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Human Rights

Human Rights

Do you think you should be treated the same as other people? If you were wrongly convicted, would you expect a fair trial? Do you expect torturing another human to be illegal? Human rights are a collection of shared principles and standards for all humans to hold and be entitled to have. They keep us all safe, and they try to eliminate inequality across the world. But what are they, and how do we protect them? Read on to find out.

Definition of human rights

Human rights cover a broad range of topics, but in essence, they are a collection of shared principles and standards for all humans to hold and are entitled to. A crucial part of this definition is the fact that human rights apply to all humans. This means that regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion or any other characteristic of a person, you are entitled to certain things, and in return, should not deprive anybody else of them. But what exactly is the definition of human rights?

Human rights are a collection of shared principles and standards for all humans to hold and be entitled to.

Human Rights, Human Rights Protest, StudySmarterFigure 1: A protest on International Human Rights Day in Minnesota, USA. Fibonacci Blue/ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-2.0

Human Rights List

How many human rights are there? 5? 7? 30? You may have heard a few numbers being thrown around when it comes to human rights. In fact, there are 30 human rights though some have been deemed more essential than others in order to create the 5 basic human rights you may have come across. When it comes down to it, all 30 human rights are extremely valuable and so you should consider them all to be important. Let's take a look at the human rights list:

1. The right to be free and equal

2. The right to not be discriminated against

3. The right to life, freedom and safety

4. The right to not be held in slavery

5. The right to not be tortured

6. The right to fair and equal legal protection

7. The right for the law to apply to everyone and to treat everybody equally

8. The right to legal support if necessary

9. The right to not be detained without cause

10. The right to a fair trial if convicted of a crime

11. The right to be considered innocent until proven guilty if accused of a crime

12. The right to privacy - nobody should enter our homes or read private documentation without good cause

13. The right to free movement within and beyond our country

14. The right to seek asylum in another country if we are in need of protection

15. The right to be a citizen of a country, unless there is a good reason why we shouldn't be

16. The right to marry (or not marry!) as we choose

17. The right to own property

18. The right to believe and think what we want/ believe

19. The right to freely express what we think and believe

20. The right to form or be part of (or not be part of) peaceful groups

21. The right to vote on political matters, for all votes to have the same influence and for votes to remain anonymous

22. The right to develop using resources available in the country

23. The right to employment and equal pay in our chosen employment

24. The right to rest and take time off from work

25. The right to food, water, shelter, clothing and healthcare

26. The right to education

27. The right to participate in the arts and sciences, and for our work to be protected

28. The right to live in a peaceful society with adequate protection of the other human rights

29. The right to have the law guarantee our human rights and the responsibility to help allow communities to develop as much and as fairly as possible

30. The right to not have the human rights violated by any individual, group or government

Why are human rights important?

Human rights are important for many reasons. Not only do they help to work towards a world of equality, justice, development and tolerance, but they also keep us safe from harm and safeguard our liberty and needs. When human rights are violated, atrocities can occur and people can suffer tremendously. Think about that list of human rights, what do you think would happen if you were denied any one of those rights? The answer is nothing good at best and fateful at worst.

Yemen is going through a humanitarian crisis, facing famine and civil war. Over half of its population does not have access to clean water and food for survival. The UN security council created a resolution for Yemen, gathering evidence of human rights violations. Some more of these human rights violations include torture, people being detained without reason, sexual violence and discriminatory behaviours against the migrant population. This is just one of many examples of what happens when human rights aren't respected.

So now we know what human rights are and why human rights are important - how can we go about protecting them?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The law is a very good place to start when it comes to protecting human rights. Human rights are recognised internationally by law with documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR was created and signed in 1948, following World War 2, to provide a common understanding of the rights every human should not be denied and to prevent a repeat of the horrors the world experienced during the world wars. The declaration consists of 30 articles that outline basic human rights (discussed above) and expresses that these rights should be protected by law.

