Health and Human Rights

Nevertheless concerning their rights and dignity

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Unformatted text preview: le that "all human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity," human rights treat all people as equal. It does not require that all people should be treated the same or regarded as the same but requires that people should be treated equalh and given equal opportunity. Human rights respect variations in human cultures and also recognize that people are different in race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, and birth or other status. Nevertheless, concerning their rights and dignity, people are all the same. Thus, governments are expected to provide equal and effective human rights protection tailored to all, regardless of differences. Additional attention should be provided to meet the specific needs of persons who are in a vulnerable position in society (e.g., women, children, disabled persons, racial minorities, stateless persons, and prisoners). Fourth, these rights are primarily the rights of individuals. Human rights address directly the relationship between governments and individuals. Every human being has a claim upon his or her society or government, arising as a matter of right, not as a result of privilege or special favor. Societies and governments are obligated to the greatest e sent possible to address and satisfy the claims resulting from these rights. Fifth, human rights encompass the firndumental principles of humanity. Some rights, such as the right to life, freedom from slavery, and freedom from torture, are absolute. They cannot be interfered with under any citcumstances (see the box on the following page). However, for the other human rights, international law allows-under exceptional circumstances-interference with their exercise or enjoyment. Interference with the enjoyment or exercise of a human right is justified only if and when a number of stringent criteria are met. Sixth, the promotion and protection of human rights is not bounded by the frontiers of national states. Human rights hold each nation responsible for respecting and promoting human rights. Individuals, nations, and the community of states have a responsibility to uphold and to be concerned about human rights across borders in any place and at any time. THE FRAMEWORK: DOCUMENTS AND INSTITUTIONS Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Together with the UniversalDeclaration, they constitute the International Bill of Human Rights, the framework for modern human rights thinking and practice.3 As mentioned above, the UN Charter established general obligations that apply to all of its member states, including respect for human rights and dignity. Under the auspices of the UN,more than twenty.multilatera1human rights treaties have been formulated. These treaties (such as the two international covenants mentioned above) create legally binding obligarions on the nations that have endorsed them. In addition, there are many international declarations, resolutions, and recommendations about international human rights that, although not strictly binding in a legal sense, provide broadly recognized norms. Respect for and observance of hurnan,rights and dignity are not solely the responsibility of the U N, but are also the concern of regional organizations, national governments -and nongovernmental organizations. On a.regiona1 level, the- Council of Europe, the Organization of .American States and the Organization of African Unity have formulated their own human rights documents. These regional documents elaborate on and detail some of the rights enshrined in the.UN documents, while focusing special attention on the cultural and legal features of the region concerned. In addition, each of these regions has organizations authorized to receive and respond to inquiries and complaints about alleged human.rights violations. HUMAN RlQHTS RESTRICTIONS AND VIOLATIONS Terminology b Important a The importance of human rights became widely recognized after the atrocities of the Second World War. The promotion of human rights became a core objective of the United Nations (UN)when it was founded in 1945. Then, in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document setting out a list of basic rights as "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations." This declaration is the fundamental document of modern human tights (appendixA).2 Subsequently, the U N developed two k ey international treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International . There are situations and times when a state may restrict human rights. Such a restriction is not termed a violation when it i s justifiable and is done legitimately by the state. In contrast, unjustifiable, illegitimate restrictions are human rights violations. Several other terms are used to mean 'restriction of rights," such as interference, limitation, encroachment, and infringement. A word with a specific use is derogation. This term is used when human rights are restricted during a...
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