Health and Human Rights

For example a state that fails to establish a health

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Unformatted text preview: crisis. For example, in a public emergency, a situation 'threatening the life of a nation," such as civil war or epidemic disease, international human rights law permits a state to take measures 'derogating" from certain human rights o blip ations. However, even in this context the derogation is acceptable only to the extent that the measures are not inconsistent with the state's other obligations under international law. Nonfulfillment i s another term used to describe a state's failure to comply with a human rights obligation. For example, a state that fails to establish a health care system or that establishes a health care system that meets the needs only of specific population groups fails t o fulfill its obligations stemming from the right to health. The ways in which national legislation has recognized human rights differ from country t o country. In addition t o endorsing international and regional human rights documents, some governments have adopted special human rights charters, included a human rlghts section in their constitution or have fostered human rights on a national level in other ways. However, national human rights legislation should be consistent with international human rights law. Predictably, conflicts arise between governments and their citizens and among citizens claiming their rights. First, there is often disagreement about the content of these rights a nd the priorities among them when these rights a r e - o r appear to be-in conflict. Second, in many countries there have been critical differences regarding the priority given to civil and political rights or t o economic, social, and cultural rights. These groups of rights have sometimes been perceived t o be in opposition. Third, tension arises among concepts of rights that are widely endorsed in different cultures and nations. This is particularly evident in the emphasis given to a particular right or set of rights and in balancing the interests of individuals and larger communities. Nongovernmental organizations, operating on local, national, regionai, and i n~ernationdevels, play a crucial role in promoting and protecting l human rights and dignity. They have been particularly successful in advoaating a nd monitoring human rights compliance and in developing new initiatives t o strengthen the human rights system. For example: Amnesty International has a prisoner-focused mandate. It monitors human rights violations, writes reports, and lobbies governments at national and international levels. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can use its ideological basis, the Fundamental Principles and International Humanitarian Law, to defend human rights. The federation has focused its work on the rights to health and to education. The International Commission of Jurists is an international organization of jurists primarily concerned with promoting the rules of law and independence of the judiciary, and, more generally, the protection and promotion of human rights. In summary, h uman rights have been defined through international, regional, and national mechanisms (universal declaration, covenants, treaties, and constitutions). Thus, a wide range of international human rights standards have been advanced, which have the status of international minimum norms. Human rights treaties are voluntary agreements among states to respect individual rights and to allow the rights of their own citizens to be considered (t'o varying degrees) a legitimate concern of others. Unman rights should not be considered simply as a rigid list of static norms .. . -I:-- *h*+ i~constantly evolving. I r While human rights norms are establ~sneu r . u , national level, vitally important human rights documenk are developed a na work is carried out at regional apd national levels by official and nongovem.mental agencies and organizations. Together, these represent thetdynamic world ofmodern human rights. "., CATEGORIES OF H UWN RIGHTS Historically, the rights described in human rights documents are commonly divided into two categories: civil and political rights, and economic, social, and cultural rights. Cvland political rights include the rights to life, liberty, security of persons, ii freedom of movement, and the right not ro'be subjectedto torture or to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment, or to arbitrary arrest and detention. Economic, social, and cultural rights include the rights to the highest attainable standard of health, to work, to social security, to adequate food, to clothing and housing, to education, and to enjoy the benefits of scientific, progress and its application. National obligations differ somewhat for these two categories of rights. Civil and political rights must be guaranteed immediately, whereas governmental obligation for economic, social, and cultural rights involves action to ensure that these rights are progressively realized. In addition to these two basic recognized categories of rights, a third category bf rights, known as iolidurity rights, should be me...
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