Human Rights Law
Human Rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings are entitled, like civil and political rights, the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and speech/expression, equality before the law, social, cultural and economic rights, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education. In short, human rights are freedoms established by custom or international agreement that protect the interests of humans and the conduct of governments in every nation.
Human rights are distinct from civil liberties, which are freedoms established by the law of a particular state and applied by that state in its own jurisdiction.
Human rights laws have been defined by international conventions, by treaties, and by organizations, particularly the United Nations. These laws prohibit practices such as torture, slavery, summary execution without trial, and arbitrary detention or exile. Many human rights are secured by agreements between the governments and those they govern, such as the U.S. Constitution. Others are protected by international laws and pressure.
For more information on Human Rights laws, please refer to the materials below. Additionally, should you need the assistance of a human rights attorney, you may find lists of legal professionals on our Law Firms page.
Know Your Rights!
Human Rights - US
- ABA - Rule of Law Initiative
The Rule of Law Initiative is a public service project of the American Bar Association dedicated to promoting rule of law around the world. The Rule of Law Initiative believes that rule of law promotion is the most effective long-term antidote to the pressing problems facing the world community today, including poverty, economic stagnation, and conflict.
- ABA - Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities
Created in 1966, the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities provides leadership within the ABA and the legal profession in protecting and advancing human rights, civil liberties, and social justice. The Section fulfills this role by 1) raising and addressing often complex and difficult civil rights and civil liberties issues in a changing and diverse society, and 2) ensuring that protection of individual rights remains a focus of legal and policy decisions.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Promoting freedom and democracy and protecting human rights around the world are central to U.S. foreign policy. The values captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other global and regional commitments are consistent with the values upon which the United States was founded centuries ago.
- Human Rights - Definition
The human rights record of the United States is a controversial and complex issue. The United States has been praised for its progressive human rights record by international watchdog organizations and is considered to be among the world's most free nations, although it has faced some criticism for certain policies and practices.
- Human Rights First - Law and Security Program
Human Rights First promotes national security policies that respect human rights, focusing primarily on U.S. counterterrorism measures. The Law and Security program works to bring government counterterrorism and related national security efforts into compliance with international humanitarian law (laws of armed conflict) and human rights law.
- Human Rights USA
Human Rights USA is dedicated to preventing torture and other major human rights abuses through bold and innovative litigation in U.S. courts. What sets us apart from other human rights groups is that we focus primarily on the United States’ compliance with international human rights norms, using litigation as the primary tool for securing compliance and for bringing public attention to these problems.
- National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) - Charters of Freedom
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.
- The USA and Human Rights
The leaders of the United States of America are proud to present the picture of being the foremost bearers of human rights. Yet, they have often been heavily criticized for advancing their own interests and of double standards.
- US Department of State - Human Rights
The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States understands that the existence of human rights helps secure the peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises.
- US Human Rights Network
Underlying all human rights work in the United States is a commitment to challenge the belief that the United States is inherently superior to other countries of the world, and that neither the US government nor the US rights movements have anything to gain from the domestic application of human rights.
Human Rights - Europe
- EU Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
The text of the Convention had been amended according to the provisions of Protocol No. 3 (ETS No. 45), which entered into force on 21 September 1970, of Protocol No. 5 (ETS No. 55), which entered into force on 20 December 1971 and of Protocol No. 8 (ETS No. 118), which entered into force on 1 January 1990, and comprised also the text of Protocol No. 2 (ETS No. 44) which, in accordance with Article 5, paragraph 3 thereof, had been an integral part of the Convention since its entry into force on 21 September 1970.
- European Convention on Human Rights
Rome 4 November 1950, and its Five Protocols: Paris 20 March 1952, Strasbourg 6 May 1963, Strasbourg 6 May 1963, Strasbourg 16 September 1963 and Strasbourg 20 January 1966.
- European Court of Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was drawn up within the Council of Europe. It was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950 and entered into force in September 1953. Taking as their starting point the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the framers of the Convention sought to pursue the aims of the Council of Europe through the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Convention was to represent the first steps for the collective enforcement of certain of the rights set out in the Universal Declaration.
- Human Rights Act 1998 - UK
An Act to give further effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights; to make provision with respect to holders of certain judicial offices who become judges of the European Court of Human Rights; and for connected purposes.
- Human Rights Law in Scotland
Guide to laws related to Human Rights in Scotland and UK.
- The AIRE Centre
The AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) is a specialist law centre whose mission is to promote awareness of European law rights and assist marginalised individuals and those in vulnerable circumstances to assert those rights. This London based charity provides free legal advice on European human rights law and European Union law.
Human Rights - International
- African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
The African Charter came into force in 1986, and has been ratified by more than forty African states, thus becoming the most widely accepted regional convention.
- American Convention on Human Rights "Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica"
Reaffirming their intention to consolidate in this hemisphere, within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are submitted annually by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Congress in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended.