Since then, two legal frameworks have been introduced to enforce the UDHR:

  1. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(1)
  2. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(2)

Not all countries signed the UDHR in 1948. For example, the South African government didn't sign the declaration in 1948, perhaps because of its apartheid regime which conflicted with the UDHR.

Human Rights,  Eleanor Roosevelt holding a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, StudySmarterFigure 2: Eleanor Roosevelt with a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. FDR Presidential Library & Museum/ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-2.0

Geneva Convention Human Rights

The Geneva Convention was originally established in 1864 after increasing advancements in the technologies and methods of warfare. It set up rules to protect anyone no longer fighting, protecting the human rights of wounded or stranded soldiers, prisoners of war, and civilians. Following World War 2, nations across the world accepted the four Geneva Conventions which were updated to catch up with the nature of modern warfare. This meant the convention now covers anyone affected by conflict and sets a new humanitarian standard for how war is enacted. The Geneva Convention is now internationally accepted – 196 countries have signed it. Countries that haven't signed the Geneva Convention are still expected to follow these rules whether they signed this or not. It is also used for deciding what counts as war crimes.

War crimes are actions that violate the terms of the international laws on war. Some examples include murder, torture, making someone a slave, not respecting a truce and using children as soldiers.

Unfortunately, the Geneva Convention has been widely criticised. Arguably, it is not effective because 141 countries were still using torture in 2014. As well as this, very few cases of actions violating the Geneva Convention actually end up going to trial. This is because it is very difficult to prosecute these cases, due to the 'fog of war' and UN bureaucracy. If the convention is not put into practice, it still leaves people vulnerable to the threat of human rights violations and allows perpetrators to go unpunished.

Countries like the USA have been accused of continuous violation of international laws by torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

European Convention on Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was formed in 1949 and signed a year later. (3) It is comprised of 14 articles protecting basic human rights in Europe, such as the right to a fair trial and restricting the use of the death penalty. 46 member states of the Council of Europe signed the convention, and have agreed to uphold its values. But why is this relevant when international law accounts for many of these human rights?

The ECHR has created a system to protect people who feel that their human rights have been violated by any individual, group or country. Everybody from within the 46 member states can appear before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to fight their case. This gives people a voice and helps to safeguard human rights even further throughout Europe.

In light of recent activity, Russia has been forcibly removed from the Council of Europe. Therefore, as of September 2022, they will no longer form part of the convention. This means that the European Court of Human Rights only has a limited window to handle applications made against Russia for human rights violations.

Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, StudySmarterFigure 3: European Court of Human Rights. Adrian Grycuk/ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA-3.0 PL

Human Rights Act 1998

Following the introduction of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK incorporated the fundamentals of the convention into British law. This takes the form of the Human Rights Act of 1998. Changes made to the European Convention are reflected in UK law as well. What does this mean for people of the UK? This means that any UK resident can go to the British Court to seek justice instead of going to the European Court of Human Rights. This includes prisoners and foreign nationals.

The Human Rights Act 1998 faces objections from pressure groups and the media, who argue that the ECHR and 1998 Human Rights Act undermine the UK's sovereignty. These groups argue that British courts are determined by decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights. In the wake of Brexit, the UK government revealed proposals to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act and put the “British Bill of rights and responsibilities” in its place. This means British courts would no longer be overruled by the European Court of Human Rights on certain matters. However, many people believe this could diminish the high quality of human rights that Britain has.

Human Rights - Key takeaways

  • Human rights are a collection of shared principles and standards for all humans to hold and be entitled to. They are recognised internationally by law with documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

  • The Geneva Convention consists of rules to protect anyone no longer fighting, protecting human rights for wounded or stranded soldiers, prisoners of war, and civilians.

  • Implementations of these internationally recognised laws are difficult due to bureaucracy, 'fog of war', and other interests.

  • European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was incorporated into British law as the 1998 Human Rights Act but many say the ECHR undermines the UK's sovereignty.

