HUMAN RIGHTS AT INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
SAP ID- 500022419
Meaning of Human Rights
Human Beings are rational beings. They by virtue of their being human
possess certain basic and inalienable rights which are commonly known as
Human Rights are defined as all those rights which are essential for the
protection and maintenance of dignity of individuals and create conditions
in which every human being can develop his personality to the fullest extent
may be termed as human rights.
Human rights become operative with the birth of an individual. Human
rights, being the birth right, are inherent in all the individuals irrespective
of their caste, religion, sex and nationality.
Because of their immense significance to human beings ; human rights are
also sometimes referred to as fundamental rights, basic rights, inherent
rights, natural rights and birth rights.
• The World conference On Human Rights held in 1993 in Vienna
stated in the Declaration that all human rights derive from the
dignity and worth inherent in the human person , and that the
human person is the central subject of human rights and
Even though the origin of human rights is ancient, the international concern
with human rights may be said to be of comparatively recent origin. The UN
Charter marks the advent of systematic human rights protection within the
The idea of human rights is as old as humanity, its systematic proclamation
and declaration are more recent. The world’s first bill of human rights was
discovered on a clay tablet dating back from the reign of Cyrus the Great
(555- 529 BC)
The documents which form the historical foundation of modern human
rights jurisprudence are the English Bill of Rights (1688), the American
Declaration of Independence (1776) and the French Declaration of Rights of
Man (1789).The legal process in the universality of human rights effectively
commenced with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR).
MODERN HUMAN RIGHTS
Human rights is one of such rights which has been conferred to individuals
by the states in the modern International Law.
The modern perspective to human rights is reflected in the Vienna
Declaration adopted by the World conference on Human rights in June
1993. The declaration categorically states that all human rights are
universal, indivisible and interdependent and inter-related and that
democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. The conference
reaffirmed the right to development as a universal inalienable right and an
integral part of the fundamental human rights.
The legal process in the universality of human rights effectively commenced
with the universal declaration of human rights 1948 (UDHR).
Adoption of the UN charter in the aftermath of the Second World War can
rightly be considered as a landmark in the journey towards universal
acceptance of human rights.
Through a long process of evolution , modern human rights jurisprudence
has crystallized into three basic principles:
1. The principle of universal inherence: Every human being has certain
rights, capable of being enumerated and defined which are not conferred on
him by any ruler, nor earned or acquired by purchase, but which inhere in
him by virtue of his humanity alone.
2. The principle of inalienability: no human being can be deprived of any
of those rights by the acts of any ruler or even by his own act or in a
democracy even by the will of the majority of the sovereign people.
3. The rule of Law : Where rights conflict with each other, the conflicts
must be resolved by the consistent, independent and impartial application
of just laws in accordance with just procedures.
An individual can seek human rights only in an organized community, i.e. a
state , or in other words where the civil social order exists. Thus the
principle of protection of human rights is derived from the concept of man
as a person and his relationship with an organized society which cannot be
separated from universal human nature.
Human rights being essential for all- round development of the personality
of the individuals in the society be necessarily protected and be made
available to all the individuals. They must be preserved, cherished and
defended if peace and prosperity are to be achieved . Human rights are the
very essence of a meaningful life and to maintain human dignity is the
ultimate purpose of the government.
KINDS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
• There are two kinds of human rights :
1. civil and political rights.
2. economic social and cultural rights
1. Civil and political rights: Civil rights and liberties are referred to those
rights which are related to the protection of the right to life and personal
liberty . They are essential for a person so that he may live a dignified life.
such rights include right to life, liberty , right to privacy, freedom from
torture and right to own property. These rights also known as (freedom
Whereas political rights may be referred to those rights which allow a
person to participate in the government of a state. For e.g. right to vote,
right to be elected and right to take part in conduct of public affairs.
The nature of both civil and political rights may be different but they are
inter-related and therefore it does not appear logical to differentiate them.
This reason led to the formulation of one covenant covering both civil and
political rights into one covenant i.e. International Covenant on civil and
2. Economic, social and cultural rights: Economic, social and cultural rights are
based fundamentally on the concept of social equality( also called ‘freedom
to’) are related to the guarantee of minimum necessities of the life to human
beings . In the absence of these rights the existence of human beings is like
to be endangered.
