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What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the
world, from birth until death. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you
believe or how you choose to live your life. They can never be taken away, although
they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the
interests of national security.
These basic rights are based on values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and
independence. But human rights are not just abstract concepts – they are defined
and protected by law. In Britain human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act

How do human rights help you?

Human rights are relevant to all of us, not just those who face repression or
mistreatment. They protect you in many areas of your day-to-day life: here are just
some of the main rights and freedoms they support:

 your right to a private and family life as well as expressing your opinions, and

 your right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state.

Where do human rights come from?

The idea that human beings should have a set of basic rights and freedoms has
deep roots in Britain. Landmark developments in Britain include the Magna Carta of
1215, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 and the Bill of Rights of 1689. See the British
Library's website for more information on these and other icons of liberty and
The atrocities of the Second World War made the protection of human rights an
international priority. The formation of the United Nations paved the way for more
than 50 Member States to contribute to the final draft of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, adopted in 1948. This was the first attempt to set out at a global level
the fundamental rights and freedoms shared by all human beings.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is brought to life in this four-minute
video, 'Everybody - we are all born free', produced by Amnesty.
The Declaration formed the basis for the European Convention on Human Rights,
adopted in 1950. British lawyers played a key role in drafting the Convention, with
Winston Churchill also heavily involved. It protects the human rights of people in
countries that belong to the Council of Europe, including the UK.
The Human Rights Act 1998 made these rights part of our domestic law. The Act
means that courts in the United Kingdom can hear human rights cases. Before it was
passed, people had to take their complaints to the European Court of Human Rights
in Strasbourg, France.
What are your human rights?

Let’s start with some basic human rights definitions:

Human: noun
A member of the Homo sapiens species; a man, woman or child; a

Rights: noun
Things to which you are entitled or allowed; freedoms that are

Human Rights: noun

The rights you have simply because you are human.

If you were to ask people in the street, “What are human rights?” you
would get many different answers. They would tell you the rights they
know about, but very few people know all their rights.

As covered in the definitions above, a right is a freedom of some kind. It

is something to which you are entitled by virtue of being human.

Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual.
Their fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational
being who deserves to be treated with dignity. They are called human
rights because they are universal. Whereas nations or specialized groups
enjoy specific rights that apply only to them, human rights are the rights
to which everyone is entitled—no matter who they are or where they
live—simply because they are alive.

Yet many people, when asked to name their rights, will list only freedom
of speech and belief and perhaps one or two others. There is no question
these are important rights, but the full scope of human rights is very
broad. They mean choice and opportunity. They mean the freedom to
obtain a job, adopt a career, select a partner of one’s choice and raise
children. They include the right to travel widely and the right to work
gainfully without harassment, abuse and threat of arbitrary dismissal.
They even embrace the right to leisure.
In ages past, there were no human rights. Then the idea emerged that
people should have certain freedoms. And that idea, in the wake of World
War II, resulted finally in the document called the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and the thirty rights to which all people are entitled.

Historical Sources Of Human Rights

What is Natural Law Theory?

Have you ever told a lie? Or taken something that didn't belong to you? If so,
you probably weren't proud of how you acted in those moments. But why?
What was it about doing something 'wrong' that made you feel bad deep,
down inside?
Natural law theory is a legal theory that recognizes law and morality as
deeply connected, if not one and the same. Morality relates to what is right
and wrong and what is good and bad. Natural law theorists believe that
human laws are defined by morality, and not by an authority figure, like a king
or a government. Therefore, we humans are guided by our human nature to
figure out what the laws are, and to act in conformity with those laws.
The term 'natural law' is derived from the belief that human morality comes
from nature. Everything in nature has a purpose, including humans. Our
purpose, according to natural law theorists, is to live a good, happy life.
Therefore, actions that work against that purpose -- that is, actions that would
prevent a fellow human from living a good, happy life -- are considered
'unnatural', or 'immoral'.
Laws have a purpose too: to provide justice. From a natural law perspective, a
law that doesn't provide justice (an unjust law) is considered 'not a law at all.'
Therefore, a law that is flawed is one that no one should follow. In short, any
law that is good is moral, and any moral law is good. Legal positivism is a
legal theory that is the opposite of the natural law theory. Legal positivists
believe that a law can be deeply flawed, and yet still be considered a law.

The decrees Cyrus made on human rights were inscribed in the

Akkadian language on a baked-clay cylinder.

Cyrus the Great, the first king of Persia, freed the slaves of Babylon,
539 B.C.

The Cyrus Cylinder (539 B.C.)

In 539 B.C., the armies of Cyrus the Great, the first king of ancient Persia,
conquered the city of Babylon. But it was his next actions that marked a major
advance for Man. He freed the slaves, declared that all people had the right to
choose their own religion, and established racial equality. These and other
decrees were recorded on a baked-clay cylinder in the Akkadian language with
cuneiform script.

Known today as the Cyrus Cylinder, this ancient record has now been
recognized as the world’s first charter of human rights. It is translated into all
six official languages of the United Nations and its provisions parallel the first
four Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Spread of Human Rights

From Babylon, the idea of human rights spread quickly to India, Greece and
eventually Rome. There the concept of “natural law” arose, in observation of
the fact that people tended to follow certain unwritten laws in the course of life,
and Roman law was based on rational ideas derived from the nature of things.
Documents asserting individual rights, such as the Magna Carta (1215), the
Petition of Right (1628), the US Constitution (1787), the French Declaration of
the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), and the US Bill of Rights (1791)
are the written precursors to many of today’s human rights documents.

