What are human rights? Simplified Guide


What are human rights?

What are human rights?

Human rights are the rights that a person enjoys simply because he or she is a human being. Human rights are the rights, which no one can be deprived of without a grave affront to justice. Human rights are those rights held simply by virtue of being a person.

To have a human right one need not be or do anything special, other than being born

Therefore, human rights in an older idiom used to be called natural rights, now they are called basic rights or fundamental rights

Not all the rights held by human beings are ‘human rights’; for example, contractual rights are held by humans but are not ‘human rights’.

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Nature/ characteristics of Human Rights

The following are the nature or characteristics  of human rights

  1. Human rights do not have to be bought, earned, or inherited; they belong to people simply because they are human.
  2. Human rights are inherent to each individual.
  3. Human rights are the same for all human beings regardless of race, sex, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin. We are all born free and equal in dignity and rights
  4. Human rights cannot be taken away; no one has the right to deprive another person of them for any reason.

People still have human rights even when the laws of their countries do not recognize them, or when they violate them – for example when slavery is practiced, slaves still have rights even though these rights are being violated.

To live in dignity, all human beings are entitled to freedom, security, and decent standards of living concurrently.

Human Rights Principles

The following are the basic principles of Human rights

  1. Human rights are universal and inalienable; indivisible; interdependent and interrelated.
  2. They are universal because everyone is born with and possesses the same rights, regardless of where they live, their gender or race, or their religious, cultural, or ethnic background.
  3. Inalienable because people’s rights can never be taken away
  4. Indivisible and interdependent because all rights – political, civil, social, cultural and economic – are equal in importance and none can be fully enjoyed without the others.
  5. They apply to all equally, and all have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives.
  6. They are upheld by the rule of law and strengthened through legitimate claims for duty-bearers to be accountable to international standards
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Areas of Human Rights

There are three areas of human rights i.e Civil and political rights, economic, cultural, and Social Rights, and Collective Rights. Those areas of human rights alternatively know as Human rights generations – first generation, second generation, and the third generation respectively.

Civil and political rights (1stgeneration Rights)

Civil rights or liberties are referred to as those rights, which are related to the protection of the right to life and personal liberty.

They are essential for the person so that he may live a dignified life.

Examples of civil rights include; right to life, liberty, and security of the person; privacy and freedom of movement; ownership of the property; freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice; prohibition of slavery, torture, and cruel or degrading punishment.

Political Rights

Political rights may be referred to as those rights, which allow a person to participate in the Government of a State.

Examples of political rights are freedom of expression, assembly, and association; the right to take part in government; and periodic and meaningful elections with universal and equal suffrage.

Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights (2nd Generation Rights)

Economic, Social, and Cultural rights are related to the guarantee of minimum necessities of life to human beings.

In the absence of those rights, the existence of human beings is likely to be endangered.

Examples of Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights includes;  Right to adequate food, clothing, housing, and an adequate standard of living and freedom from hunger, right to work, right to social security, right to physical and mental health and the right to education are included in this category of rights.

an adequate standard of living; free choice of employment; protection against unemployment; “just and favorable remuneration”; the right to form and join trade unions; “reasonable limitation of working hours”; free elementary education; social security; and the “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health“ are also economic and social rights.

Collective Rights (3rdgenerations)

In addition to the above rights, there is another kind of right that may be enjoyed by individuals collectively.

Such as; right to self-determination or the physical protection of the group such as through prohibition of genocide, self-determination, and protection of the minority, etc.

Core Human Rights Instruments

There are seven core human rights treaties as follows’

  1. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966 and entered into force 23 March 1976
  2. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted in 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976
  3. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted in 1965, entered into force 4 January 4, 1969
  4. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted in 1979, entered into force 3 September 1981
  5. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted in 1984, entered into force 26 June 1987
  6. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989, entered into force 2 September 1990
  7. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006; opened for signature on 30 March 2007. Following ratification by the 20th party, it came into force on 3 May 2008.
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Each of the seven core human rights treaties has its own monitoring body (known collectively as the treaty bodies).

Treaty bodies were established to oversee compliance by States Parties with their obligations under that treaty.

These bodies comprise committees of independent experts elected by the UN Member States. They are created in accordance with the provisions of the treaty that they monitor.

human rights treaty bodies

There are eight human rights treaty bodies including

  1. The Human Rights Committee (CCPR) monitors implementation of the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and its optional protocols;
  2. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966);
  3. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) monitors the implementation of the
  4. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965);
  5. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and its optional protocol (1999);
  6. The Committee Against Torture (CAT) monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (1984);
  7. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and its optional protocols (2000); an
  8. The Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) monitors implementation of the International Convention on t
  9. Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990) which was signed on 18 Dec 1990 and entered into force on 1 July 2003.
  10. The Committee on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) monitors the implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).
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States’ Obligations under Human Rights Treaties

States obligations vary from treaty to treaty but in general; States Parties can be regarded as obliged to Respect Protect, Facilitate Promote and provide those rights.

human rights violations

Violation of human rights occurs when a state or individual failed to respect, protect or fulfill and human rights obligations. Not all infringements of an individual’s rights can be regarded as human rights violations. For example, the unlawful imposition of some minor tax or duty cannot be regarded as a human rights violation.

Types of Human Rights Violations

Human rights violations can take several forms – individual violation, large scale violation, international violation, serious violation, and trivial violation

Individual violation

This is a violation that is more personal and affects individuals directly. Example sexual harassment, any form of discrimination, torture, etc

Large scale violation

This is a human right violation that affects a large group of people. An example of this violation includes.  Massacre, starvation, etc.

This kind of violation is a good indicator of a poor human rights situation in a given State

international violations

This is a violation that involves international human rights problem which needs to be addressed internationally example War

Serious violation

This is a type of violation that endangers individual life and creates a state of fear to human beings of a given locality, for example, killing of certain group members based on religion, sex, race, abnormality, etc.

Trivial violation

This is a minor denial of basic rights to an individual which is not endangering the life of a human being  for example Denying access to information

Conclusion

My task here was to give you a simplified explanation of selected areas of human rights law. I hope you find that useful. The bottom line is

You don’t have to do anything to enjoys Human rights, these rights are entitled to any live human being naturally

The underlying principles of human rights are, Human rights are universal and inalienable; indivisible; interdependent, and interrelated.

There are three areas of human rights are civil and political rights, economic, cultural and Social Rights, and Collective Rights.

There are seven core human rights treaties

Each of the seven core human rights treaties has its own monitoring body (known collectively as the treaty bodies).

States are obliged to respect, protect, facilitate, promote, and provide those rights.

Violation of human rights occurs when a state or individual failed to respect, protect or fulfill and human rights obligations

Human rights violations can take several forms – individual violation, large scale violation, international violation, serious violation, and trivial violation

Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Mzumbe University and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law school of Tanzania. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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