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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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3607426 news items


Mon, 01 Sep 2014 02:11:15 -0700

Hashmat Moslih recently wrote an opinion piece noting that the concept of human rights faces huge challenges in a culturally diverse global setting. He states: "It is impossible to develop a harmonised human rights philosophy that is not circular. At ...


Sun, 31 Aug 2014 17:50:15 -0700

Maryam al-Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, has been detained upon arriving at the airport of Bahrain and was taken into custody on Saturday. She came to her native country to visit her father Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 00:29:51 -0700

Human rights will be a major issue in the forthcoming general election. The Labour party has just begun a political campaign, albeit one with remarkably ill-defined aims ("a Labour vision for human rights", "ensure they remain at the heart of Labour's ...
The Nation. (blog)
Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:33:10 -0700

Congressmen Keith Ellison and John Lewis have proposed legislation to protect union organizing as a civil right. “As go unions, so go middle-class jobs,” says Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat who serves as a Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair.

Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union
Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:15:00 -0700

Jacksonville's City Council rejected an anti-discrimination measure, commonly called the Human Rights Ordinance, in 2012. But several candidates for Jacksonville's council elections next year have said they want an ordinance enacted, and the Atlantic ...


Sun, 31 Aug 2014 14:52:51 -0700

David Cameron is expected to reject calls to force terror suspects to relocate, after being warned that it could breach their human rights. The Prime Minister will announce a series of emergency measures to tackle extremism, amid growing concerns about ...
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 02:09:52 -0700

As we have for the past several years, my ConnectSafely.org co-director Anne Collier and I are attending this year's Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to talk about child protections, child rights and digital citizenship, including children's' access to ...

BBC News

BBC News
Sun, 31 Aug 2014 22:15:00 -0700

Les Allamby has been announced as the new chief commissioner of the Human Rights Commission. Les Allamby is the new Northern Ireland Human Rights commissioner. He is the fourth person to hold the post, following in the footsteps of Michael ...

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