The Magna Carta (1215)

Magna Carta, or “Great Charter,” signed by the

King of England in 1215, was a turning point in
human rights.
The Magna Carta, or “Great Charter,” was
arguably the most significant early influence on
the extensive historical process that led to the rule
of constitutional law today in the English-
speaking world.

In 1215, after King John of England violated a number of ancient laws and
customs by which England had been governed, his subjects forced him to sign
the Magna Carta, which enumerates what later came to be thought of as human
rights. Among them was the right of the church to be free from governmental
interference, the rights of all free citizens to own and inherit property and to be
protected from excessive taxes. It established the right of widows who owned
property to choose not to remarry, and established principles of due process
and equality before the law. It also contained provisions forbidding bribery
and official misconduct.
Widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the
development of modern democracy, the Magna Carta was a crucial turning
point in the struggle to establish freedom.

Petition of Right (1628)

In 1628 the English Parliament sent this statement of civil liberties to King
Charles I.
The next recorded milestone in the development of human rights was the
Petition of Right, produced in 1628 by the English Parliament and sent to
Charles I as a statement of civil liberties. Refusal by Parliament to finance the
king’s unpopular foreign policy had caused his government to exact forced
loans and to quarter troops in subjects’ houses as an economy measure.
Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment for opposing these policies had produced in
Parliament a violent hostility to Charles and to George Villiers, the Duke of
Buckingham. The Petition of Right, initiated by Sir Edward Coke, was based
upon earlier statutes and charters and asserted four principles: (1) No taxes
may be levied without consent of Parliament, (2) No subject may be
imprisoned without cause shown (reaffirmation of the right of habeas corpus),
(3) No soldiers may be quartered upon the citizenry, and (4) Martial law may
not be used in time of peace.

English Bill of Rights 1689

Definition of the English Bill of Rights of 1689

The Meaning and Definition of the English Bill of Rights: The 1689 English
Bill of Rights was a British Law, passed by the Parliament of Great Britain
in 1689 that declared the rights and liberties of the people and settling the
succession in William III and Mary II following the Glorious Revolution of
1688 when James II was deposed. Note: The date of the English Bill of
Rights is referred to as either dated as March 1689 or as February 13,
1688 in Old Style dating.

Summary of the English Bill of Rights

The 1689 English Bill of Rights had a massive influence on the colonies in
North America and the Constitution of the United States. The most
important Articles of the 1689 English Bill of Rights are as follows:

 A frequently summoned Parliament and free elections

 Members should have freedom of speech in Parliament
 No armies should be raised in peacetime
 No taxes could be levied, without the authority of parliament
 Laws should not be dispensed with, or suspended, without the
consent of parliament
 No excessive fines should imposed, nor cruel and unusual
punishments inflicted

Are the Articles of the English Bill of Rights sounding familiar?

The English Bill of Rights

The English Bill of Rights established a constitutional monarchy in Great
Britain. A constitutional monarchy is one in which the King or Queen has a
largely ceremonial position. It is a form of government in which a monarch
acts as head of state but their powers are defined and limited by law.
Constitutional monarchies employ a parliamentary system with a Prime
Minister as head of the government. The English Bill denounced King
James II for abusing his power and the bill was passed as British law in
December 1688. The English Bill of Rights clearly established that the
monarchy could not rule without consent of Parliament. The English Bill put
in place a constitutional form of government in which the rights and liberties
of the individual were protected under English law. The English Bill of
Rights had a great influence on the colonies in North America and the
Constitution of the United States.
The Provisions of the English Bill of Rights
The English Bill of Rights followed the 1688 Glorious Revolution when King
James II was replaced by King William III and Mary. The provisions of this
important English Bill incorporated the Declaration of Rights and consisted

 A list of the misdeeds of King James II

 Thirteen Articles confirming the rights of Parliament and the people
and defining the limitations of the Crown
 Confirmation of the accession of William and Mary to the throne of

The Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights

The 1689 English Bill of Rights is one of the two great historic documents
which regulate the relations between the Crown and the people, the other
document being the 1215 Magna Carta of England. The Magna
Carta started the process of establishing the democratic basis of the
English Monarchy by:

 Limiting the powers of the king

 Laying the basis for due process of law that should be known and
orderly (which led to Trial by Jury)
 Prohibiting the king from taking property or taxes without consent of
the Great Council

The 1689 English Bill of Rights enhanced the democratic process by:

 Guaranteeing free elections and frequent meetings of Parliament

 Giving English people the right to complain to the king or queen in
Parliament (Free Speech)
 Forbidding excessive fines and cruel punishment
 Establishing representative government with laws made by a group
that acts for the people

American colonists expected to have the same rights granted in England

by the Magna Carta and the 1689 English Bill of Rights. When the
American colonists were denied these rights tensions grew in the colonies
and led to the American Revolutionary War. Many of the themes and
principles contained in the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights are
continued in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, the First
State Constitutions, the Articles of Confederation, the 1791 US Bill of
Rights and in the U.S. Constitution.
The English Bill of Rights and the American Declaration of
The 1776 American Declaration of Independence states that:

 All men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness; these are unalienable rights - rights that
government cannot take away
 Governments obtained their power from the consent of the people

The U.S. Bill of Rights

The 1791 U.S. Bill of Rights guarantees:

 Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press

 Due process of law, including protection from unfair imprisonment
 Trial by jury protecting people from “cruel and unusual punishment”

The English Bill of Rights was followed by the 1689 Mutiny Act
The English Bill of Rights were passed as British law in December 1689.
The English Bill of Rights was quickly followed by the 1689 Mutiny
Act which sought to limit the maintenance of a standing army during
peacetime to one year. The Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1764 were two
laws that were part of the Mutiny Act which added provisions requiring
quartering requirements for British troops in the American Colonies. These
acts played a major part in the Boston Massacre and the protests of the
American colonists in the Boston Tea Party which led to the American
Revolutionary War.

