INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS

Human Rights Training

INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS

This chapter focuses on the definition, characteristics, history, classification and content of human rights. It also provides exercises which will enhance the understanding of the concept of human rights and their application in day to day life and duties of a police officer.
The Chapter contains two modules, namely –
Module 1 – This focused on the definition, characteristics, rationale and history of human rights, and
Module 2 – This focused on the classification of human rights as well as provided an overview of the various human rights instruments.

LESSON OBJECTIVE
To promote an understanding of the concept of human rights, as well as its definition, characteristics, history and rationale.

EXPECTED OUTCOME
It is expected that the trainees/participants would be able to understand and appreciate the concept of human rights generally and why the knowledge of this is important for every police officer

 

1. DEFINITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS?
What are Human Rights?
There are two important terms that we need to understand to better appreciate the concept of human rights, namely – “Human”and “Rights”.
Webster New Explorer Encyclopedic Dictionary defines Human’ as having human form or attributes, susceptible to or representative of the frailties of human nature’ and Rights as being in accordance with what is just, good or proper, agreeable to a standard, something to which one has a just claim, a power or privilege to which one
is justly entitled.
From the above definition, it can be deduced that human rights?are entitlements that accrue to one by virtue of one’s existence as a human being.
Thus –
‘Human Rights’ refer to the “basic rights and freedoms that all human beings have”.
‘Human Rights’ are derived from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.
‘Human Rights’ are rights which belong to all people, at all times, in all situations, and in all societies’.
‘Human Rights’ are the entitlements that accrue to one because he or she is a human being.
“Human rights are the rights or claims which every human being has and/or is entitled to enjoy. They consist of the conditions which make us human and allow us to use and exercise our natural abilities and to satisfy our biological and other needs. They also, and in more practical terms, consist of the fundamental principles that prescribe and guide how individuals should be treated, in any condition”.

“Human rights have a universal imperative. The essence of human rights is that they apply to every human being whether man, woman or child no matter the skin colour, status or origin. Human rights also cover various situations and areas of human relationships”.
“Human rights also must be guaranteed and protected because of the danger, ease and regularity of their being violated. To ensure the protection of human rights, a lot has been done at the international and national levels in
formulating standard principles of human rights and in setting up mechanisms for their enforcement. These have been documented and presented in the forms of international frameworks or instruments such as declarations, conventions, covenants, treaties and national constitutions?.
“In no area is the protection of human rights more crucial than in the area of the Administration of Justice and Law Enforcement. Administration of Justice and Law Enforcement carry with them the element of force which is often
accompanied with, or easily degenerates to violations of human rights.
International standards have been set for the protection of human rights in this area. These standards safeguard against tyranny, oppression and impunity and checks on those who exercise power ?. (PRAWA, 1999)

Module 1.1 Exercises

Read through the statement below and discuss the following

1. Discuss your acceptance or rejection of the statement giving reason[s] for your answer.
2. In your view, is it important to have ‘rights’ that are described as ‘human rights’, explain the reason[s] for your answer.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1)

 

 

2. HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS
‘Human Rights’ is a relatively modern term. However, the principle it invokes is as old as human kind. The principle is based on the fact that certain rights and freedoms are fundamental to human existence. These rights are inherent entitlements that come to every person as a consequence of being human and are founded on respect for
the dignity and worth of each person. They are not gifts or privileges given as a government or person in authority may deem fit. They cannot be taken away because of any reason.

These rights previously had no legal basis. They only had what can be considered as moral claims. However, in the course of time they began to acquire formal recognition and protection by law through constitutional enactments, bills of rights which are enforceable in courts of law.

The history of human rights is traceable to the 1930s which witnessed widespread abuses of rights and freedoms and led to the atrocities of the first and second world wars between 1939 and 1945. This brought to bear the failure of individual States as solely responsible for the protection of the rights of its citizens. With the signing of
the United Nations Charter in 1945, a global statement was made to the effect that the protection of the rights of all citizens of every nation is within the sphere of international law and competence of the United Nations. By this Charter, all Member States of the United Nations undertake to safeguard human rights.

Three years after, in 1949 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] was adopted as a ‘common standard of achievement for all peoples’ and all nations’. Its preamble further states that it is based on the ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’. Over the years, human rights issues and obligations have attracted a considerable amount of focus and visibility in national, regional and international platforms. Consequently several human rights instruments have been adopted to address these, varying in their focus and subject matter. These will be discussed in further details in the proceeding module.

Module 1.2 Exercises
If the quest to bring an end to wars, conflict and the atrocities of the 1st and 2nd world wars led to the emergence of human rights standards and norms to protect human dignity and sanctity of life, discuss how you can through the application of any of these standards and norms prevent any of the current conflicts you have observed in Nigeria.

 

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