Why are human rights important

Human rights - rights that apply to everyone

This page is about human rights. These are rights that every person has, regardless of where they live, their nationality or their gender, etc.

learning goals

At the bottom of this page you can:

  1. assess what human rights are exactly and where they originate.
  2. which present two families of human rights and give 2-3 examples each.
  3. explain how human rights affect your life too.

Law & Law

Every country on this earth has its own legal system, which is based on laws. As you can read here, there are laws binding rulesto which everyone in the country should adhere. It is up to the political system of each country to enact and enforce these laws.

If a person does not comply with a law, i.e. if it is broken, the person can be punished by the state. Some laws prohibit you from doing certain things, but some also state what you can do. So they give you the right to do something. For example, it is legally stipulated that you have to go to school. But you can also reverse this: Nobody can forbid you to go to school. So you have the right to go to school. This is stipulated in the Swiss constitution in Article 19 “Right to primary school education”.

The laws of a country usually only apply to people who are in the country. When you are in Switzerland, Swiss laws apply. If you visit another country, however, Swiss law no longer applies, but that of the host country. But there are also rights that apply to all people regardless of where a person is. That includes human rights. Human rights are rights to which everyone is entitled, regardless of where a person is, what nationality, religion or external characteristics they have.

Human rights are rights that every person has simply because they are human. Human rights are therefore innate rights to which every person is entitled. They cannot be taken away from anyone and they are inalienable, so they cannot be sold.

Why are there human rights?

Human rights are the basis for justice in many countries around the world. In Switzerland, too, these are listed in the second part of the constitution from Article 7. You can also take a look at the constitution yourself on the Internet here.

The goal of human rights is to protect the dignity of the people against the arbitrariness of the state or other organizations. In order to guarantee this, certain rules have been established which a state may not violate under any circumstances.

We can roughly divide human rights into two larger families, the liberal rights of defense and the democratic and social rights. The first group guarantees the rights of the individual. The second group should enable people to live together in a society.

The two groups of human rights

Liberal defense rights (Selection):

  • the right to life, freedom, integrity and security
  • the right to freedom (of opinion, of belief, of conscience)
  • the right to property
  • The right to equality
  • The right to resist oppression

Democratic and social rights (Selection):

  • freedom of assembly
  • freedom of association
  • the right to choose
  • the right to work and a fair wage
  • the right to education

The first group of rights serves to give people one Life in dignity to enable. Like all rules, these are not given by nature, but are the result of human negotiation processes, which are guided by the currently prevailing values ​​in society.

The second group of human rights is there to help one democratic society first to enable.

A democracy lives from the fact that problems can be openly addressed and solutions can be found together. For this it is important that people meet, so gather and are allowed to exchange with each other.
With the Freedom of association it means that people who share the same interests can also join forces in order to achieve their goals. This can take the form of clubs, parties or associations, for example.
In order to be able to lead a decent life as an active part of society, it is also important that people do not care about their existence have to worry. In addition, it should be possible for everyone to be able to work and receive a fair wage for it, i.e. not to be exploited.
This requires that all have a certain Education are allowed to get.

The history of human rights

Like all rules and laws, human rights did not come about by themselves and had to be fought for.

The beginning

The modern concept of human rights emerged during the Enlightenment in the 18th century. The Virginia Bill of Rights (1776) in North America and the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights (1789) in France were the first human rights declarations at the national level. They formed the basis for further development, including today's human rights. The task of these rights was to formulate the inalienable and innate rights of every person in order to protect the population from attacks by the state. These rights include the right to equality, the right to freedom, property and security. Above all, however, the right to resist oppression was also important.

When the first human rights arose, they were not yet valid for all people in the world, but were limited to individual states. So they were not internationally valid.

It was not until the horrors of World War II that the realization that every single person at the international level must be protected not only from abuse by other states, but also from their own state.

The breakthrough

The breakthrough for the modern human rights movement came with the anchoring of human rights for all by the United Nations in 1945, shortly after the Second World War. This made human rights an international issue.

Where are human rights enshrined?

The real content of human rights was in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was drawn up by the UN Human Rights Commission and has been in force since 1948. To this day, it forms the basis of international human rights protection. At the European level there is also a second set of rules, the European Convention on Human Rights, which from European Court of Human Rights is monitored in Strasbourg. Today practically all countries in the world have adopted one or more human rights conventions.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and knowledge and should meet one another in brotherhood. "
The most central right is formulated in Article 3: the right of every individual to life.

Human rights violations

Although most states have signed at least one human rights convention, this does not mean that everyone will adhere to it. These human rights violations occur less often in functioning democracies than in dictatorships, for example. One often hears about human rights violations in conflict areas and wars. If there is a war between states or a civil war in one country, the state order often collapses. This means that the state loses the power to enforce the law. Instead, the rival warring parties often practice vigilante justice: They punish people as they see fit, without complying with applicable law, including human rights. The result is that torture, rape and execution often occur during conflict. Those who suffer are mostly parts of the population who have nothing to do with the actual war. Their human rights are mostly violated simply because they belong to a certain religion or ethnic group.



When the conflicts are over, there are times when those responsible for the human rights violations are held accountable. If order has been restored in the state after the conflict, they will have to answer to local courts. If this is not the case, you may be brought to justice before the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Holland) or the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (France).

Finally, let yourself go through what you have read and try to answer the following questions:

  • Where do human rights originate?
  • What are the differences between laws of a country and human rights?
  • Is there a court that watches over the observance of human rights?
  • Assignment: Find a person who had to answer before an international court. Why did this happen?