Human rights

inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled
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Human rights refer to the "basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled", including civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.

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
Actually, who is the terrorist, who is against human rights? The answer is the United States. ~ Hamzah Haz
Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. ~ Aung San Suu Kyi

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other status. They encompass civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, and they are protected by international law. Respecting human rights is crucial for promoting equality, dignity, and justice for all individuals. It involves upholding the rights of others while recognizing and protecting your own rights. It's about treating everyone with fairness, empathy, and compassion, regardless of differences.~ Akhtar Aly Kureshy

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  • Let’s first of all talk about the first part of your question, which is the problem how to – for the United States – open relations with Syria, regarding the human rights. I will ask you: how could you have this close, very close relation, intimate relation, with Saudi Arabia? Do you consider beheading as human right criteria?...So, when you answer about Saudi Arabia and "your relation", you can put yourself in that position. Second, the United States is in no position to talk about human rights; since Vietnam war till this moment, they killed millions of civilians, if you don’t want to talk about 1.5 million in Iraq, without any assignment by the Security Council. So, the United States is in no position to say “I don’t open relations because of human rights,” and they have to use one standard.
  • As India grows into a world power, the story of the birth of Bangladesh has never been more important. It stands as an awful but crucial case for better understanding the politics of human rights, in a world where the duty of defending the vulnerable is not something that the West arrogates for itself alone. Today, at the advent of an Asian era in world politics, the future of human rights will increasingly depend on the ideologies, institutions, and cultures of ascendant Asian great powers like China and India. Thus India’s democratic response to the plight of the Bengalis marks not just a pivotal moment for the history of the subcontinent, but for how the world’s biggest democracy makes its foreign policy—and what weight it gives to human rights.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Liberty is an empty sound as long as you are kept in bondage economically. [...] Freedom means that you have the right to do a certain thing; but if you have no opportunity to do it, that right is sheer mockery. The opportunity lies in your economic condition, whatever the political situation may be. No political rights can be of the least use to the man who is compelled to slave all his life to keep himself and family from starvation.
  • I believe with all my heart that America must always stand for these basic human rights at home and abroad. That is both our history and our destiny. America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it's the other way around. Human rights invented America. Ours was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded explicitly on such an idea. Our social and political progress has been based on one fundamental principle: the value and importance of the individual. The fundamental force that unites us is not kinship or place of origin or religious preference. The love of liberty is the common blood that flows in our American veins. The battle for human rights, at home and abroad, is far from over. We should never be surprised nor discouraged, because the impact of our efforts has had and will always have varied results. Rather, we should take pride that the ideals which gave birth to our Nation still inspire the hopes of oppressed people around the world. We have no cause for self-righteousness or complacency, but we have every reason to persevere, both within our own country and beyond our borders. If we are to serve as a beacon for human rights, we must continue to perfect here at home the rights and the values which we espouse around the world: a decent education for our children, adequate medical care for all Americans, an end to discrimination against minorities and women, a job for all those able to work, and freedom from injustice and religious intolerance.
  • Human rights are very often spoken of, but we must also speak of humanity's rights. Why should some people go barefoot that others may travel in expensive cars? Why should some live only 35 years that others may live 70? Why should some be miserably poor that others may be exaggeratedly rich? I speak on behalf of the children of the world who do not even have a piece of bread. I speak on behalf of the sick who lack medicine. I speak to you on behalf of those who have been denied the right to life and human dignity.
  • On September 17, 1914, Erzberger, the well-known German statesman, an eminent member of the Catholic Party, wrote to the Minister of War, General von Falkenhayn, "We must not worry about committing an offence against the rights of nations nor about violating the laws of humanity. Such feelings today are of secondary importance"? A month later, on October 21, 1914, he wrote in Der Tag, "If a way was found of entirely wiping out the whole of London it would be more humane to employ it than to allow the blood of A SINGLE GERMAN SOLDIER to be shed on the battlefield!"
    • Georges Clemenceau, quoting Matthias Erzberger, in Grandeur and Misery of Victory, trans. F. M. Atkinson (1930), p. 279
  • The human being must be respected and treated as a person from his conception. Therefore, from that very moment the rights of a person must be accorded to him, foremost among which is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being.
    • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae", (Feb. 22, 1987), n. 1.
  • Another unforeseen consequence of the changing postwar world was the attempt by nongovernmental organizations and small and medium-sized powers to transform the United Nations from a US-Soviet battleground into a site of human progress. One major focus—emanating from the promises in the Atlantic Charter and the atrocities of World War II—was the defense of human rights. These not-always-complementary goals—promoting freedom and self-determination for subject peoples on the one hand and shielding individuals and groups from arbitrary state power on the other—held little attraction for the Great Powers. At the Nuremberg trials the victors had been more intent on punishing the Nazisaggression than siding with their victims, and the same held true at the Tokyo tribunals. Although the UN Charter contained several references to human rights, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union had frustrated human rights activists by blocking the inclusion of a universal bill of rights. Nonetheless, in 1946 the fifty-one-member General Assembly flexed its muscle, creating the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
