15 Sep 2018

Human Rights – Part 5:

Reminder: What are human rights?

If we go back to Part 2, Shestack (1986) described rights as:

“an array of legal relationships. Rights can be seen as entitlements, immunities (from having a legal status altered), privileges and powers (e.g. to create legal relationships)."

  • Entitlements

  • Immunities

  • Privileges

  • Powers”

Human rights constrain governments to act in a certain way. The government’s behaviour is moderated to the extent that the government ought not (pay attention to these words) breach your rights without lawful authority. The government is also, to a certain extent, a guardian of rights, in that it has ‘agents’ in place to assist the general public to protect and assert their rights, for example, the police, and the judiciary. Keep in mind though, that the responsibility lies with those whose rights are breached to take action, to assert their rights.

The law, like equity, “aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights”.

Human rights are encapsulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) but students should keep in mind that rights vary from place to place, culture to culture. One argument against the UDHR is that it encapsulates the ‘Western’ idea of rights and the issue of rights is further complicated in that every individual has an opinion on this topic.

“These views are influenced by upbringing, culture, religion, friends and family, among other factors. The most difficult aspect of freedom has always been that the concept requires us to recognise that other people have ideas that may not align with our own. This tension is demonstrated by movements underway to try and reframe certain civil rights, such as the right to private life as exercised by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community, as infringements of religious freedom (Michaelson, 2013). The landscape of rights is continually shifting.”

© The Open University, 2014

Given the above then, now is a good time to remind readers/students that this LLB is about law in England and Wales, and therefore considers all topics as the law is currently applied here.

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