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Definition of Human Rights

Definition of Human Rights. Human rights are: universal legal guarantees protecting individuals and groups against actions and omissions that interfere with fundamental freedoms, entitlements and human dignity.

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Definition of Human Rights

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  1. Definition of Human Rights Human rights are: • universal legal guarantees • protecting individuals and groups • against actions and omissions • that interfere with fundamental freedoms, entitlements and human dignity. • Human rights law obliges Governments and other duty-bearers to do certain things and prevents them from doing others.

  2. Core Principles of Human Rights • Universal: All individuals are equal as human beings and by virtue of the inherent dignity of each humanperson. • Inalienable: All people everywhere in the world are entitled to human rights. A person cannot voluntarily give them up. Nor can others take them away from him or her. • Indivisible and interrelated:Rights are completely interdependent and depend on each other for their effectiveness. • Non-discrimination: Everyone is entitled to human rights without discrimination • Empowerment/participation: These rights endow people the power to claim them from their governments, as opposed to charity which is an act of generosity. Human rights are owned by everyone. • Accountability: Governments have certain duties and obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. (Individuals and non-state actors also have duties to others)

  3. Non-discrimination – a dual obligation • Negative: The state must not discriminate against specific individuals or groups • Positive: the state must take steps to identify vulnerable individuals or groups in need of extra attention to ensure their rights are guaranteed.

  4. When can rights be restricted? It is not the norm for rights to be limited but the exception. They can only be limited if the following 5 criteria are met: • The restriction must be allowed for in law • The restriction must respond to a pressing public or social need • The restriction is strictly necessary in a democratic society to achieve the public/social need • There are no less intrusive and restrictive means available to reach the same objective; and • The restriction is based on scientific evidence and not drafted or imposed arbitrarily — that is, in an unreasonable or otherwise discriminatory manner. Any restriction must be of a limited duration, respectful of human dignity, and subject to review

  5. Rights Bearers and Duty Bearers

  6. Introduction to International Human Rights Law

  7. Pre-World War II • Various human rights principles - long history in many traditions. e.g.: • Hammurabi Code (Babylon, c. 1700 BCE) • Plato, Aristotle (Greece, c. 350-360 BCE) • Confucianism (c. China, 570 BCE - ) • Asoka “The Edicts” (India, c. 272-231 BCE) • Kautilya, “The Arthashastra” (India, c. 200 BCE) • Judaism, Islam, Christianity • Liberalism (Milton, Locke, Mill, Paine, Voltaire, Kant) • Communism (e.g. Marx)

  8. Post World War II • In response to the atrocities of the Second World War, human rights come to the fore • At the San Francisco Conference, where the UN Charter was adopted, some 40 non-governmental organizations successfully lobbied delegates on human rights • Human rights a core aim of the UN and legal obligation under the Charter

  9. ‘Basic Rights and Freedoms’ Eleanor Roosevelt served as the first Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission and played a critical role in drafting the UDHR. • Between 1946 and 1948, international delegations at the Human Rights commission debated every word in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. • After 1,400 rounds of voting, the UDHR was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948 as ‘as a common standard of achievement for all people and nations’

  10. UDHR • The UDHR outlines the individual rights and freedoms for everyone based on the principle that human rights are based ‘on the inherent dignity of every person’ • It contains both civil and political as well as economic social and cultural protections • It is not legally binding, but nonetheless forms the bedrock of international human rights law • It is now available in over 350 languages – the most translated documented in the world

  11. International Bill of Human Rights • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights were adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1976 • These conventions put the rights and freedoms of the UDHR into the form of binding treaties. • The three documents are referred to as the International Bill of Human rights

  12. Development of International Human Rights Law • Customary international law (ongoing process) • Treaties (and monitoring mechanisms )on: • Racial discrimination 1965 • Discrimination against women 1979 • Torture 1984 • Children (all but two states are parties to this treaty) 1989 • Migrant workers 1990 • Disabled persons 2006 • Enforced disappearances 2006 • ‘Soft law’ dozens of declarations and guidelines on issues such as indigenous people’s rights, HIV/AIDs etc

  13. Introduction to the UN human rights system

  14. Political/Inter-Governmental • General Assembly (3rd Committee) • ECOSOC • Human Rights Council • Regular sessions 3 times a year for 3 weeks • Special sessions • Universal Periodic Review • Special Procedures • 1503 complaint procedure (gross and systematic violations)

  15. Programmatic/Secretariat • Secretary General • Special Representatives (e.g. Violence Against children) • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights • Department of UN Secretariat (alongside UNODC) • Headed by UN High Commissioner for Human rights • Secretariat for Human Rights Council and Treaty Bodies • Technical assistance and capacity building to states • Mandate to mainstream human rights in UN system • Civil society Unit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/CivilSociety.aspx

  16. Treaty Monitoring • Each UN human rights treaty has a corresponding independent committee (a Treaty Body) • Consideration of state reports • Complaints mechanisms (All but CRC) • Inquiry procedures (CAT, CEDAW) • General Comments (Provide more detail on specific articles) • Days of General Discussion • NGOs central to all the work of Treaty Bodies

  17. Independent Expert • Special Procedures • Special Rapporteurs • e.g. SR on Torture, SR on the right to health • Independent Experts • E.g. IE on • Working Groups • E.g. WG on Arbitrary Detention • Country missions, complaints mechanisms, urgent appeals, annual reports to GA and Human Rights Council • NGOs frequently initiate complaints, urgent appeals etc and are points of contact for country missions

  18. Learn the System! Helpful guides: • “A Brief Introduction to the UN Human Rights System” (Part of this training package) • “Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: A Handbook for Civil Society” http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/CivilSociety/Documents/Handbook_en.pdf • Open Society Institute Public Health Program, “Human Rights Documentation and Advocacy: A Guide for Organizations of People Who Use Drugs” http://www.soros.org/initiatives/health/focus/ihrd/articles_publications/publications/hrdoc_20090218/hrdoc_20090218.pdf

  19. Issue to be solved

  20. State Obligations • To Respect: States must refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right. • To Protect: States must take measures that prevent third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the right. • To Fulfill: States must adopt appropriate legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial, promotional and other measures towards the full realisation of the right (facilitate) and directly provide assistance or services for the realisation of these rights (provide)

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