United States Declaration of Independence (1776)

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson penned the American

Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, 1776, the United States Congress approved the
Declaration of Independence. Its primary author, Thomas
Jefferson, wrote the Declaration as a formal explanation
of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare
independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the
American Revolutionary War, and as a statement announcing that the thirteen
American Colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire. Congress
issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially
published as a printed broadsheet that was widely distributed and read to the
Philosophically, the Declaration stressed two themes: individual rights and the
right of revolution. These ideas became widely held by Americans and spread
internationally as well, influencing in particular the French Revolution.

The Constitution of the United States of America (1787) and Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution protects basic freedoms of United

States citizens.
Written during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, the Constitution of the
United States of America is the fundamental law of the US federal system of
government and the landmark document of the Western world. It is the oldest
written national constitution in use and defines the principal organs of
government and their jurisdictions and the basic rights of citizens.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution—the Bill of Rights—came into
effect on December 15, 1791, limiting the powers of the federal government of
the United States and protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors
in American territory.
The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to
keep and bear arms, the freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition. It
also prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment
and compelled self-incrimination. Among the legal protections it affords, the
Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making any law respecting
establishment of religion and prohibits the federal government from depriving
any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. In federal
criminal cases it requires indictment by a grand jury for any capital offense, or
infamous crime, guarantees a speedy public trial with an impartial jury in the
district in which the crime occurred, and prohibits double jeopardy.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)

In 1789 the people of France brought about the abolishment of the absolute
monarchy and set the stage for the establishment of the first French Republic.
Just six weeks after the storming of the Bastille, and barely three weeks after
the abolition of feudalism, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the
Citizen (French: La Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen) was
adopted by the National Constituent Assembly as the first step toward writing
a constitution for the Republic of France.
The Declaration proclaims that all citizens are to be guaranteed the rights of
“liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.” It argues that the
need for law derives from the fact that “...the exercise of the natural rights of
each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society
the enjoyment of these same rights.” Thus, the Declaration sees law as an
“expression of the general will,“ intended to promote this equality of rights
and to forbid “only actions harmful to the society.”
The First Geneva Convention (1864)
The original document from the first
Geneva Convention in 1864 provided for
care to wounded soldiers.
In 1864, sixteen European countries and
several American states attended a
conference in Geneva, at the invitation of
the Swiss Federal Council, on the initiative
of the Geneva Committee. The diplomatic
conference was held for the purpose of adopting a convention for the treatment
of wounded soldiers in combat.

The main principles laid down in the Convention and maintained by the later
Geneva Conventions provided for the obligation to extend care without
discrimination to wounded and sick military personnel and respect for and
marking of medical personnel transports and equipment with the distinctive
sign of the red cross on a white background.

The United Nations (1945)

Fifty nations met in San Francisco in 1945 and formed the United Nations to
protect and promote peace.
World War II had raged from 1939 to 1945, and as the end drew near, cities
throughout Europe and Asia lay in smoldering ruins. Millions of people were
dead, millions more were homeless or starving. Russian forces were closing in
on the remnants of German resistance in Germany’s bombed-out capital of
Berlin. In the Pacific, US Marines were still battling entrenched Japanese
forces on such islands as Okinawa.

In April 1945, delegates from fifty countries met in San Francisco full of
optimism and hope. The goal of the United Nations Conference on
International Organization was to fashion an international body to promote
peace and prevent future wars. The ideals of the organization were stated in
the preamble to its proposed charter: “We the peoples of the United Nations
are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which
twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”
The Charter of the new United Nations organization went into effect on
October 24, 1945, a date that is celebrated each year as United Nations Day.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has inspired a number of other

human rights laws and treaties throughout the world.
By 1948, the United Nations’ new Human Rights Commission had captured
the world’s attention. Under the dynamic chairmanship of Eleanor
Roosevelt—President Franklin Roosevelt’s widow, a human rights champion
in her own right and the United States delegate to the UN—the Commission
set out to draft the document that became the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. Roosevelt, credited with its inspiration, referred to the Declaration as
the international Magna Carta for all mankind. It was adopted by the United
Nations on December 10, 1948.

