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Welcome to the human rights portal

Human rights are commonly understood as "inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being". Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national and international law.

The doctrine of human rights has been a cornerstone of public policy around the world – in international practice, within international law, global and regional institutions, in the policies of states and in the activities of non-governmental organization. In The idea of human rights it says: "if the public discourse of peacetime global society can be said to have a common moral language, it is that of human rights". Despite this, the strong claims made by the doctrine of human rights continue to provoke considerable skepticism and debates about the content, nature and justifications of human rights to this day. Indeed, the question of what is meant by a "right" is itself controversial and the subject of continued philosophical debate.

Many of the basic ideas that animated the movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of the Shoah, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

In 1949, 10 governments — Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom — set up the Council of Europe. It paved the way for the introduction of the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1950, and the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights, to supervise states’ compliance with the convention.

The modern concept of human rights developed during the early Modern period, alongside the European secularization of Judeo-Christian ethics. The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval natural law tradition that became prominent during the Enlightenment with such philosophers as John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, and featured prominently in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Selected article

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. The Declaration has been translated into at least 375 languages and dialects, making it the most widely translated document in the world. The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are entitled. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws.

Random picture

Olympic Flame London relay 2008.jpg
Credit: Flickr user zoonabar
The 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay was met with protests by human rights groups particularly on the issue of Tibet. The Chinese government complained at the politicization of a sporting event. However, track-suited Chinese security officials who accompanied the torch in London were called "thugs" by both the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and chairman of the London Olympic Committee Lord Coe, because of their behaviour.

Did you know...

... that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force on May 3, 2008?

... that Tom Kahn organized American unions' $300,000 aid to the Polish labor-union Solidarity in 1979–1981, despite Secretary of State Muskie's warnings that this aid might provoke a new Soviet invasion?

Random quote

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead (1901–1978)

Selected biography

Tank Man, or the Unknown Rebel, is the nickname of an anonymous man who achieved widespread international recognition as a heroic figure when he was videotaped and photographed during the protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. Several photographs were taken of the man, who stood in front of a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks.

Human rights news

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Russia has invaded Ukraine. That is the message from Ella Polyakova, a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's advisory council on human rights. Polyakova has broken ranks with the Russia's...

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3441468 news items

Daily Mail

ABC News
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 03:54:23 -0700

North Korea's government said Wednesday that the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, is evidence that the United States is a "graveyard of human rights." The comments by a Foreign Ministry spokesman fit a pattern by ...


News One
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:37:30 -0700

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's government said Wednesday that the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, is evidence that the United States is a “graveyard of human rights.” The comments by a Foreign Ministry ...

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 11:33:45 -0700

The Hisham Mubarak Law Centre monitored state violence during the 2011 protests, and became a gathering place for human rights activists during the revolution. Ahmed Seif was arrested by Military Intelligence with his staff at the height of the protests.
Yale Daily News (blog)
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 23:22:30 -0700

Next spring, undergraduates will have the opportunity to enroll in a special academic program in human rights. The new Human Rights program was modeled on other special academic programs at Yale, such as Energy Studies and Education Studies, and ...
University at Buffalo Reporter
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:31:14 -0700

The study of human rights within the field of political science was still in its infancy when UB faculty member Claude Welch turned his research focus from the military and politics in Africa to human rights in the continent. Now, more than 30 years ...
Washington Post
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:18:45 -0700

For months now, the Saudi human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair has been clinging to the truth against the odds. Last month, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison (with five years suspended), fined a large sum and barred from leaving the country for ...

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:07:30 -0700

In August Human Rights Watch researchers in eastern Ukraine documented 20 cases in which rebel fighters had captured civilians, and interviewed 12 people who said their captors had beaten, kicked, stabbed, or lacerated them, burned them with cigarettes ...
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:12:14 -0700

Writing for PinkNews, Purna Sen, a board member of the Kaleidoscope Trust, says repealing European human rights legislation would be a bad move for the UK's LGBT community. We've made extraordinary progress advancing LGBT rights in the UK.

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