Human Rights in GeneralWhat are human rights?
Human rights refer to the most fundamental rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. Human rights are inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law and international human rights law lays down obligations of governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
Human rights are universal and absolute. The principle of universality, as first set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle has been reiterated in numerous international human rights documents. That human rights are absolute means they should never be taken away, except in specific situations and according to due process.
Non-discrimination is a cross-cutting principle in international human rights law. The principle is present in all the major human rights treaties and provides the central theme of some of international human rights conventions.
Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights. The obligation to respect means States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.
At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.