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Human rights are not absolute
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Human rights are not absolute

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Human rights are not absolute, and are subject to reasonable restrictions. This does not mean that the rights can be arbitrarily curtailed according to legislative or bureaucratic discretion. If human …

Human rights are not absolute, and are subject to reasonable restrictions. This does not mean that the rights can be arbitrarily curtailed according to legislative or bureaucratic discretion. If human rights are to be meaningful they cannot be subject to crude majoritarian dictates.

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  • 1. By Arundathie Abeysinghe Lecturer International Aviation Academy SriLankan Airlines Arundathie Abeysinghe 1
  • 2.   Rights to which a human being is entitled to by virtue of the fact he/she was born as a human being The term human rights is widely used after World War II replacing the term “natural rights”, associated with the Greco-Roman concept of natural law since the end of the Middle Ages Arundathie Abeysinghe 2
  • 3.   The concept of human rights has existed under several names in European thought for many centuries since the time of King John of England when he violated a number of ancient customs by which England had been governed His subjects forced him to sign the Magna Carta or Great Charter Arundathie Abeysinghe 3
  • 4.  Human rights are not absolute, and are subject to reasonable restrictions   This does not mean that the rights can be arbitrarily curtailed according to legislative or bureaucratic discretion If human rights are to be meaningful they cannot be subject to crude majoritarian dictates Arundathie Abeysinghe 4
  • 5.    There are rights of speech and expression and assembly But these rights are subject to limitations The right to freedom of association must be exercised so as not to interfere with the rights of others to move about the streets or go about their business Arundathie Abeysinghe 5
  • 6.    There are instances where human rights are restricted e.g. the right to hold demonstrations There is no absolute right to democratic protest or to march "Senator George was yet again goaled for upholding the principle of the right to democratic protest in Brisbane streets“ National Times (August 25, 1979) Arundathie Abeysinghe 6
  • 7.    The right of free expression of the press to cover news stories may clash with the right of an accused in a criminal case not to be prejudiced by adverse publicity of allegations made against him prior to trial or in a pre-trial hearing The right to free expression should not defame or slander a person Governments have the power to limit or control the freedom of expression in times of severe need or emergency – e.g. press censorship during a war Arundathie Abeysinghe 7
  • 8.  Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specifies that freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities and therefore be subject to certain restrictions (a) for the respect of the rights or reputation of others (b) for the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals Arundathie Abeysinghe 8
  • 9.  Section 479 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka has also specified limitations to the freedom of expression “ Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person, intending to harm or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person” Arundathie Abeysinghe 9
  • 10.     Freedom of expression is also limited in the following instances ; Obscene publications and the singing, reciting or uttering of obscene songs, ballads or words in public places are prohibited - Sections 285,286 and 287 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka Accordingly, Courts in Sri Lanka have taken an example from the British Courts R v Martin Secker Warburg Ltd. , where a firm of publishers were charged with having published an obscene novel called “The Philanderers” by Stanley Kauffman Arundathie Abeysinghe 10
  • 11.   According to International Human Rights Law, freedom of speech is not an absolute right, but should be exercised with responsibility and may be subject to limitations as provided by law This freedom should not be used as a pretext or excuse to defame religions and religious symbols – e.g. controversies created by the film Fitna - The article ‘Isalamophobia and Muslim Growth’ – March 5, 2008 Arundathie Abeysinghe 11
  • 12.    Fundamental requirements of a capitalist economic system is property rights Property rights often take precedence over human rights and as a result people have unequal opportunities Right to education – Everybody should have this right, yet, everybody does not have the equal opportunity to education – e.g. a student in a rural school does not have the same privileges as a student in an urban school Arundathie Abeysinghe 12
  • 13.   Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has specified certain restrictions on fundamental rights “The exercise and operation of the fundamental right declared and recognized by Article 15(1) (freedom of speech, assembly, association, occupation and movement) shall be subjected to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of racial and religious harmony or in relation to parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence” Arundathie Abeysinghe 13
  • 14.  “The exercise and operation of the fundamental rights may be subject to restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of national economy or in relation to professional, technical, academic, financial and other qualifications necessary for practicing any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade, business or enterprise - Article 15 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Arundathie Abeysinghe 14
  • 15.      Most civil and political rights are not absolute They can be restricted by public and private property rights, by restraining orders related to domestic violence and by legal punishments After a disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake free movement is suspended to permit access of emergency vehicles and equipment and to prevent looting The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights permits rights to be suspended during times "of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation" - Article 4 - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Arundathie Abeysinghe 15
  • 16.   As set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights there are rights which cannot be derogated under any circumstances The right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel treatment but also the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, the right not to be deprived of liberty and the right to be treated with humanity and with respect for inherent dignity of the human person Arundathie Abeysinghe 16
  • 17. Arundathie Abeysinghe 17