What are Human Rights?

‘Human rights’ are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world. They are the fundamental things that human beings need in order to flourish and participate fully in society.

Human rights belong to everyone, regardless of their circumstances. They cannot be given away or taken away from you by anybody – although some rights can be limited or restricted in certain circumstances. For example, your right to liberty (Article 5, European Convention on Human Rights) can be restricted if you are convicted of a crime.

They regulate the relationship between the state (including public authorities and public bodies, like schools and the police) and individuals. So ‘states’ or ‘states’ parties’ are responsible for ensuring rights are provided to individuals, and individuals are ‘rights-bearers’. This means that an individual cannot interfere with another person’s rights, but that a school can fail to ensure that an individual’s rights are exercised.

Human rights are underpinned by a set of common values, including Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity and Autonomy (FREDA).

There are many different human rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, reflecting our basic needs across different areas of our lives. Civil and political rights include the right to liberty (Article 5) and freedom of expression (Article 10), while economic, social and cultural rights include the protection of property (Article 1 of Protocol 1) and the right to education (Article 2 of Protocol 1). Every human right is needed to ‘be human’.

The international community has agreed several key characteristics of human rights:

  • Human rights are universal – they belong to everybody in the world.
  • Human rights are inalienable – they cannot be taken away from people.
  • Human rights are indivisible and interdependent – all the different human rights are important for human beings to flourish and participate in society.

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