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A Comprehensive Guide To International Human Rights

This paper throws light on "Right" and how it is defined by different scholars and in different instruments. The paper shows that how "Right" is classified. The paper lays down the background of human rights and how it is evolved. This paper also discusses how and why human rights were given importance. Herein, the paper has been discussed what are the natural rights of a common person. And how those rights turn into legal rights, why those legal rights are important for a person.

The paper assesses how the United Nations (UN) works on human rights and how it is related to international human rights law. This also focuses on the role of different UN-supported organizations in the protection of human rights. This paper also lays down what are steps taken by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) to protect the rights of a person globally. Apart from International human rights protection, the paper also discusses how India is working on the protection of human rights.

What is the role of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)? Here it is also discussed how human rights are classified into different generations. This paper also lays down special emphasis on the fourth generation of human rights.

When a person is born, he gets some rights which are natural rights like the right to life, the right to food, the right to shelter, etc. Over time when he is competent enough to understand society, he also gets some rights or duties from society like, generally, every event has a past, so this concept of human rights rises from the past. Earlier, kings of the state had started the granting of rights to their subjects and then over time, the government and international bodies followed them.

However the difference between the earlier period and the contemporary era is that, in the former, there were limited rights and appeal, but in the latter, there were several rights granted to humans with a wide scope of appeal. The law also imposes some duties on him toward society and also grants some rights to protect him. The questions come, who will protect these rights? So apart from law or state, there is an international body like the United Nations (UN), which is concerned with the protection of human rights, several bodies of the UN are working for human rights.

What are Rights?

According to the dictionary, right means, "a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something".[1] In terms of general perception rights means that one can do whatever he wants to do. The word "right" is not limited to the legal periphery, it has a broad perspective in terms of social, legal, economic, and political. It is always followed by some ethical theory, legal system, and social convention. Rights run parallelly with duties, the one who has having right to, some duties comes with that right. For instance, if I have right to hear music so, at the same time I also have a duty not to make other people uncomfortable with that music.

Many scholars have given the definition of the Rights, let's have a look at their thoughts:
  • Rights are those conditions of social life without which no man can seek in general, to be himself at his best. -Laski[2]
  • Rights are powers necessary for the fulfillment of man's vocation as a moral being. -T. H. Green[3].
Here We Are Going Look Into A Few Rights:
  1. Natural Rights
  2. Human Rights

Natural Rights:

Natural rights are those rights that need not be gained from somewhere or no one is providing such too. It comes with our existence in the world or as people are born, they get some rights naturally and rights can be said as natural rights. It comes as a person enters into a society. These rights are common for everyone and govern irrespective of caste, gender, religion, and creed.

According to John Locke, all individuals are equal in the sense that they are born with certain "inalienable" natural rights. That is rights that are provided by the state of nature and can never be taken or even given away. These natural rights are "life, liberty, and property." Locke believed that the most basic human law of nature is the preservation of mankind. To serve that purpose, he reasoned, individuals have both a right and a duty to preserve their own lives.[4]

Here property doesn't include only land or goods that can be in transactions but also the right to own self. The natural rights are independent of any customs, regulations and laws of any authority. These rights have to be followed by certain ethics, morality, and good conscience. These rights are based on principles and truth. In addition, we can say that natural rights are absolute rights. No one has the right to snatch these rights from any individual.

Some naturals rights are[5]:
  • Right to preserve life
  • Right to liberty
  • Right to make family
  • Right to make a living

Human Rights:

In very simple terms it means that all those rights which are for humans can be said as human rights. These rights are important for the protection and maintenance of public dignity. Human rights are universal and can never be absolute in nature, because the man is living in a civic society which must be followed by some restrictions.

Human rights are the collection of many rights like dignity, speech, food, shelter, love, justice, employment, equality, food, and many more[6]. These rights become operative from birth. It can also be said that human rights include many others' rights like natural rights as discussed earlier, inherent rights, fundamental rights, or birthrights.

Human rights belong to all people who are competent enough to exercise them. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status[7].

Some definitions of Human Rights:
Justice Durga Das Basu stated that, "Human rights are those minimal rights, which every individual must have against the State, or other public authority, by virtue of his being a member of human family' irrespective of any consideration."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, defines human rights as, "Rights derived from the inherent dignity of the human person."

Section 2 (1) (d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, defines as, "Human rights are the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by Courts in India."

History of Human rights:
The origin of human rights is ideally pinpointed to the year 539 BC. When the troops of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, then Cyrus freed the slaves and declared that all people had the right to choose their own religion and established racial equality.

The concept of human rights arrived in England in 1215. King John of England issued a Magna Carta in which he introduced the concept of "rule of law" and the basic idea of defined rights and liberties to all persons, which offers protection from arbitrary prosecution and incarceration. Now the concept of democratic government and the principle of justice is the key principle.

In 1689 William III and Mary II, who became co-rulers in England, the Magna Carta was represented by the English Bill of Rights, in which civil rights were mentioned. Several bills also came in front but in 1945 when the United Nations was founded then founding members decided to save the succeeding generation from war and all. This concept of justice, equality, and dignity was promoted in international law[8].

In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was a non-binding declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, it urged member states to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights. It also came with 30 rights of common people that must be assured.[9]

United Nations and Human Rights:
The United Nations is an international body of almost all the countries of the globe. It was founded in 1945 and its headquarters is in New York, USA. The purpose of finding this was to promote peace, justice, and equality in countries, if there is any wrong with them. It also protects the rights of humans in all terms.

