Why can't everyone have human rights?
Human Rights: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
What is the difference between fundamental rights and human rights?
Human rights are enshrined in international declarations and agreements, while fundamental rights are laid down in the constitutions of the states. Most fundamental rights have an equivalent in international human rights; conversely, it is usually not the case that all international human rights are reflected in the basic rights of a constitution.
Do human rights apply to all people?
As a rule, human rights apply to all people (with the exception of political rights and freedom of establishment, which only citizens can invoke), regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age, language, origin or political opinion or their religion. Nobody, even if he or she has committed serious crimes, can lose his or her human rights. The state must also not violate human rights against mass murderers; at most they can be restricted (see the next two questions).
Can human rights be restricted?
With a few exceptions, human rights guarantees are not absolute, but can be restricted under certain conditions. For example, Article 21 of the International Covenant on civil and political rights provides:
«The right to assemble peacefully is recognized. The exercise of this right must not be subjected to any restrictions other than those provided for by law, which in a democratic society are in the interests of national or public security, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health, public morality or the protection of rights and freedoms of others are necessary. "
However, certain human rights such as the prohibition of torture or the prohibition of slavery apply absolutely, i.e. they cannot be restricted or even revoked under any circumstances (not even in emergency situations).
Do human rights also apply in emergency situations or times of war?
In emergency situations or during a war, states are often unable to fully fulfill their human rights obligations. In the event of an objective emergency situation, states can temporarily suspend their human rights obligations - with the exception of emergency guarantees - taking into account the principle of proportionality and the prohibition of discrimination. Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides:
«1 In the event of a public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and which has been officially proclaimed, the contracting states can take measures that suspend their obligations under this pact to the extent that the situation absolutely requires, provided that these Measures do not contravene their other obligations under international law and do not contain any discrimination based solely on race, skin color, gender, language, religion or social origin. "
On the other hand, a temporary override ("derogation") of emergency guarantees - e.g. the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the prohibition of slavery and serfdom or freedom of thought, conscience and religion - is excluded. These guarantees must also be observed in emergency situations. In addition, the derogation of human rights treaties cannot be cited as a reason for non-compliance with international humanitarian law, as this was created specifically for situations of war and civil war.
What obligations arise from human rights?
States are primarily committed to human rights. These must not violate human rights and they have to ensure that individuals can defend themselves against attacks by the state in a court of law. In many areas, human rights oblige states to perform particularly well, be it in the area of procedural rights, social rights or political rights.
Do private individuals (individuals, companies, etc.) also have to comply with human rights?
The guarantees laid down in international human rights instruments generally only oblige states and all members of state authorities. However, if fundamental human rights have been violated, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, private individuals, such as militia leaders or politicians, can also be brought to justice before the international criminal court.
In addition, the international enforcement bodies recognize that human rights can be threatened not only by the state but also by private organizations and individuals. For example, if the private security service of a commercial enterprise abuses rebellious workers, it is a human rights violation by a private organization. One can speak of a disregard for human rights by a private individual in the case of domestic violence, for example. In both cases, based on the existing human rights guarantees, the states are obliged to provide the threatened or abused persons with effective protection, even though the threat does not originate from the state.
Human rights are violated all over the world. Do human rights have any effect at all?
The enforcement of human rights requires a strong state capable of acting, capable and willing to take responsibility for human rights violations. However, one can often only dream about it.
International protective mechanisms have been set up to better monitor compliance with human rights. The international bodies within the framework of the UN and the Council of Europe, as well as the committees set up to monitor human rights treaties, examine whether the contracting states are observing human rights. They can condemn states that violate human rights and make recommendations. However, no legally binding obligations for the convicted state can be derived. Only the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are legally binding on the states. But convictions without direct legal consequences also promote the implementation of human rights, since no state wants to officially appear as an unjust state.
More extensive means of coercion, such as boycotts or even military actions, must be approved by the UN Security Council. They are only taken in rare cases and mostly based on political considerations.
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