• Right to adequate food, clothing, housing and adequate standard of living
and freedom from hunger, right to work , right to social security, right to
physical and mental health and right to education are included in this
category of rights.
• These rights sometimes called positive rights require active intervention,
not abstentions on the part of the states. The enjoyment of these rights
requires a major commitment of resources and therefore their realization
cannot be immediate as in the case of civil and political rights.
Although the United Nations has recognized the above two sets of rights in
two separate Covenants i.e. International covenant on civil and political
rights ( ICCPR) and International covenant on economic social and cultural
rights ( ICESCR) there is a close relationship between them. It has been
rightly realized especially by the developing countries that civil and political
rights can have no meaning unless they are accompanied by social,
economic and cultural rights. Thus both categories of rights are equally
important and where civil and political rights do not exist, there cannot be
full realization of economic, social and cultural rights and vice versa.
International Human Rights Law
International human rights law has been developing extensively since the
creation of the United Nations. The most fundamental point about human
rights law is that it establishes a set of rules for all the people of all the
Human rights is international in the sense of it being universal, applying to
all the individual. However, international human rights law refers mainly to
the obligations of states to individuals within their jurisdiction. When states
fail to assure realization of human rights to the individuals within their
jurisdiction international obligation arises. Thus, obligations to provide
human rights individuals is mainly intra-national and in some cases
Thus a state is not free to treat its nationals as it pleases despite the fact that
it is sovereign. The greatest impact of human rights law has been to erode
the absolute control which a state had in the classical period.
The efforts for the creation of an international organization, in order to
establish peace, were being made even when the World War II was in
progress. Many declarations adopted by the conference laid down the
importance of human rights. The declaration of the United Nations signed
on January 1,1942 at Washington was the first document which used the
term human rights.
Thus, human rights became a matter of International concern with the end
of World War II and the founding of the United Nations. Since then
international human rights law has been developing in an unprecedented
way and has become a very substantive part of International law as a whole.
Although there is no global government as such to protect human rights, it
is being protected by the various bodies of the United Nations and the inter-
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
by the United Nations
The prime responsibility for the promotion of human rights under the U.N
Charter rests in the General Assembly, in the Economic and Social Council
and its subsidiary body i.e. the council on human rights.
• The term protection of human rights which may mean implementation and
enforcement action does not find place in the U.N Charter. When human
rights violations assume massive dimensions, the General Assembly and
other organs of the UN can initiate discussion and action. Among the
United Nations agencies only the Security Council and the International
Court of Justice can engage in enforcement action; only they have a
competence to pass a binding resolution or issue a binding judgment.
Enforcement is thus the authoritative application of human rights.
• The United Nations in the past has been able to promote and protect human
rights by certain ways which are as follows:
1. Human Rights Consciousness- the first and the most important role which
the United Nations has played is that it has made the people and the states
conscious about the human rights and fundamental freedoms.
2. Codification of the law of human rights- The United Nations has codified
the different rights and freedoms by making treaties for all sections of the
people such as women, child, workers, refugees, etc.
Council on Human Rights
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) , a principal organ of the
United Nations was most directly concerned with the question of human
rights. The Council under Article 68 of the U.N Charter was empowered to
set up commissions for the promotion of human rights and such other
commissions as may be required for the performance of its functions. The
council may also meets annually in Geneva for six weeks beginning in
March. The commission may also meet between annual sessions to deal
with urgent human rights situations.
The council as determined by its terms of reference was directed to prepare
recommendations and reports on the following items:
On international bill of rights
International declarations and conventions on civil liberties, the status of
women, freedom of information .
The protection of minorities.
The prevention of discrimination on grounds of race, language or religion
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The idea for the protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms was
conceived in the Atlantic Charter (1941) and in the Declaration of the United Nations
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 with an aim to
enumerate human rights for all the people. The UDHR has inspired a rich body of
legally binding international human rights treaties. It continues to be an inspiration
to all whether in addressing injustices, in times of conflicts and in our efforts towards
achieving universal enjoyment of human rights.