United Nations has Six Major organs:[10]
  1. The General Assembly
  2. The Security Council
  3. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
  4. The Trusteeship Council
  5. International Court of Justice
  6. UN Secretariat

Coming to the point of how the UN is connected with "Human Rights". The United Nations consists of a number of sub-organs which are working under it. United Nations Human Rights Council, UNHRC is one of the sub-organs that works with the UN. It is a body which protects human rights around the world. It addresses issues like freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of belief and religion, women's rights, LGBT rights, and rights of racial and ethnic minorities[11].

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Another important body that works for human rights is UDHR, on 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted it. That's why we celebrate World Human Rights Day on this day. This declaration is the first document on this globe to be translated, approximately in 360 languages.

The vision of this declaration articulates the rights and freedom to which every human being is equally and inalienably entitled. It provides a foundation for all and has given people everywhere a powerful tool in the fights against oppression, impunity, and affronts to human dignity.

The Universal Declaration promises to all the economic, social, political, cultural, and civic rights that underpin a life free from want and fear[12].

The declaration has mentioned 30 articles those deals with "Human Rights" and they are:
  • Article 1-2: Basic concepts of dignity, liberty, and equality
  • Article 3-5: Individual rights, such as the right to life and prohibition of slavery and torture
  • Article 6-11: Fundamental legality of human rights with specific remedies cited for their defense when violated
  • Article 12-17: Rights of the individual towards the community, including freedom of movement and residence within each state, right of property, and right to a nationality
  • Article 18-21: The so-called "constitutional liberties" and spiritual, public, and political freedoms, such as freedom of thought, opinion, expression, religion and conscience, word, peaceful association of the individual, and receiving and imparting information and idea through any media
  • Article 22-27: An individual's economic, social, and cultural rights, including healthcare, right to an adequate standard of living, and care given to motherhood or childhood
  • Article 28-30: establish the general means of exercising these rights, the areas in which the rights of the individual cannot be applied, the duty of the individual to society, and the prohibition of the use of rights in contravention of the purposes of the United Nations Organisation[13].

Generations of Human Rights:
We haven't got human rights suddenly; it takes many years but still, there are many classes who are not able to find it properly. But those rights like social and political, solidarity, economic and many more are currently with us which we are availing. All these rights come one after one as per the leaders, kings and governments were concerned for their subjects. And the period between these rights can be termed as "generations of human rights."

The generations of Human Rights are:
  • Civil and Political Rights or First Generation: These rights began to emerge in the 17th and 18th centuries. Initially, they were more focused on political rights like voting rights, equal access to the public etc. Then civil rights were also coming parallelly like the right to equality, freedom of expression, right to speech, right to a fair trial, and many more. Over time these rights got international recognition. Some of the rights were enshrined in articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In 1953, these rights were also enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Later in 1966, these rights were specifically recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
  • Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights or Second Generation: After World War II, it was considered that there were also many rights apart from civil and political which were compulsory for living a dignified, standard, and healthy life. So, some rights were considered like the right to work, the right to be employed, freedom of association, right to food, house, and health. To implement these rights, the state has to be attentive then it can complete these responsibilities to make its citizens' lives standard and dignified. These rights impose upon the government the duty to respect, promote, and fulfill them, but this depends on the availability of resources. The duty is imposed on the state because it controls its own resources. These rights were also mentioned in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
  • Solidarity Rights or Third Generation: This generation brings great responsibility to the state because it deals with the collective rights of people. These rights work at mass. As we have seen, the first two generations are for an individual but this generation has different aspects. Rights such as the right to a good environment, the right to a healthy life, right to self-determination, etc. The rights in this generation cannot be exerted personally, but only by groups or entirely. These rights are also expressed in many progressive instruments like the 1972 Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment or the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
  • Fourth Generation of Human Rights: Many thinkers have considered these rights, but many have not. In this contemporary era, most of the things are running with the help of technology. We are surrounded by digital techniques; our data and information are stored in digital space. This is the reason why the fourth generation is getting considered because we need the right to privacy. So, for safety in cyberspace, certain rights must be there so that we can prevent ourselves from being victims of cybercrime.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India:
Like in all countries, there are organizations that protect the rights of their citizens. In our country India, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a body that does the same. NHRC of India was formed in 1993. It was formed under the Protection of Human Rights Act. It serves the motto of "sarve bhavantu sukhinah" which means "may all be happy". As all commission or organization which works for human rights protects human rights, likewise, NHRC also protects the rights of an individual, it is not only responsible for protecting human rights but also for promoting human rights.

NHRC consists of six members, one chairman, and five other members. The chairman has been the chief justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court. At least one member shall be a female member[15].

The issues taken up by NHRC are likes:
  • Custodial torture
  • Sexual Violence
  • Arbitrary arrest and detention
  • Child labour
  • LGBT's Rights[16]
  • Google Dictionary
  •, K.K Ghai- Rights: Meaning, Features and Types of Rights
  •, K.K Ghai- Rights: Meaning, Features and Types of Rights
  •, Jennifer Gunner- Natural Rights
  •, Susan Goertz
  •, Marco Sutto- Human Rights evolution, a brief history.
  • "Human rights" Wikipedia Accessed 17 Sep. 2022.
  • United Nation
  • United Nations Human Rights Council
  •; Yacine Ait Kaci- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Three Generations of Human Rights
  • National Human Rights Commission;
  •; National Human Rights Commission- By Adv. Priya Dabas

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