In its preamble and in Article 1, the Declaration unequivocally proclaims the

inherent rights of all human beings: “Disregard and contempt for human rights
have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of
mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy
freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been
proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people...All human beings
are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
The Member States of the United Nations pledged to work together to promote
the thirty Articles of human rights that, for the first time in history, had been
assembled and codified into a single document. In consequence, many of these
rights, in various forms, are today part of the constitutional laws of democratic

Normative Foundation of Human Rights Post World War:

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Human Rights In Post World Wars Era

Earlier, human beings as such had no rights under the traditional international law, which
was defined as the law which govern relations between States. This theory about the nature
of international law had a number of consequences as far as individual is concerned like
treatment of the individual was limited to the domestic jurisdiction of each State and
Stateless person does not enjoyed any protection under traditional international law.
However, this theory had exception like intervention of other State on humanitarian
ground[24], limitation of sovereignty by treaty[25] and mandates system under the league
of nation[26]
The idea of human rights emerged stronger after World War II. The extermination by Nazi
Germany of over six million Jews, Sinti and Romani (gypsies), homosexuals, and persons
with disabilities horrified the world. Trials were held in Nuremberg and Tokyo after World
War II, and officials from the defeated countries were punished for committing war crimes,
"crimes against peace," and "crimes against humanity." Neither utilitarism nor scientific
positivism, the philosophies that had undermined the natural rights concept, could address
the problems. The dominant political paradigm, realism, could not find national interest
violated. The language of human rights seemed more appropriate. After the war, the
Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal introduces the subject of gross human rights violations to
the international relations. The individual German soldiers were charged of crimes against
humanity.[27] The revival of the concept of human rights can thus be seen as a reaction to
the horrors of the War. During the next decades, human right movement saw three waves of
activism, which can be divided into three phases :

1. Normative Foundation – The first wave got its momentum from the horrors of the
World War II. In the aftermath of the war, the United Nations Charter included promotion
of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms among the principal purposes of the
organization. The UN moved quickly to formulate international human rights norms[28]. In
1948 the Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[29] (UDHR).

The UDHR, commonly referred to as the international Magna Carta, extended the
revolution in international law ushered in by the United Nations Charter – namely, that how
a government treats its own citizens is now a matter of legitimate international concern, and
not simply a domestic issue. It claims that all rights are interdependent and indivisible. Its
Preamble eloquently asserts that:

“WHEREAS recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of
all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the

The influence of the UDHR has been substantial. Its principles have been incorporated into
the constitutions of most of the more than 185 nations now in the UN. Although a
declaration is not a legally binding document, the Universal Declaration has achieved the
status of customary international law because people regard it "as a common standard of
achievement for all people and all nations."
During that time League of Nations existed but it was weak and lacked the power to deal
with human rights issues and therefore it was expected that the UN Charter shall provide an
effective international systems for the protection of human rights but this did not happen
because of opposition from the major problems as they had serious problems of their own
at that time whereas smaller countries favoured the inclusion of Bill of Rights in the
Charter, lacked the political influence. Consequently, the human rights provisions of the
Charter as adopted in San Francisco were weak and vague. However, despite the
vagueness, the human rights provisions of the Charter had a number of important
consequences namely;

a) The Charter internationalized the concept of human rights, though all the matters did not
ipso facto come out of domestic jurisdiction

b) Secondly, the obligation of the member States of the UN to cooperate with the
organization in the promotion of human rights provided the UN with the requisite legal
authority to undertake a massive effort to define and codify these rights.

c) Further, the success of the UN effort is reflected with the adoption of the International
Bill of Rights and in the vast number of international human rights instruments in existence

2. Institution Building – The 2nd stage in the evolution of international human rights law
began in the late 1960s and continued for 15 to 20 years. The second wave of activism was
influenced by the newly independent states of Africa and Asia. There were some important
conventions[30] and covenants[31] established during the decade: Together with the
Declaration the Covenants form the essential written core of international human rights
norms.[32] These apart, during this period, two distinct developments took place within the
UNs framework. The first focussed on the nature of human rights obligation which article
55 and 56 created for the member States. The phrase “to promote” was somewhat vague but
the vagueness was removed by the adoption of ECOSOC resolutions[33]
With the goal of establishing mechanisms for enforcing the UDHR, the UN Commission on
Human Rights proceeded to draft two treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) and its optional Protocol and the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Together with the Universal Declaration,
they are commonly referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights. In addition to the
covenants in the International Bill of Human Rights, the United Nations has adopted more
than 20 principal treaties further elaborating human rights. These include conventions to
prevent and prohibit specific abuses like torture and genocide and to protect especially
vulnerable populations, such as refugees[34] , women[35] , and children[36] . In Europe,
the Americas, and Africa, regional documents[37] for the protection and promotion of
human rights extend the International Bill of Human Rights. These documents have
powerfully demonstrated a surge in demand for respect of human rights. Popular
movements in China, Korea, and other Asian nations reveal a similar commitment to these

3. Implementation and the Post Cold War Period – Although the latter half of the 20th
century saw a rapid development of human rights norms-setting in international venues, the
political agenda of the Cold War did not favour the issue. The human rights issues
remained highly polarized and politicized, as the East and West had countering opinions
and the South its own views. The third wave was triggered by the revulsion against the
overthrow of the Allende government in Chile in 1973, the fact that Covenants of 1966
entered into force and the beginning of the Carter presidency in the US. In the 1970's the
US foreign aid was linked to the human rights performance of the recipients. The middle of
the 1970's saw also the rise of the human rights non-governmental organizations such as
Amnesty International[38]. The end of Cold War freed many nations in Europe from
communist rule permitting them to embark on a process of democratic transformation. The
end of the Cold War and its effect on human rights is reflected in part in the text of 1993
Vienna Declaration[39] and Programme of Action adopted at the World Conference on
human rights held in Vienna in June, 1993.

The ending of the Cold War in the beginning of 1990's has meant changes in the activity
and functioning of the human rights regime. Human rights have become more visible in the
political language and the institutions are now more active. It seems there is a new wave of
human rights activism going on. Both the General Assembly and Human Rights
Commission have become more active. Most importantly, the UN goals of peace-keeping
and human-rights protection have become increasingly combined. During the Cold War,
genocide in places such as Burundi, East Pakistan and Cambodia were met only by verbal
expressions of concern. Now, peace-keepers in El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala and Rwanda
have explicit mandates to investigate human rights violations. Rwanda and Yugoslavia
have international tribunals to handle the charges against human rights criminals, first time
after Nuremberg[40].

