What are human rights?

What are human rights?

This is a question that can be answered in a very simple answer

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death.

They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example, if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.

These basic rights are based on values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect, and independence. But human rights are not just abstract concepts – they are defined and protected by law. In Britain, our human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998.

How do human rights help you?

Human rights are relevant to all of us, not just those who face repression or mistreatment. They protect you in many areas of your day-to-day life: here are just some of the main rights and freedoms they support:

  • your right to a private and family life as well as expressing your opinions, and
  • your right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state.
Where do human rights come from?

The idea that human beings should have a set of basic rights and freedoms has deep roots in Britain. Landmark developments in Britain include the Magna Carta of 1215, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 and the Bill of Rights of 1689. See the British Library’s website for more information on these and other icons of liberty and progress.

The atrocities of the Second World War made the protection of human rights an international priority. The formation of the United Nations paved the way for more than 50 Member States to contribute to the final draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. This was the first attempt to set out at a global level the fundamental rights and freedoms shared by all human beings.