Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.
In the UK, human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. The Act gives effect to the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It also requires all public bodies (like courts, police, local authorities, hospitals and publicly funded schools) and other bodies carrying out public functions to respect and protect your human rights.
If your human rights have been breached, you can take action under the Human Rights Act in the UK courts. You may also be able to take your case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
What Are Some Of The Rights The Human Rights Act Protects?
- The right to life: protects your life, by law. The State is required to investigate suspicious deaths and deaths in custody.
- The right to a fair trial and no punishment without law: you are innocent until proven guilty. If accused of a crime, you have the right to hear the evidence against you in a court of law.
- Respect for privacy and family life and the right to marry: protects against unnecessary surveillance or intrusion into your life. You have the right to marry and enjoy family relationships.
- Free speech and peaceful protest: you have a right to speak freely and join with others peacefully, to express your views.
- No discrimination: everyone’s rights are equal. You should not be treated unfairly – because, for example, of your gender, race, disability, sexuality, religion or age.
- The right to an education: means that no child can be denied an education.
Unfortunately human rights abuses are rife – thousands of people across the world are denied a fair trial, tortured and imprisoned because of what they think or believe. Civilians are targeted at times of war. Children are forced to fight. Rape is used as a weapon.
That is why it’s important that we do not take human rights for granted. And why it’s important that they are protected under international law, so that we can hold states and people to account when they commit atrocities.
If you would be interested in learning more regarding human rights, there are several free online courses you could sign up for. The Open University has a free course called human rights and law, which is a great course to begin with. Oxford University has a YouTube channel called Oxford Human Rights Hub, which aims to bring together academics, practitioners and policy-makers from across the globe to advance the understanding of human rights and equality. They have some intriguing videos, which you may like to check out. eDX also has several free courses by Amnesty International. My current top three courses, include: digital security and human rights, human rights: the rights of refugees and make your school human right friendly (ideal for the teaching community).
I have a particular interest in the right to protect our privacy and free speech online. I explored surveillance with the use of CCTV cameras, against Article 8 of the ECHR in my undergraduate dissertation. I then researched the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, and the balance between citizens privacy interests against national security in my masters dissertation – which I received a distinction for.