Human rights are the rights of every person. The origins of human rights trace deep into the history of humankind. Almost all communities around the world have set some rights and responsibilities to individuals and groups.
The idea of human rights for all became established after World War II as the United Nations General Assembly passed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Human rights are universal, inalienable and fundamental.
Universal in the sense that everyone is entitled to all the rights and they are enforced everywhere. The universality prevents segragation through gender, skin colour, social status or any other circumstance.
Human rights are inalienable in the sense that they relate to the idea of an individual’s natural rights (the right to life, liberty and property) that precede government. Human rights apply to everyone on the basis of humanity and therefore cannot be taken away through a decision by the authorities nor through the consent of the person herself.
They are fundamental as only important rights deserve to be known as human rights. At the heart of the issue is freedom from something and the right to something. Also, rights that a person demands have to be rights that she is prepared to give to others.
Human rights apply to everyone, everywhere, always.
Human rights are upheld by international law. The right to the freedom of expression and speech, the right to privacy and family, the prohibition of discrimination and the right to social security are all written down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Almost all countries are signatories to the declaration.
Human rights are international treaties agreed upon by countries. When a country ratifies, conclusively approves, confirms and enforces a treaty into law, it is bound as a duty-bearer to accept the responsibilities of committing to the declaration. Countries must respect the rights of the individual and advance their fulfilment in practice.
Supervising bodies have been established to ensure the fulfilment of human rights. For example, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities is supervised by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The supervisory system includes permanent tribunaries, such as the European Court of Human Rights. On the national level human rights are supervised by several bodies, such as the the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice of the Government. Authorised representatives, such as the Ombudsman for Equality and the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman monitor the fundamental and human rights situation relevant to their own field.
Non-governmental organisations, including the Finnish League for Human Rights oversee and advance the fulfilment of human rights. The organisations provide information of human rights violations to national and international supervising bodies.
What are human rights and their corresponding declarations? Learn more about human rights protected by human rights declarations at ihmisoikeudet.net (in Finnish)!