Human Rights

So far we have learned about Civil Liberties.  These are the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights that protect individuals from the power of government.  They give you as an individual the right to freedom of speech, to an uncensored press, to hold demonstrations and petition the government, to worship free of government interference, to have a fair trial and due process protections, and to have your privacy respected.

We will soon be focusing on Civil Rights.  They are the fundamental rights of citizenship, including the right to be treated equally under the law, the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to participate in the political process. 

Civil liberties, civil rights, and other specific kinds of rights – such as economic, cultural and social rights and how prisoners and civilians are treated in times of war – are the building blocks of Human Rights.

The notion of people having inherent human rights goes back to the 18th century concept of "natural rights" – rights belonging to an individual by virtue of his or her humanity – which were so important in the American Revolutionary period.  The modern human rights movement dates from World War II.  After the horrors of that conflict, people were determined that such mass inhumanity and barbarism should never happen again.  The Charter of the United Nations, which dates from June 1945, enshrines human rights as a concern of nations.  

Three subsequent documents form the International Bill of Rights:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976)