Where do Human Rights come from?
A set of basic rights and freedoms
has deep roots in European and American countries.
a. Written Precursors of Human
The Magna Carta of 1215(England) – gave people new rights and made the king subject to the law.
The Petition of Right 1628(England) – set out the rights of the people.
The Habeas Corpus Act of 1679(England) – an act for the better securing liberty of the subject.
The English Bill of Rights of 1689 – set out certain basic civil rights.
The French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen 1789
– a document of France,
stating that all citizens are equal
under the law.
The US Constitution and Bill of Rights 1791 - safeguards the rights of the
Birth of United Nations
The idea of human rights emerged
stronger after the Second World War. This War led to unimaginable violation of
human rights. During the times of war, human lives lost its value and those
affected by war had to struggle till the end of their life. Atrocities during
the Second World War made clear that previous efforts to protect individual
rights from government violations were inadequate. The rights of man were
prevented or eliminated in several parts of the world due to several factors.
It is proved that the government of some countries alone could not protect
human rights. People wanted to ensure that never again would anyone be unjustly
denied life, freedom, food, shelter, and nationality. These voices played a
critical role in the San Francisco meeting in which the United Nations Charter
was drafted in 1945. At this juncture, an International body, the United Nations
Organisation (UNO) which was established on 24th October 1945 took up the
issue. Human Rights is an important theme in all UN policies and programmes in
the areas of peace and security, development, humanitarian assistance and
economic and social affairs.
c. The Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR)
One of the greatest achievements of
United Nations is the creation of human rights law. To advance this goal, the
UN established a Commission on Human Rights. The Commission guided by Eleanor
Roosevelt’s (wife of former US president Franklin D Roosevelt) forceful
leadership captured the world’s attention. Finally, the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. It is a
milestone document in the history of Human rights. The Declaration was
proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris, France on 10th December
1948(General Assembly resolution 217A). In remembrance of every year 10th
December is observed as the Human Rights Day and its regular observance commenced
Preamble of UDHR
All men are born free
and all are equal in status and rights. They are endowed with intelligence and
conscience and obliged to promote the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all
It is also known as modern International
Magna Carta of Human Rights. Its principles have been incorporated into the
Constitutions of most of the (more than 185) nations. UDHR has been translated
into more than 500 languages. It is the most translated document in the world.
The Cyrus Cylinder 539 BC (BCE)
Cyrus the Great, the
first king of ancient Persia, freed the slaves and declared that all people had
the right to choose their own religion and established racial equality. These
and other decrees were recorded on a baked-clay cylinder in the Akkadian
language in cuneiform script. It is translated into all six official languages
of the United Nations and its provisions parallel the first four Articles of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.