The Preamble of the Universal Declaration proclaims the declaration as a common
standard of achievement of all people and all nations.
The Universal Declaration contains 30 Articles . It enumerate the basic principles of
human rights in a most comprehensive manner. Out of 30 articles , while 21 articles
enumerated civil and political rights, 6 articles cover economic and social rights.
It is to be noted that the Universal Declaration does not permit a state to derogate
from their obligations in public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.
Thus even in such cases the rights cannot be suspended.
Legal Effect of the Declaration
The Universal Declaration set for the International community a common
standard of achievement. It recognized the inherent dignity and the equal
and inalienable rights of all people in all nations. It is the duty of the States
regardless of their social, political and economic systems to promote and
protect human rights.
The Universal Declaration was not intended to be legally binding and
therefore it did not impose any legal obligations on the States to give effect
to its provisions. In other words from the legal point of view, the declaration
was only recommendation and not strictly binding on the states.
The declarations addresses right to all people and all nations whether they
are members of the United Nations or not.
The main object of the Declaration was to present the ideas of human rights
and freedoms in order to inspire everybody to work for their progressive
realization. The message conveyed is one of hope, equality, liberation and
International Humanitarian Law
International humanitarian law is a branch of International Law which
provides protection to human beings from the consequences of armed
Humanitarian Law deals with those matters which have an impact of armed
conflicts on the life ,personal integrity and liberty of human beings. Thus
humanitarian law may be referred to that body of law which defines those
principles and rules which limit the use of violence in times of war. These
rules are inspired by principles of humanity and they are meant to avoid
human sufferings and brutality in armed conflicts. However, those rules of
war which are based on humanitarian considerations or motivations are
called humanitarian law.
International Humanitarian Law has much in common with the law of
human rights since both is concerned with the protection of the individuals
nevertheless there are important differences between the two. First
difference is that International humanitarian law is applied during the time
of armed conflicts whereas the law of human rights is applied in peace time.
The second difference is that the state which becomes a party to a human
rights treaty assumes an obligation to treat all person within the jurisdiction
in accordance with the provisions of the treaty .Humanitarian Law is
primarily made up of treaties, agreements between states intended to have
binding legal effect between the parties that have agreed to them and are
binding only between States which are parties to those treaties.
International humanitarian law applies to all armed conflicts, i.e.
international armed conflicts as well as non-international armed conflicts.
International conflicts may mean an armed clash between two or more
states whereas non-international armed conflicts which take place in the
territory of a state between its armed forces. e.g.. civil war are included in
non-international armed conflicts.
Malala Yousafzai a Pakistani School girl know for her activism for rights to
education and for women especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban
had at times banned girls from attending School. After this United Nations
special envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition
which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistani first right to education bill.
Over the years many form of discrimination have come to be recognized
including racial, gender and sexual discrimination. Another type of
discrimination is against LGBT individuals (Lesbian, Gay, bisexual, and
Human Rights violations in Srilanka. The conflict in Sri Lanka has been one
of the greatest offenders in Human Rights Violations. In this case the
Government of Sri Lanka and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) are accused of violating Human Rights. LTTE were known as
the most vicious and dangerous terrorist groups in Sri Lanka.
Presently there is a widespread acceptance of the importance of human
rights in the international structure. However, one will not hesitate to admit
that there is a confusion prevailing as to its precise nature and scope and the
mode of International Law as to the protection of these rights. One valuable
lesson that the history of human rights teaches us is that they are not static
but are developed in response to new modes of political thought and
changes in the international environment.
The Globalization of World Politics ( An introduction to International
relations) – By John Baylis , Steve Smith, Patricia Owens.
International Law and Human Rights- By NK Jayakumar.
International Law and Human Rights- By Dr. H.O. Agarwal.
International Human Rights and humanitarian Law – By Rene provost
International Law- By Malcolm N Shaw.
International Law and Human Rights- By Dr. S.K. Kapoor.
Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka www,hrw.org/asia/sri Lanka.
www.bbc.co/uk/news magazine Malala Yousafzai
www.amnestyusa.org lgbt rights.
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