How many times have you been in a situation where you feel that the outcome is profoundly unjust, or you witness an article on the news that you feel is overwhelmingly wrong?
You only need to switch on the television for a second, listen to the radio or scroll through social media to hear of the latest injustice towards a fellow human being, and sometimes, these injustices happen on an international level.
Think of the situation in Palestine where children are regularly detained by the Israeli police force, or the Rohingya Muslims, driven from their homes, tortured and their villages razed to the ground. Closer to home, imagine being in the shoes of the academic student Matthew Hedges right now, arbitrarily detained for life in the United Arab Emirates without fair trial or legal representation, or Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman detained in Iran in since 2016 accused of an attempting to orchestrate a ‘soft-overthrow’ of the Islamic Republic. She is separated from her husband and three-year-old daughter and is said to be suffering panic attacks as her health deteriorates.
All of these situations show a gross and flagrant disregard for human rights; but what are human rights? And who should benefit from these rights? Read on to learn more….
What Do we Know about Human Rights?
When you ask somebody what they know about ‘human rights’, the response is pretty unpredictable, with 43% of UK citizens saying they know little, or nothing at all, about what human rights actually signify. In fact 3 out of 10 people, almost a third of all people in the UK, think that human rights only exist for ‘people who don’t deserve them’, a pretty shocking statistic when you consider that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was first launched 70 years ago, affirming that at the most basic level, human rights are the fundamental privileges you have simply for being human, and these civil rights are something we can all count on for protection against cruelty, persecution, intolerance and injustice.
This means that as human beings we should not have to live in fear of dictatorship, oppression or prejudice at any level. That we all have the same indisputable rights, and that justice, freedom and peace are the foundations of these rights for all of humanity.
The history of Human Rights goes back much further however than the 20th Century, with the Magna Carta, a document which has provided the foundation for the liberty and freedom of the English citizens, and has influenced English law for centuries since the year it was first signed in 1215.
What are our Rights?
At the most basic level, the rights we are all entitled to as ‘privileges’ simply for being born human are;
> The Right to Life, Liberty and personal Security
> The Right to Equality
> The Right to Freedom from Discrimination
> The Right to Freedom from Slavery
> The right to Freedom from Torture and Degrading Treatment
> The Right to Equality Before the Law
Of course human rights are for more detailed, and there are 30 such articles entrenched in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
However, when you consider the state of some countries and their rule of law, (or lack of it), then human rights are clearly not being observed. There are countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia where human rights abuses are commonplace, even though the Declaration of Human Rights is a universal document and is supposed to be observed globally.
Even closer to home, in the UK and in parts of Europe, where you would least expect to have to face social injustice or oppression, human rights abuses are becoming familiar news, which begs the question what do people really understand about what our basic human rights are and how easy are they to implement?
Why are Human Rights Important?
So as you can see, human rights are not all that complicated; you could say these are standards of how we epect to be treated, and yet there is still much confusion and a lack of understanding or even acceptance, that as humans everybody is entitled to these rights.
We are fortunate in the UK that human rights are fundamentally observed, and even though there may be individual violations which take place, our legal system is there to uphold the law and protect its citizens. However, put yourself in the shoes of somebody your own age in the country of Palestine or Myanmar, and you soon begin to realise that Human Rights are not always respected by those in power, leading to contraventions and massive human rights abuse.
This is why human rights are so profoundly important to us all, and why we should all work together to ensure no human being is forgotten when it comes to their basic rights and privileges, whether we live in relative comfort or we are fleeing from war torn states.
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N.B Since this blog post was written, Matthew Hedges has been pardoned by the UAE, although as Amnesty have already pointed out, this does NOT make up for the injustices Matthew suffered during his time in the United Arab Emirates.