- Introduction to the UN Human Rights Treaty System
This free website includes an extensive documents library organized by country and subject matter. You can find information on ratification, reservations and declarations, state reports, and other key documents.
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world's commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.
- United Nation Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Documents, news, statistics, publications, REFWorld database, etc;. United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA); Recent disasters, relief assistance, maps. ; Landmines; Chernobyl Disaster; Documentation, UN and specialized agencies and plan of action, etc.
- United Nations Human Rights
Virtually every United Nations body and specialized agency is involved to some degree in the protection of human rights. One of the great achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law, which, for the first time in history, provides us with a universal and internationally protected code of human rights, one to which all nations can subscribe and to which all people can aspire.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."
- Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
Text of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, as adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993.
Organizations Related to Human Rights
- Amnesty International
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.
- Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has become the world’s leading independent resource on the subject. Our website is updated hourly with news and reports about companies’ human rights impacts worldwide – positive and negative. We seek responses from companies to allegations of misconduct: thus ensuring that our coverage is balanced and encouraging companies to address concerns raised by civil society.
- Freedom House
Freedom House is an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women, are guaranteed.
- Human Rights Internet (HRI)
Human Rights Internet (HRI) is committed to social justice, good governance and conflict prevention. It seeks to accomplish these goals through human rights informed policy formation, knowledge transfer and development, promotion of dialogue, training, and information distribution. HRI works with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental actors to disseminate information, empower marginalized groups, stimulate reflection, and initiate policy change and institutional development.
- Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. They stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice. They investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable. They challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. They enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.
- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is one of two bodies in the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The other human rights body is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is located in San José, Costa Rica.
- International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence.
- International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW)
The International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) was organized in 1985 at the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, to promote recognition of women’s human rights under the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (the CEDAW Convention), an international human rights treaty.
- Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI)
Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) is dedicated to promoting the human rights and full participation in society of people with mental disabilities worldwide.
- OSCE Legislation on Human Rights
Legislationline.org provides direct access to international norms and standards relating to specific human dimension issues (see list of topics on left-hand column) as well as to domestic legislation and other documents of relevance to these issues. These data and other information available from the site are intended for lawmakers across the OSCE region.
UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.
- Vital Voices
Vital Voices Global Partnership is the preeminent non-governmental organization (NGO) that identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world for us all. We provide these women with the capacity, connections, and credibility they need to unlock their leadership potential.
Articles on HG.org Related to Human Rights
- Analyzing False Confessions and ExonerationsGiven the significant number of exonerations that have been issued in recent years, it is important to consider what events led to these exonerations and the flaws in the American criminal justice system. Many exonerations were the result of false confessions.
- Common Questions about Plea BargainsRather than trying every criminal case, the prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer may resolve a case by agreeing to a plea agreement. Many criminal cases are disposed of through this type of agreement. Some of the common questions related to plea bargains include:
- Steps to Take If You Cannot Afford to Make Bail in Your CaseThe Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the issuance of excessive bail. However, courts have found that excessive bail does not simply mean that the defendant cannot afford bail. When bail is too high, a defendant may not be able to pay it and may need to look into other arrangements.
- Constitutional Rights of Criminal DefendantsIndividuals who are facing criminal charges have a number of key rights that must be honored throughout the process. By being aware of this information, criminal defendants can take necessary steps to protect these important rights.
- Plea Bargaining BasicsA criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate an agreement between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor. This agreement is referred to as a “plea bargain” or “plea agreement.” There are a number of benefits of plea bargaining.
- History of Plea BargainsA plea bargain is a negotiated agreement for a criminal defendant whereby he or she agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a more favorable outcome. This outcome may be the dropping of additional charges, a reduction in the sentence or being charged with a lesser crime.
- Constitutional Right to Legal CounselAny citizen in the United States who is facing criminal charges is guaranteed the right to legal counsel. If he or she cannot afford his or her own lawyer, one will be appointed to him or her. Despite this fundamental right, many individuals are not aware of this right, how far this right extends, the rights associated with the right to legal counsel and when a person qualifies to have a lawyer appointed by the court.
- Constitutional Right to a Fair TrialWhen a person is accused of a crime, the consequences at stake are significant. A conviction can mean the loss of freedom with years behind bars. Having a criminal record can impact the rest of a person’s life and limit career and educational opportunities. Due to these possibilities, many criminal defendants seek legal counsel.
- Resisting Arrest without the Presence of ViolenceWhen someone imagines someone else resisting arrest, they often have a mental image of a person violently thrashing around and physically resisting an officer who is simply attempting to handcuff him or her. Many people equate this scenario with resisting arrest and realize that this can often be a criminal act.
- What Are My Rights If Stopped on the Street?It is not uncommon for a person to happen upon a law enforcement officer. He or she may be stopped by the law enforcement officer and asked questions. If a person runs into this situation, it is important that he or she understands his or her rights.
- All Civil Rights Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Civil Rights including: constitutional law, consumer law, discrimination, human rights, native populations, privacy law, public law and sexual harassment.