Topic 2 What is a human right?

‘’Human rights are rights we have simply because we exist as human beings – they are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental – the right to life – to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty.’’

Characteristics of human rights

  • Universal: everyone is entitled to them no matter where he/she lives and no matter what the laws of the specific state he/she lives in says.
  • Inalienable: humans cannot be prevented from exercising these rights unless special circumstances impose these prevention.
  • Indivisible and interdependent: a state cannot claim that they guarantee some human rights but denies to safeguard others. Example: a government cannot imprison people illegally and at the same time claim that they care for the national economy as they create jobs. Who will cover the vacancies if people who have the right to are imprisoned without a serious reason?
  • Equal: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”. Neither exclusively men, nor exclusively straight people, nor older than a certain age, nor of a specific religion or colour etc.: ALL HUMANS.

Fundamental human rights are established by three main international instruments, among others:

  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UDHR)
  • the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights of 1966
  • the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966

Question: Ηοw come such an old document like the UDHR – 1948– can still be useful?’’