The expression “Human rights” are used to explain all those that human person possess in a country or state. The right of citizens could be natural, civil, political, economic, social or religious. According to Britannica, Civil rights are those human rights social opportunities and protection under the law, regardless of race, religion, or other characteristics. On the other hand, Economic, social and cultural rights include right that guarantees education, right to housing, right to an adequate standard of living, etc.
In most cases, Economic, social and cultural rights are not justifiable whereas Civil and political rights are justifiable because they are fundamental in every democratic government. In all, both Civil and Economic rights have the same characteristics and that is exactly what we will be looking at in this article. But before doing that, it is important to have a background knowledge of the history of human rights in Africa. This will help you enormously to understand the characteristics of Human rights when we go indepth.
Brief history of Human Rights
The Second World War led to the dissolution of the League of Nations and the Establishment of the United Nations Organization by the Victorious powers. The United Nation in 1948 drew a list of approved human rights, which must be protected by all nations.
These rights are as a result of the experience generated by the Second World War. In the words of Rousseau, one of the advocates of human rights of man, “men are born equal but everywhere they are in chains”. The Organization of African Unity was established in 1963 to champion the cause of African nations also drew a long list of human and person’s rights to be protected by members. Following the assumption of independence and the formulation of independent construction by many African nations some of them including Nigeria began to include lists of fundamental human rights in their constitution.
Watch our YouTube Video on the characteristics of human rights above.
Categories of human rights
1. Civil and political rights:
Civil and political rights are also known as the first generation rights. They are liberty oriented. Political philosophers postulate that civil and political rights are given by God and as such, they cannot be taken by any human born.
2. Economic and Social cultural rights:
The second category of human right is the Economic and Social cultural right. These rights are known as the second generation right and they are security oriented rights. More so, for the Economic and Social cultural rights of citizens to be granted, the government must come into play.
Rights under Economic and Social cultural rights includes: right to work, right to education, a reasonable standard of living etc. It is to meet the basic needs of man which are food, shelter, health care etc.
3. Solidarity/Development rights:
The last category of human right is Solidarity/Development right. These rights are also known as the third generation rights. Legal scholars have stated that this category of human right was developed in Africa.
They include; the right to live in an environment that is clean and protected from destruction.
Now that you know the definition and categories of human rights, i will now take you through some of the characteristics of human right. I enjoin you to pay close attention to the characteristics of human right discussed below so that your purpose for reading this work will be achieved:
Characteristic of human rights
1. Human rights are universal
In the beginning of this article, i explained that human rights are those rights that are given to a person as soon as he/she is born. These rights are universal. It doesn’t matter the tribe, religion of sex of the person.
Following the Universal Declaration of Human Right in 10th December 1948, Human rights are the same in all state that is a member of the United Nations.
2. Human rights are inalienable and immutable
Aside from the facts that human rights are universal, they are also inalienable and immutable. Many political philosophers are of the opinion that human rights are given by God to everyone, and as such, they should not be taken or changed by anyone. They are seen as inherent rights that cannot be taken away from a person.
Even in a military regime, where the state is ruled by dictators, the fundamental human rights of citizens are not actually taken away.
The rights are only covered by decrees and edits made by the military. Thus, except where a person commits a crime, his human rights cannot be breached or limited by anyone.
3. Human rights are Indivisible and interrelated
This is a popular paradigm associated with human right. It posit that all human rights are related and for one to be ensured, the government must protect others too.
Take for instance, if the government wants to protect the right to life, they have to ensure that citizens have good shelter, food and good environment to live in.
Accordingly, for the right to fair hearing to be protected, the rights to access the court must be ensured.
So you see, human rights are indeed indivisible and interrelated. They cannot be totally separated from each other.
4. Human rights are inherent
This is a very important feature of human right. In fact, almost all the characteristics i have already mentioned before now were drawn from the fact that human rights are inherent.
What this means is that, human rights are not given by the government through its legislation or any other person. They are rights that are inherent in a person by virtue of the fact that he is a human being.
5. Human rights are protected by the court of law
Another characteristics of human rights is that, they are protected by the court of law. This is one of the core responsibility of the court in a state.
It is truism that many states have sections in their constitution that enjoins the court, which is the judiciary arm of the government, to protect the fundamental human rights of citizens when they are breached. This is why the right of fair hearing is not joked with by any court.
6. Human rights are enforceable
Unlike the Fundamental objectives and directive principles of state, human rights are enforceable. What this means is that, where there is a breach of any of the fundamental human rights of a citizens by any person or government, action can be brought against the defendant (s) in court.
Human rights are recognized by the law and that is why the constitution of many countries of the world today, protect the fundamental human rights of their citizens. In the United States, the fundamental human rights of citizens are protected in Bill of Rights and in Nigeria, the fundamental human right of citizens is protected in Section 4 of the 1999 constitution.
Ways through which human rights are safeguarded
1. The constitution: The entrenchment of fundamental human rights of citizens in the constitution is a way of protecting their rights.
2. Existence of the Principle of Rule of Law: The government under the principle of rule of law has an obligation to ensure the existence of civil liberties and equity of all citizens.
3. Independence of the Judiciary: For citizens to enjoy their rights the judiciary should be free from interference and control of both the executive and legislature.
4. Freedom of the press: The press should be free free to serve as a watchdog for the rights of the citizens.
5. Activities is the opposition: The opposition whether in government or outside is a powerful instrument for protecting the rights of the citizens.
6. Consciousness and Vigilance of citizens over their rights.
7. Provision of legal aid: There should be legal aid for any accused person in court, this will help to pretext the rights of the citizen.
8. Proper enforcement of law and order by the security agencies and community.
9. Adherence to the doctrine of Separation of Power with effective checks and balances.
10. Respect for international convention on human rights: Where a state has respect for international convention on human rights, the citizens are protected from the violation of human rights.
In conclusion, it can be deducted, from this article, that the Fundamental human rights of citizens are very important to ensure growth and development in every nation. This is why every government must protect the rights of their citizens.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.