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Declaration of human rights

Declaration of human rightsWe all have the right to equal treatment under the law, but how were humans granted this right?

Saving us from the past

Following the horrors of World War II there was a desire among the nations of the world to find a way to stop such a thing from happening again. In 1945 the United Nations (UN) was created to ensure peace and justice in the world through international co-operation. Part of the UN’s charter called for the establishment of a set of universal basic human rights.

A Commission was also created and given the task of developing an international bill of human rights. The Commission met for the first time in January 1947 and considered several critical issues. It concluded that it should work to develop a declaration rather than a treaty. An international declaration is a statement of importance, and has high moral and often political significance. It is more than a recommendation, but less than a treaty, which is binding in international law. Perhaps most important of all, the commission decided that the declaration should contain both civil and political, as well as economic and social rights.

What are our rights?

The Universal Declaration covers the range of human rights in 30 clear and concise articles. The first two articles lay the universal foundation of human rights: human beings are equal; human rights are universal. The two articles assure that human rights are the birthright of everyone.

Articles 3 to 21 set forth civil and political rights to which everyone is entitled. The right to life, liberty and personal security, recognized in Article 3, sets the base for all following political rights and civil liberties, including freedom from slavery, torture and arbitrary arrest, as well as the rights to a fair trial, free speech and free movement and privacy.

Articles 22 to 27 set forth the economic, social and cultural rights to which all human beings are entitled. The cornerstone of these rights is Article 22, acknowledging that, as a member of society, everyone has the right to social security and is therefore entitled to the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights "indispensable" for his or her dignity and free and full personal development.

Articles 28 to 30 provide a larger protective framework in which all human rights are to be universally enjoyed. Article 30 protects the interpretation of the articles of the Declaration from any outside interference contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. It explicitly states that no State, group or person can claim, on the basis of the Declaration, to have the right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration.

Are they legally binding?

The Declaration has inspired more than 60 international human rights instruments, which together constitute a comprehensive system of legally binding treaties for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The UK acquired its own Human Rights Act in 1998 which gives legal effect in the UK to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). These rights not only affect matters of life and death like freedom from torture and killing but also affect your rights in everyday life such as what you can say and do, your beliefs and your right to a fair trial.

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