International human rights commitments is still enmeshed with the complex patterns of
international politics, and it is easy to point out cases of janus-faced will to act in some
cases and withdraw in some other. The war in Iraq, which was partly justified by human
rights claims and the international unwillingness to interfere in Sudan's genocidal civil war
is a good example.

However, after the end of the Cold War the international willingness to use the human
rights language in international power politics has become larger. Even if this rhetoric hides
the true intentions, it tells something about the accepted values of our times.

Governments then committed themselves to establishing the United Nations, with the
primary goal of bolstering international peace and preventing conflict. People wanted to
ensure that never again would anyone be unjustly denied life, freedom, food, shelter, and
nationality. The essence of these emerging human rights principles was captured in
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address when he spoke of a
world founded on four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and religion and freedom
from want and fear. The calls came from across the globe for human rights standards to
protect citizens from abuses by their governments, standards against which nations could be
held accountable for the treatment of those living within their borders. These voices played
a critical role in the San Francisco meeting that drafted the United Nations Charter in 1945.

These apart, the post world war era witnessed a new form of human rights in which has
been termed as collective rights or group rights. These rights protect and promote the cause
of the vulnerable groups namely; women, children, disabled, minorities etc.

Human rights are fundamental to the stability and development of countries all around the
world. Great emphasis has been placed on international conventions and their
implementation in order to ensure adherence to a universal standard of acceptability. With
the advent of globalization and the introduction of new technology, these principles gain
importance not only in protecting human beings from the ill-effects of change but also in
ensuring that all are allowed a share of the benefits. The impact of several changes in the
world today on human rights has been both negative and positive. In particular, the risks
posed by advancements in science and technology may severely hinder the implementation
of human rights if not handled carefully. In the field of biotechnology and medicine
especially there is strong need for human rights to be absorbed into ethical codes and for all
professionals to ensure that basic human dignity is protected under all circumstances. For
instance, with the possibility of transplanting organs from both the living and dead, a
number of issues arise such as consent to donation, the definition of death to prevent
premature harvesting, an equal chance at transplantation etc.

Genetic engineering also brings with it the dangers of gene mutation and all the problems
associated with cloning. In order to deal with these issues, the Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with Regard to the
Application and Medicine puts the welfare of the human being above society or
However the efficacy of the mechanisms in place today has been questioned in the light of
blatant human rights violations and disregard for basic human dignity in nearly all countries
in one or more forms. In many cases, those who are to blame cannot be brought to book
because of political considerations, power equations etc. When such violations are allowed
to go unchecked, they often increase in frequency and intensity usually because
perpetrators feel that they enjoy immunity from punishment.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the
history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural
backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United
Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution
217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out,
for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has
been translated into over 500 languages.

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all
members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which
have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings
shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been
proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to
rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule
of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in
fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal
rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better
standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the
United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and
fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest
importance for the full realization of this pledge,
DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all
peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping
this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote
respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and
international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both
among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under
their jurisdiction.
Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with
reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without
distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other
opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction
shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the
country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-
governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited
in all their forms.
Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection
of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this
Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts
violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and
impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal
charge against him.
Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until
proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees
necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission
which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time
when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was
applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or
correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to
the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of
each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his
Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-
political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his
Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion,
have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to
marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to
protection by society and the State.
Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes
freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with
others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice,
worship and observance.
Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to
hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas
through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through
freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall
be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal
suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to
realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with
the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights
indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable
conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for
himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if
necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his
Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours
and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of
himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary
social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability,
widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children,
whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary
and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and
professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be
equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the
strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote
understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and
shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their
Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to
enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting
from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set
forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of
his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such
limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and
respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of
morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and
principles of the United Nations.
Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person
any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of
the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international
human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1966. It is one of the two
treaties that give legal force to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the other
being the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR).

ICCPR commits the states signed up to it to protect and respect the civil and political
rights of individuals. The UK ratified ICCPR in 1976.

ICCPR rights are fundamental to enabling people to enjoy a broad range of human
rights, including those relating to:

 freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or

 freedom from slavery and forced labour
 arrest, detention and imprisonment
 movement into, within and out of a state
 treatment by the judicial process
 privacy, home and family life
 freedom of thought, religion and expression
 peaceful assembly
 freedom of association, including through trade unions
 marriage and the rights of children
 political participation, and
 equality and non-discrimination.

The full text of ICCPR can be found here.

How the ICCPR treaty cycle works


operates on its own unique timetable. We are now in a period of follow-up activity for
the ICCPR where we will be working the government and civil society organisations
to try and implement the committee's concluding observations.
How is ICCPR monitored?
The ICCPR is monitored by the UN’s Human Rights Committee, a body made up of
18 independent experts from around the world. When a State party has first ratified
ICCPR, it must provide information on the legal and practical measures it has taken
to implement all the substantial articles in the Covenant. The State party will then
submit periodic reports approximately every four years. After ratifying ICCPR, the UK
must report on the legal and practical measures taken to implement its core
obligations. It then submits progress reports approximately every four years (known
as ‘State Reports’).

