PART I The Concept of Human Rights

United Nations Declaration of Human Rights 1948

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms...”

The above is an extract from the preamble of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, agreed upon at the General Assembly on the 10th of December 1948. The Declaration laid the foundation for international human rights law and has, throughout time, become the guiding light for those who promote the reinforcement and respect for human rights worldwide.

For centuries, leaders and politicians of all states, even those who do not respect human rights themselves, have cited the Declaration and recognized its values, in spite of current widespread violations of human rights norms across the globe. Articles of national Constitutions worldwide resemble that of the Declaration, often incorporating many of the rights inherent therein. As such, the Declaration had, and still has a remarkable impact on today's societies and states.

Human rights are at the core of international law and international relations. They represent basic values common to all cultures, and must be respected by countries worldwide. Human rights are inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because he or she is a human being. The principle of equality and non-discrimination, as stipulated in Article 2 of the Declaration, is the cornerstone of the human rights protection system, enshrined in every human rights instrument, stipulating that;

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.“


In this section the concept of human rights from its origins to the broad interpretation given to it today will be discussed. First, the concept of human rights is introduced as well as general elements of international law, including the application of principles of human rights law. The emphasis is further laid on three major dimensions: standards (the human rights norms as defined in internationally agreed texts); supervision (the mechanisms to monitor compliance with human rights standards); and the ways in which respect for human rights is put into practice.

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