What Are Human Rights?

Human rights belong to all humans, regardless of nationality, ethnic group, sexual orientation, language, religion or any other status. Human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or group.

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was the first instrument formally recognizing human rights. However, this was a non-binding instrument. Listen to the UDHR here. In 1966 the United Nations General Assembly adopted The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and The International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. These two entered into force in 1976.

Key Principles pertaining to Human Rights: Human Rights are for All (Universal and Equal)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” “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.”

Human Rights are Inalienable
Human Rights are inalienable. Individuals should not be deprived of their human rights. However, rights can incur limitations in certain specific occurrences and only if this is provided for by law. An example of a limitation can be seen in Article 2(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights:

“Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

  1. In defence of any person from unlawful violence;
  2. In order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent escape of a person lawfully detained;
  3. In action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.”

Human Rights are Indivisible, Interrelated and Interdependent
Human Dignity, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and which constitutes a key concept in the human rights framework, can only be achieved through all rights set out in the various conventions

Key Human Rights Values Include:

What Are Human Rights