References

  1. United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/international-covenant-civil-and-political-rights
  2. United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/international-covenant-economic-social-and-cultural-rights
  3. European Court of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, https://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=basictextsc

Frequently Asked Questions about Human Rights

1. All human beings are free and equal

2. No discrimination

3. Right to life

4. No slavery

5. No torture and inhuman treatment

6. Same right to use law

7. Equal before the law

8. Right to be treated fair by the court

9. No unfair detainment

10. Right to a fair trial

The main points of the Human Rights Act 1998 are taken from the European Convention of Human Rights. The main points work to safeguard people's human rights and to allow anybody to appear before British Court if they feel these rights have been violated.

Human rights violations can arise from not respecting human rights, not having laws in place to protect people or even just ignoring the existing laws.

1. All human beings are free and equal

2. No discrimination

3. Right to life

4. No slavery

5. No torture and inhuman treatment

1. The right to be free and equal

2. The right to not be discriminated against

3. The right to life, freedom and safety

4. The right to not be held in slavery

5. The right to not be tortured

6. The right to fair and equal legal protection 

7. The right for the law to apply to everyone and to treat everybody equally

8. The right to legal support if necessary

9. The right to not be detained without cause

10. The right to a fair trial if convicted of a crime

11. The right to be considered innocent until proven guilty if accused of a crime

12. The right to privacy - nobody should enter our homes or read private documentation without good cause

13. The right to free movement within and beyond our country

14. The right to seek asylum in another country if we are in need of protection

15. The right to be a citizen of a country, unless there is good reason why we shouldn't be

16. The right to marry (or not marry!) as we choose

17. The right to own property

18. The right to believe and think what we want / believe

19. The right to freely express what we think and believe

20. The right to form/be part of/not be part of peaceful groups

21. The right to vote on political matters, for all votes to have the same influence and for votes to remain anonymous

22. The right to develop using resources available in the country

23. The right to employment and equal pay in our chosen employment

24. The right to rest and take time off from working

25. The right to food, water, shelter, clothing and healthcare

26. The right to education

27. The right to participate in the arts and sciences, and for our work to be protected

28. The right to live in a peaceful society with adequate protection of the other human rights

29. The right to have the law guarantee our human rights and the responsibility to help allow communities to develop as much and as fairly as possible

30. The right to not have the human rights violated by any individual, group or government

Final Human Rights Quiz

Question

What is equality?

Show answer

Answer

Equality is the provision of equal resources and opportunities for all people. 

Show question

Question

What are the 4 types of discrimination?

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Answer

Direct discrimination; indirect discrimination; harassment and victimisation.

Show question

Question

What are the 9 protected characteristics of the equality act?


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Answer

Gender/sex; race; sexuality; religion; gender reassignment; marital status; age; disability and pregnancy/maternity.

Show question

Question

When was the Equality Act enacted in the UK?

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Answer

2010

Show question

Question

What are the main points of the equality act?

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Answer

The main points of the equality act are that people cannot lawfully be treated differently on account of any of the 9 protected characteristics.

Show question

Question

What happens if someone discriminates against someone on the basis of a protected characteristics?

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Answer

Potential legal proceedings and prosecution

Show question

Question

What is direct discrimination?

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Answer

When someone is treated differently and less favourably than others because of a given factor

Show question

Question

What is harassment?

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Answer

Unwanted behavioural instances or events in which a person is intimidated, embarrassed or offended. 

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Question

True or false: victimisation can only occur if you have previously been discriminated against.

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Answer

False

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Question

How many types of discrimination are there?

Show answer

Answer

4

Show question

Question

True or false: the UK is the only country with an Equality Act.

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Answer

False

Show question

Question

What does equitability acknowledge that equality does not?

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Answer

Not everybody has the same opportunities, resources and/or ‘starting off points’.

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Question

What is gender equality?

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Answer

Gender equality calls for the equal treatment of all genders

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Question

Which of the following is not a protected characteristic?

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Answer

Education

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Question

How many protected characteristics are there?

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Answer

9

Show question

Question

What do we mean by human rights?

Show answer

Answer

Human rights are a collection of shared principles and standards for all humans to hold and be entitled to.