At least one year before the State Report is due, the Human Rights Committee
provides the UK Government with a list of issues that must be covered within it. Find
out more about this procedure on the UN website.

The Human Rights Committee examines the UK’s State Report and produces its
own report with recommendations for action. These are called the ‘Concluding
Observations’. States are required to publish these recommendations, act on them
and report on progress. More information about this procedure can be
found here.Human Rights Committee has trialled an optional reporting procedure
known as the ‘list of issues prior to reporting.’ At least one year prior to the
submission date of the State Report, the Human Rights Committee provides the
State party with a list of issues it wants the State party to cover in its State Report.
This approach aims to help the State party produce a more focussed State report
and submit it to the Human Rights Committee on time, prior to the examination of the
State Report, the Human Rights Committee draws up a list of questions that they
want the State to provide further written information on. This is known as the ‘list of

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is
one of the most important United Nations (UN) human rights treaties. It is one of the
two treaties that give legal force to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the
other being the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR). The UK
ratified ICESCR in 1976.
ICESCR rights are crucial to enable people to live with dignity. This treaty covers
important areas of public policy, such as the rights to:

 work
 fair and just conditions of work
 social security
 adequate food
 clothing and housing
 health, and
 education.

How the ICESCR treaty cycle works?

Each treaty operates on its own unique timetable. We are now in a period of
follow-up activity for the ICESCR where we will be working the government and
civil society organisations to try and implement the committee's concluding
ICESCR is monitored by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(UN CESCR), a body made up of 18 independent experts drawn from states that
have ratified the treaty.

Governments submit reports to this Committee every five years. These ‘State
Reports’ explain the steps taken to implement the treaty and how these have
affected people in the UK.

The Committee also considers evidence from other sources. As one of the UK’s
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), the Commission submits information to
this process in what is known as a ‘shadow report’.

The Committee identifies a ‘list of issues’ that they want the states to provide further
information on. NHRIs and civil society can also respond to these issues.

It then examines the UK’s State Report and the responses to the list of issues, and
produces its own report with recommendations for action. These are called the
‘Concluding Observations’. States are required to publish these recommendations,
act on them and report on progress.

More information about this procedure can be found here.

Four Generations Of Human Rights


This generation of subjective rights is the generation of civil and political rights acquired
through the force of writing and of arms.

Once time passed and ideas and concepts about state were developed, political power, and
right and freedom (the works of philosophers John Locke, Ch Montesquieu, Th. Hobbes, JJ
Rousseau), appeared a fight against monarchical absolutism, struggle which will be
successful, success expressed by documents with legal force as:

 - Magna Charta in 1215

 - Petition of Rights in 1628
 - The Bill of Rights (Declaration of Rights) in 1689, England
 - The American Declaration of Independence in 1776
 - The French Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights in 1789.

Through these documents of constitutional nature, were established early forms of limitation
of absolute power in the sense that:

l. There were established safeguards against the introduction of taxes by the king,
without the approval of Parliament;

2. also have established safeguards against arrest of persons and confiscation of assets
without observance of procedure of courts;
3. there were supported and declared the freedom of speech, that freedom of thought
and the right to petition;

4. there were stated principles of individualism, starting from the idea expressed by
the French Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights in1789 as "the purpose of each
political associations is keeping natural and indefeasible human rights."

It is considered that the Declaration of human and citizens rights from 1789 expresses
in the best way the idea that there are inherent human rights, rights that are exercised
in a state which is not an end in itself, but only a mean to ensure coexistence of
individuals and the exercise of individual rights. For this reason, it is estimated that it
is an expression of the first generation of subjective rights. The French Declaration of
Human and Citizens Rights from 1789 contained two new ideas:

1. the idea that man as an individual, benefits of "natural rights, inalienable and sacred”
including liberty and equality;

2. The second idea is that the "purpose of all political associations is the preservation of the
natural and indefeasible rights of man" (Article 2 of the Declaration).

There are two categories of rights which the Declaration of Human and Citizens Rights from
1789 is referring to:

1. civil rights or human rights as:

- Freedom of opinion (Article 10)
- Freedom of expression and press (Article 11)
- Personals ownership (Article 17)
- The right to personal security in relation to justice and police (art. 7-9)
- Equality before the law (Art. 6)
2. political rights, those that allow citizen participation at power, namely: - Equal access to
public (Article 6)
- Participation in elaboration of laws (Article 6)
- Control of taxes (art. 13-14)
- Citizen control over the administration (Art. 15)

These rights represent the first generation of subjective rights, and more precisely those rights
that refer to personal autonomy of the individual and the rights that enable citizen
participation in power in a society where "the exercise of natural rights of each man has no
limits, than those which ensure for the other members of society the same rights" (article 4).
In the modern age, these rights have found their consecration in constitutions and in the laws
of most countries, as well as in international documents. Among them we mention:

- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights U.N.

- The International Pact on Civil and Political Rights.

At regional level in Europe, there were created legal mechanisms for protecting these rights:
the system of the Council of Europe and of European Court of Human Rights, based on
European Convention of human rights and The Additional Protocols of this Convention.
In the system of protected rights which belong to the first generation protected by the
European Convention on Human Rights and by The Additional Protocols to this Convention
we mention:

1. The right to life.

- the Right to life;

- the Right to privacy;
- Prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading punishments; - Prohibition of slavery and
forced labor.

2. Freedom and security of a person.

- the Right to a fair trial.

