Current Issue 13thFebruary 2016 - 19 February 2016, i.e. No. 45

Human rights as a career

Manu Singh

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, irrespective of nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimi-nation. These rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the form of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations 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 groups.

Human Rights legislation commonly contains:

  • Security rights that protect people against crimes such as murder, massacre, torture and rape
  • Liberty rights that protect freedoms in area such as belief and religion, association, assemblies and movement
  • Political rights that protect the liberty to participate in politics by expressing themselves, protesting, voting and serving in public office
  • Due process rights that protect against abuse of the legal system such as imprisonment without trial, secret trials and excessive punishment
  • Equality rights that guarantee equal citizenship, equality before law and non discrimination
  • Welfare rights (also known as economic and social rights) that require the provision of education and protection against severe poverty and starvation
  • Group rights that provide protection for group against ethnic genocide and for the ownership by countries of their national territories and resources

Violation of Human Rights

According to the Universal Declaration of Human rights, fundamental rights are violated when:

  • A Certain, Creed, or a group is denied recognition as a “person” (Article 2)
  • Men and Women are not treated as equal (Article 2)
  • Different Racial or Religious groups are not treated equally (Article 2)
  • Life, liberty or security of person are threatened (Article 3)
  • A person is sold as or used as a slave (Article 4)
  • Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment is used on a person (such as torture or execution) (Article 5)
  • Punishments are dealt arbitrarily or unilaterally, without a proper and fair trial (Article 11)
  • Arbitrary  interference into personal, or private lives by agents of the state (Article 12)
  • Citizens are forbidden to leave their country (Article 13)
  • Freedom of Speech or religion are denied (Article 18 & 19)
  • The right to join a trade union is denied (Article 23)
  • Education is denied (Article 26)

Universal and Inalienable

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

All States have ratified at least one, and 80% of States have ratified four or more, of the core human rights treaties, reflecting consent of States which creates legal obligations for them and gives concrete expression to universality. Some fundamental human rights norms enjoy universal protection by customary international law across all boundaries and civilizations.

Human rights are inalienable. They should not be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process. For example, the right to liberty may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law.

Interdependent and Indivisible


All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.  

Equal and Non-discriminatory

Non-discrimination is a cross-cutting principle in international human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of international human rights conventions such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  

The principle applies to everyone in relation to all human rights and freedoms and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of categories such as sex, race, colour and so on. The principle of non-discrimination is complemented by the principle of equality, as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Both Rights and Obligations

Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitled to our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.

To be continued
The Author is associated with Faculty of Law, Amity University, Lucknow, email: manumanieche


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