty. In addition, humans should be able to think and communicate as they please, as these issues are very tied in with a sense of liberty. Finally, all humans should be entitled to equality before the law. Many people also believe in a number of additional legal protections, including prohibitions on slavery and torture. In addition, humans and governments have a duty to protect the rights of all people.
When a basic tenet of these rights is abused, it is termed a human rights violation. Unfortunately, many countries commit such violations, ranging from execution of criminals for trivial crimes to the extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists. Many people report them in the hopes of putting a stop to such violations, sometimes at risk of their lives. These people hope that human rights may become universal someday without the need for monitors and whistleblowers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are human rights and why are they important?
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe, or how you choose to live your life. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example, if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security. These rights are important because they ensure that individuals are treated with dignity, equality, and respect, and are protected against abuse and discrimination. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, is a key document that has been influential in enshrining these rights at an international level.
How are human rights protected and enforced internationally?
Human rights are protected and enforced through a combination of international treaties, agreements, and organizations. The United Nations plays a central role in this process, with various bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) working to uphold and promote human rights standards. Countries that have ratified human rights treaties are legally bound to protect the rights outlined in those documents and are subject to international scrutiny and potential sanctions if they fail to do so.
Can human rights be legally enforced?
Yes, human rights can be legally enforced. Many countries have incorporated international human rights treaties into their domestic legal systems, which allows individuals to seek recourse through their national courts if their rights are violated. Additionally, there are international judicial bodies, such as the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court, where individuals or groups can bring cases if they believe their rights have been infringed upon and if domestic remedies have been exhausted.
What are some examples of human rights?
Examples of human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and the right to equality before the law. These rights are designed to ensure that individuals can live freely and safely, express themselves without fear of retribution, and have access to basic needs and opportunities to thrive.
How do human rights differ from civil rights?
Human rights are universal legal guarantees protecting individuals and groups against actions and omissions that interfere with fundamental freedoms, entitlements, and human dignity. Civil rights, on the other hand, are the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality within a specific country. While human rights are inherent to all human beings regardless of nationality, civil rights are granted and protected by national laws and vary from country to country.