3. The right to property of the person or of a legal person.

4. Freedom of mind, of thought and religion.

5. Freedom of expression and information.
6. Freedom to free elections.


In the category of socio-economical and cultural rights we can identify these categories of

1. the right to work;

2. freedom of association;

3. the right to education, learning;

4. the right to insurance for sickness, old age and disability (Social insurance).

These rights come from positive law, as well as from international law (International
Covenant on Economic, social and cultural). This dedication has not the same coverage, as in
the case of first generation rights, as consecration requires significant effort from the State
and so it is appropriate to everyone’s prosperity. The second generation of rights, against the
first generation of rights requires institutional support from the state, the first generation
rights can be exercised independently and singular. The state must intervene through
legislation to create an institutional system that allows the exercise, for example, of the right
to education or retirement. It is estimated that if the first generation rights form "free status”,
social economic rights are related to the “social status” of the individual.In the system of
rights that belong to the second generation and protected by The European Convention on
Human Rights, Additional Protocols to this Convention and The European Social Charter

1. freedom of meeting, association and establishing unions; 2. the right to education;

3. social rights (social security, pensions, medical services)
In the paper "Legal Sociology”, Mrs. Professor Sofia Popescu treats the

sociology of human rights and when she refers to the rights from the third

generation of social rights she presents Norberto Bobbio's view, which

asserted the importance of research “ for applying effective legal rules which

affirm, recognize, define and assign human rights. It was given the example

of the rules from the Italian Constitution which enshrines social rights

which were called bashful as "programmatic" and that do not command,

prohibit and allow hic et nunc, but command, prohibit and allow for future, without a certain

The same situation is found in the Romanian legal system and this way it appears to be more
legitimate and interesting the question regarding the nature of these rights: they have the
nature of rights in themselves or of moral or political goals, of some good intentions and
goals of the future?

The same author, based on the above considerations, "inclined to mark a distinction between
a right of strong sense, involving claims that enjoy effective legal protection and rights in a
weak sense, marking a historical process that interests the sociologist of law. It is a process of
transition, in a first phase from an unwritten system of rights in a weak sense, in conformity
with the rules of natural or moral rules, to a system of rights, in a strong sense, consecrated
by the positive right of national states that, later, which is actually now, is due to the
emergence of international documents on human rights and there will be a reverse pass from
a system of strong human rights, such as the ones recognized by national states to a system of
human rights, in a weak sense, like the international one is.”


In this category we can identify the so called solidarity rights, rights which can not be
exerted only by an individual, but only collectively, like:

1. the right of people to self-determination;

2. the right to peace;

3. the right to development;
4. the right to humanitarian assistance;
5. environmental law;
6. the right of sexual minorities, ethnic, religious, linguistic, etc.
These rights have a positive consecration, generally in international law.

The rights in this category can not be exerted individually, but only by groups or
collectivities of people. The third generation rights require not only the need to create an
institutional support by the State, but, as in the case of second generation rights, they need to
restrict the first generation of rights, through a so called “positive discrimination”, in the
sense that these rights , like the rights of any minority, require a limitation of rights of first
generation. The environmental law allows social groups to live in a healthy environment,
clean, without harmful agents to health but, in the same time, involves a number of
limitations of rights of first or second generation, like owning a forest or the right to work.

Interestingly, regarding the right to environment is the jump which tends to do to the legal
status of human beings, hypostasis in which environmental law would become a science of
law, fundamental, subordinating all other branches of legal science. The doctrine about the
environmental right, talks about these rights as “rights of future generations”. We appreciate
that they should be seen within the tendency of assertion of the rights of the fourth generation
of rights, because right now, the rights of future generations are only some developments
trying to crystallize in the form of solidarity rights.

In the Romanian environmental law through the Water Law no. 137/1995 (subsequently
repealed by Emergency Ordinance no. 195 of December 22, 2005) on environmental
protection, we find an express reference to the rights of future generations, when the
legislature defining the concept of "sustainable development" said that it is "a development
that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet theirs "- (Art. 1)

There are laws that recognize different and in some proportions, the existence and exercise of
this kind of rights, environmental rights, rights of minorities. Romania is one of the countries
that have recognized the great importance of third generation rights. We have the right to
environment, the right of ethnic and sexual minorities (their substantial base being put after
1990, in the approach to join the Council of Europe and integration in the European Union,
and harmonization of national legislation with international documents of the two regional


In this category are included the so called “rights related to genetic engineering”, rights
which are on the doctrinal debate in what regards their recognition or prohibition of certain

We could put in the same category the so called rights of future generations, as well as rights
that can not belong to an individual nor to social groups, including nations, they belong only
to humanity as a whole. The rights of humanity would treat the common assets of the whole

In the same category it is possible to insert rights deriving from exploration and exploitation
of cosmic space. In the classic way it is considered that rights related to genetics can be
classified as belonging to this last generation of rights, but even if fourth generation in itself
is challenged as existence. In doing so, there are identified rights that ensure the inviolability
of individual rights and unavailability of human body in terms of development of medical
science, of genetics.

Studying the human genome, genetic manipulation, in vitro fertilization, experiences with
human embryos, euthanasia and eugenics are activities that can generate complicated legal
issues, ethical, moral and even religious, reason for which public opinion has led States to
deal with regulation of these issues. The European Council recommends to member states to
adopt principles which will govern the relation between genetic engineering and human
rights, in such a way that the right to life and dignity would be understood as a right over
genetic characteristics of a person. (Recommendation 934/1982).

