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The term “Human Rights” was first used in the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. “Human Rights” includes within its ambit the rights relating to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual embodied in the international covenants. It can be looked upon as a body of principles based on ethics and morality to provide the individual with the basic requirements for a minimal quality life.|
Some early instances of the application of the concept of human rights can be traced back to the Magna Carta (1215), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789), the American Bill of Rights, and the Geneva Convention (1864)
However, Human Rights, as an individual branch of International Law, started growing up with several charters and treaties coming up, the most important being the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard for all people of all nations. Some of the principles it enunciated are as follows: -
Later, the rights incorporated in the Declaration were separated into two different covenants, namely, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The two covenants were adopted in 1966, and have been ratified by more than 130 countries through supporting legislation for enforcement and implementation.
The UN General Assembly in order to address human right issues established the Human Rights Council on 15th. March 2006
In UK, the Human Rights Act, 1998 protects various rights of the individual. Some of them are:
- “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
- “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. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it is independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
- “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
A fundamental goal of US foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as cherished in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- The Right to Privacy
- The Rights of Suspects
- The Rights of Defendants
- The Rights of Prisoners
- The Right of Peaceful Protest
- The Right to Receive Equal Treatment etc.
Apart from the Universal Declaration, there are also regional documents for the protection of individual rights. The African States have created a Charter of Human and People’s Rights (1981) and the Muslim States have announced the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (1990).
In India, protection of the rights of the individual is not only proclaimed by the law, but is also safeguarded by the Constitution. The Human Rights Protection Act, 1993, seeks to protect the rights of the individual.
Last but not the least, instances of observance of human rights in gross violation rather than in compliance thereof, galore, which shocks the conscience of mankind.