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HUMAN RIGHTS (Part 1 of 2)   Leave a comment

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

(Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, Dec. 10, 1948)


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1

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.

Article 2

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 be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7

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.

Article 8

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair, and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11

1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14

1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15

1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16

1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27

1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29

1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.


Posted 2012/03/23 by Stelios in Education

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HUMAN RIGHTS (Part 2 of 2)   Leave a comment

March 12, 1994: China rejects human-rights demands. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, on a visit to China, was told by government officials that they rejected the American insistence on tying improvements in human rights to the issue of trade. The United States government had stated that it would revoke most-favoured-nation status in trade if China did not alter its human-rights policies. China’s prime minister, Li Peng, stated that “China will never accept the United States human-rights concept.” To emphasize his point, Chinese authorities cracked down on political dissidents during Christopher’s visit. Li added that the Americans had much to lose if they were cut out of the huge and fast-growing Chinese market. He also noted that China was virtually self-sufficient and could easily do without trade from the United States. This trade issue came at a difficult time for the Clinton Administration, which needed China as an ally in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear threat.

A right may be defined as something to which an individual has a just claim. The American Declaration of Independence states that “all men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a brief statement about human rights in contrast to civil rights. Human rights are those that individuals have by virtue of their existence as human beings. The right to life itself and the basic necessities of food and clothing may be considered fundamental human rights.

Civil, or legal, rights are those granted by a government. The right to vote at age 18 is a civil right, not a human right. In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries there was a broadening of the concept of human rights to include many rights formerly regarded as civil.

Historical Background

The term human rights came into common use only after World War II. It was made current by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published in 1948. As a term human rights replaced natural rights, a very old concept, and the related phrase rights of man, which did not necessarily include the rights of women.

Most scholars trace the origin of the concept of natural rights to ancient Greek and Roman thought. In the literature and philosophy of both Greece and Rome there are abundant statements acknowledging laws of the gods and of nature, and such laws were understood to take precedence over laws made by the state.

The human-rights concept, however, can actually be traced to an earlier period. The Hebrew Bible (called the Old Testament by Christians) relates the story of ancient Israel, and in it are abundant inferences about human rights. There is no well-developed statement on the issue, but there are significant scattered passages that give clear evidence of a point of view at least as advanced as Greek and Roman philosophy. The Ten Commandments, by the prohibition of murder and theft, give implicit recognition of the right to life and property. This recognition is considerably broadened by later elaboration of the laws and by the passionate discourses on justice by such prophets as Amos.

Statism, supremacy of the state in all matters pertaining to its subjects.

If the concept of human rights is very old, the general recognition of their validity is not. Throughout most of history governments failed to accept the notion that people have rights independent of the state. This is called statism, and it implies the supremacy of the state in all matters pertaining to the lives of subjects. Statism is still a potent concept in the 20th century. Germany under Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union during the rule of Joseph Stalin are prime examples, and there are other equally valid instances that still exist.

The modern development of the human-rights concept began during the late Middle Ages in the period called the Renaissance, when resistance to political and economic tyranny began to surface in Europe. It was during the 17th and 18th centuries, a period called the Enlightenment, that specific attention was drawn by scientific discoveries to the workings of natural law. This, in turn, seemed to imply the existence of natural rights with which the state should not be allowed to interfere.

By the time of the American and French revolutions, a complete turnaround had taken place in the relationship of governments to human rights. The point of view elaborated by the American Founding Fathers, as well as by the French revolutionaries, is that government’s purpose is to protect and defend rights, not to dispense or exploit them. James Madison went so far as to assert that “as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may equally be said to have a property in his rights.” And further, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.” The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (France, 1789) states that, “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights,” and “The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and inprescriptible rights of man.”

Such advanced views of human rights were not without their critics. From the end of the 18th century through the third decade of the 20th, outspoken and influential theorists attacked the human-rights concept. Edmund Burke in England denounced what he called “the monstrous fiction” of human equality. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham stated that only imaginary rights can be derived from a law of nature. These thinkers were joined, in the course of 100 years, by Bentham’s disciple John Stuart Mill, the French political theorist Joseph de Meistre, the German jurist Friedrich Karl von Svaigny, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others. By 1894 the British writer F.H. Bradley could exalt the concept of statism by saying: “The rights of the individual today are not worth consideration. . . . The welfare of the community is the end and is the ultimate standard.”

The critics, however, were going against the tide of history. In the United States and many parts of Europe, there was distinct progress in the development of human rights. These instances might not have been sufficient without the laboratory of human rights abuse that Nazi Germany provided for all the world to see. The appalling crimes against humanity, most evident in the extermination of millions of people in concentration camps, horrified the civilized world and helped bring human rights to their present level of acceptance.

Definitions of Rights

The general acceptance of human rights led to a widespread agreement on certain fundamental assumptions about them: (1) If a right is affirmed as a human right rather than a civil right, it is understood to be universal, something that applies to all human beings everywhere. (2) Rights are understood to represent individual and group demands for the sharing of political and economic power. (3) It is agreed that human rights are not always absolute: they may be limited or restrained for the sake of the common good or to secure the rights of others. (4) Human rights is not an umbrella term to cover all personal desires. (5) The concept of rights often implies related obligations. Thomas Jefferson noted that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Therefore, if individuals would maintain their freedom, their duty is to guard against political, religious, and social activities that may restrict their rights and the rights of others.

Acceptance of fundamental assumptions has not lessened disagreement on which rights can be classified as human rights. Historically the debate has been carried on about three categories: individual, social, and collective. Individual rights refers to the basic rights to life and liberty mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Social rights broadens this concept to include economic, social, and cultural rights. Collective, or solidarity, rights has come into prominence since the end of World War II, the collapse of old colonial empires, and the emergence of many new nation-states. These particular forms of rights are best described by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Individual rights. These rights were best described by the 17th- and 18th-century political theorists such men as John Locke in England, Montesquieu in France, and Jefferson and others in the United States. They are the rights to life, liberty, privacy, the security of the individual, freedom of speech and press, freedom of worship, the right to own property, freedom from slavery, freedom from torture and unusual punishment, and similar rights as spelled out in the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Basic to individual rights is the concept of government as a shield against encroachment upon the person. Little is demanded from government but the right to be left alone. Government is not asked for anything except vigilance in safeguarding the rights of its citizens.

Social rights. This concept of rights grew out of the socialist and Communist criticisms of capitalism and its perceived economic injustices: low wages, long working hours, unsafe working conditions, and child labour, among others. Social rights make demands on government for such things as quality education, jobs, adequate medical care, social-insurance programs, housing, and other benefits. Basically they call for a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and the family.

Collective rights. The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948. It urged the right to political, economic, social, and cultural self-determination; the right to peace; the right to live in a healthful and balanced environment; and the right to share in the Earth’s resources. It also pledged the rights of life, liberty, and security of person the basic human rights.

Posted 2012/03/23 by Stelios in Education

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