Thus, each person has its right to life, dignity, personal identity, closely linked to its genetic
type configuration, unique, right which it can transmit as genetic heritage to descendants,
without being subject to genetic manipulation. From this perspective, human organ donation
is prohibited.

In the same time, taking into consideration the principles of inviolability of a person and
unavailability of human body, it must be accepted that genetic engineering can be applied for
therapeutic purposes to treat and eliminate genetic diseases.

The central idea is that human being should not be genetically influenced, in any way. There
are mentioned Nazi ideas about the superiority of a race which required the elimination of
others, ideas embodied legal (and factual) in laws of euthanasia of mentally ill, the
sterilization of persons with hereditary abnormalities, the bastards sterilization or prohibiting
interethnic marriages. Just to avoid doing the same thing in history, the international
community has proclaimed the fact that human genome is part of the human heritage.

The UNESCO Declaration on human genome from 1997:

1. stipulates the compulsoriness of the international community to protect the human genome,
the right to genetic identity of a person entitled to the banning of cloning;

2. stipulates the obligation of States to defend the person and its dignity, regardless of its
genetic characteristics;

3. stipulates limits of intervention on a person's genetic characteristics, subordinated to

medical purposes, that concern human health;

4. the respect of humans ego from conception to real death.

In the debate are issues of assisted euthanasia (the right to die in peace and

dignity), maintaining artificial life after brain death, sterilization, fetal

status, infanticide (late abortion).


In their historical evolution, mentioned earlier in this paper, it is estimated that human rights
have passed through four different processes:

1. of positivation.
2. of generalization.
3. of internationalization. 4. of specialization.
After the second world war, as a response to atrocities of the war and to

affecting of human person, both in civil society, as well as in institutional,

national and international level, humanity has sought to assert its valences

and to obtain legal recognition and protection of its sacred values. So,

appeared more demands from the individual, as well as from groups of

individuals, demands which evolved and took up the legal form of

subjective rights, the State recognizing and protecting them .

What is characteristic of the postwar period is the multiplying and 5

institutionalization of human rights. In the doctrine this legal and factual reality is undergoing

1. it is considered as threatening the existence of legal States, weakening its authority;

2. the institutionalization of some rights would attract inefficiency of others;

3. the apparition of a conflict between different generations of rights.

Under the name of human rights there were to be affirmed, recognized and protected in
national and international level, a number of rights of first and second generation rights.
Subsequently, the concept of human rights had to be included rights of the third generation.

From the generations of rights only a part was defined as human rights. After a socio-legal
criterion, the latter are different from the other subjective rights for two reasons:

1. they are fundamental rights, absolutely essential for human beings, as individuals or
members of a community, rights recognized at an international level;

2. secondly, these are “models destined to convince, lacking any sanction, enjoying approval
and spontaneous support, motivated by ethical values”. In the category of human rights, we
can identify the rights from the first generation like: the right to life, personal safety, the right
to property and rights from the second generation like: socio-economical rights or freedom
rights (freedom of association) or from the third generation (minorities’ rights, the right to an

On the other hand, the doctrine says that we are facing two tendencies:

a. of creating new subjective rights ( of children, old persons, sick people, those with

b. of creating new subjects of rights (the case of animals, environment, human specie). These
tendencies are affronting the classical conception of subjective rights and cause reflection to
the anticipation of future.

As shown above, the process of multiplication of rights led to the emergence of some
frictions, of a conflict between them. Thus, the generation of social economical rights, which
requires intervention and support of the state in the economy, for example, limits the rights of
first generation and the right to property or rights that limit the power of the state (the issue of
new taxes and control over their establishment). Or for example, the right to instruction,
education, and freedom of scientific research come into conflict with the field of genetic
manipulation; the right to security of a person comes into conflict with the right to privacy.

It is estimated that the conflict between subjective rights of different generations or between
them and those human goals which tend to jurisdize (fourth generation of rights) is a factor of
crisis, a potential danger to the rule of law. The universal nature of subjective rights, qualified
as human rights makes them have a transnational relevance, which involves treating them at
an international level, beyond the position of the State in question.

It is estimated that the situation of conflict between rights is of two types:

1. conflicts opposing different conceptions about one and the same fundamental right;

2. conflicts that arise from the inability to protect or exercise a fundamental right, without
violating another fundamental right;

It is very possible that the exercise of a fundamental right can not be plenary, without
limitation of another fundamental right: the right to technological development within
environmental law, the right to work, in relation to the right to social security. According to
Mrs. Professor Sofia Popescu conflicts between different generations of subjective rights and
fundamental rights are explained by the fact that they come from different social interests,
protected by different rights and from the rivalry between the values that are protected by
various fundamental rights to protect their "existence of second-generation rights
(economical, social, cultural) and involves massive state legislature, are endangering the first
generation of human rights (political and civil rights).

So, the concern and obligation to organize the equilibrium of the exercise of subjective rights
go to the State (and not only, also to the civil societies which may bring their own
contribution). They must bring accord between the persons’ interests (civil and political
rights of first generation of rights) and the communities’ interests (social solidarity rights
from the second generation of rights). Such a State is the State of Rights and in a modern
conception The Social State of Rights.

The subjective rights of an European citizen, mentioned in the Unions’ Charter of

fundamental rights, which belongs to the Treaty of European Constitution, are recognized in
the spirit of society’s evolution, social progress and scientific and technological development
and, also, in considering the responsibilities and duties which they imply for a third party and
for the human community and future generations.