Show question

Question

What is the Geneva convention?

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Answer

Set of rules to protect anyone no longer fighting, protecting human rights for wounded or stranded soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians

Show question

Question

What is the name of the piece of UK law that addresses human rights?

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Answer

1998 Human Rights Act

Show question

Question

How are human rights incorporated into European law?


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Answer

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

Show question

Question

How do human rights correlate to economic development in Singapore?

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Answer

Enforces social stability through harsh laws and harsh punishments. Political stability derives from this as well as the restricted press and media. These stabilities allow the country to prosper economically.

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Question

Why is it difficult to prosecute war criminals?

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Answer

Fog of war, UN bureaucracy and political interests hinder the conviction of war criminals

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Question

How many countries still use torture as of 2014?

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Answer

141

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Question

As of 2013, how many UN Watch and UN Human Rights Council resolutions have condemned Israel as a percentage of all country-specific resolutions?

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Answer

46%

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Question

What is democratisation?

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Answer

Principles of democracy are introduced in a country's governmental system.

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Question

True or false: one of the motives for democratisation can be to topple dictatorships

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Answer

True

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Question

Does India follow democracy?

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Answer

Yes

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Question

When were the Arab Springs?

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Answer

2010-11

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What was the Arab Spring?

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Answer

A string of pro-democracy uprisings and protests against Arab authoritarian governments

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Question

Complete the sentence: democratisation is _______ a gradual process

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Answer

Sometimes

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Question

True or false: economic development influences democratisation, but democratisation does not influence economic development.

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Answer

True

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Question

How does democracy encourage development?

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Answer

Democratic values can promote development because they are strongly tied with the improvement of education, healthcare, political stability and life expectancy. All of these factors are strongly linked with economic growth, which can facilitate other times of development (e.g. social and environmental) within a country.

Show question

Question

What is Political Corruption?

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Answer

Political corruption is when political authorities such as governments and politicians abuse the power entrusted to them for private gain.

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Question

How is Russia politically corrupt?

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Answer

Russia's political and economic structure involves the president being kept in power through a select handful of wealthy oligarchs who control Russia's industries, such as gas. These people at the top benefit from the president's ability to manipulate resources and decide on policies to favour them.

Show question

Question

According to the UN, how many companies in Lebanon have been found to frequently or consistently pay bribes? (as a %)

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Answer

43%

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Question

What is Russia's ranking in the Corruption Perception Index?

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Answer

136/180

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Question

What are some of the ways that democratisation varies between countries?

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Answer

- The extent to which democratic values are adopted.

- The speed at which democratisation occurs

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Question

True or false: democratisation is always caused by actions within a country.

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Answer

False

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Question

Why might corruption occur in democratic countries?

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Answer

- 'Weak' laws

- Elite clubs / groups

- Widespread discrimination throughout the population

Show question

Question

Which of these is NOT one of the 30 human rights?

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Answer

The right to borrow

Show question

Question

When was the UDHR signed?

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Answer

1948

Show question

Question

True or false: prisoners and foreign nationals can go to the British courts if they feel their human rights have been violated.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

The European Courts of Human Rights can be found in _______

Show answer

Answer

Strasbourg

Show question

Question

What is a war crime?

Show answer

Answer

Something that goes against the international laws of war

Show question

Question

Which of the following statements are true?

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Answer

Human rights apply to everybody, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality (or any other characteristic)

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Question

How many human rights are there?

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Answer

30

Show question

Question

Name one example of a place where human rights have been violated

Show answer

Answer

E.g. Yemen

Show question

Question

What does the UDHR stand for?

Show answer

Answer

Universal Declaration for Human Rights

Show question

Question

What was the big event in history that prompted the initial creation of many human rights laws?

Show answer

Answer

World War 2

Show question

Question

What might the British government replace the Human Rights Act with?

Show answer

Answer

British Bill of rights and responsibilities

Show question

Question

Why do some people criticise the Human Rights Act 1998?

Show answer

Answer

Because they argue that it undermines the sovereignty of the UK

Show question

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