    • Carole C. Fink, The Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 65
  • In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.
    • William Lloyd Garrison, "To The Public", The Liberator, January 1, 1831. Quoted in Federico Lenzerini, The Culturalization of Human Rights Law, Oxford University Press, 2014. Lenzerini states Garrison was "One of the first writers to use the expression 'human rights'". Also quoted in Hugh Tulloch, The Routledge Companion to the American Civil War Era. Routledge, 2006 (p.72)
  • I have been derisively called a "Woman's Rights Man." I know no such distinction. I claim to be a HUMAN RIGHTS MAN, and wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being whatever may be the sex or complexion. .
    • William Lloyd Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879 : The Story of His Life Told by His Children, Vol. iii. Page 390. (1885). Also quoted in Suzanne M. Marilley, Woman Suffrage and the Origins of Liberal Feminism in the United States, 1820-1920.Harvard University Press, 1996.
  • was not the fact of slavery in itself which led to the revolt, but the state of feeling and of manners which slavery bred—the hatred of democracy, the contempt for human rights, the horror of equality before the law, the proneness to violence which always results from inequality, the tone which all these things communicated to Southern manners, literature, education, religion, and society.
    • E.L. Godkin, "The Danger of the Hour", in The Nation, September 21, 1865. Quoted in Joseph Harold Baccus, The Oratory of Andrew Johnson, University of Wisconsin--Madison, 1941. Also quoted in Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation 1865-1990: Selections from the Independent Magazine of Politics and Culture. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press,1990.
  • To affirm that humans thrive in many different ways is not to deny that there are universal human values. Nor is it to reject the claim that there should be universal human rights. It is to deny that universal values can only be fully realized in a universal regime. Human rights can be respected in a variety of regimes, liberal and otherwise. Universal human rights are not an ideal constitution for a single regime throughout the world, but a set of minimum standards for peaceful coexistence among regimes that will always remain different.
  • Human rights are not just cultural or legal constructions, as fashionable western relativists are fond of claiming. They are universal values. To deny the benefits of the new regime of rights to other cultures is to patronise them in a way that is reminiscent of the colonial era. If the new regime on torture is good enough for the US, who can say that it is not good for everyone?
    • John N. Gray, "A Modest Proposal," New Statesman (17 February 2003)
  • I know nothing of man's rights, or woman's rights; human rights are all that I recognise.
    • Sarah Grimké, Letter 15 (20 October 1837). Quoted in "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman" 1838, also quoted in David A. Hollinger, Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: 1630-1865. Oxford University Press, 1997, (p. 232).
  • The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.
    • Alexander Hamilton, in “The Farmer Refuted”, The Works of Alexander Hamilton (1850) edited by John C. Hamilton, vol. 2, p. 80
  • The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet, I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world.
    • Václav Havel, Liberty Medal acceptance speech at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (4 July 1994)
  • My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights. People -- human beings -- this is the issue of the 20th century. People of all kinds -- all sorts of people -- and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they’re looking to America for precept and example.
  • The real lesson of Romero is that there are no legitimate reasons to deny human rights. His government in his time believed that human rights could be somewhat “suspended” to protect El Salvador from Communist influences coming from the Soviet Union via Cuba and Nicaragua. Romero was certainly not an admirer of the Soviet Union, but believed there should be other ways of protecting his country, not suspending human rights. He taught us that those who advocate for human rights are “for” their countries, not “against” them.
    …Romero’s key teaching, that there is no reason good enough to justify the violation of human rights, is relevant for both religious liberty and the Tai Ji Men case. There are governments that claim that limiting religious liberty is necessary to protect social stability or the harmony of the country. Romero’s message is that this is not a valid justification. Human rights protection defines what a legitimate social stability is, rather than the other way around.
  • Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth. And any time any one violates your human rights, you can take them to the world court.
  • One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Yielding to desire and acting differently, one becomes guilty of adharma.
  • We speak here of the challenge of the dichotomies of war and peace, violence and non-violence, racism and human dignity, oppression and repression and liberty and human rights, poverty and freedom from want.
    We stand here today as nothing more than a representative of the millions of our people who dared to rise up against a social system whose very essence is war, violence, racism, oppression, repression and the impoverishment of an entire people.
    I am also here today as a representative of the millions of people across the globe, the anti-apartheid movement, the governments and organisations that joined with us, not to fight against South Africa as a country or any of its peoples, but to oppose an inhuman system and sue for a speedy end to the apartheid crime against humanity.
    These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. They recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency.
  • Tolerance for different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and other conditions/choices marking individuals as “different” has improved in most parts of the world. This is not without exception, and at times appears to lurch backwards a bit. But… this tolerance [w]as stemming from a sated world. In times of plenty, we can afford to be kind to those who are different. We are less threatened when we are comfortable. If our 21st Century standard of living peaks—coincident with a peak in surplus energy (i.e., fossil fuels)—then we may not have the luxury of viewing our social progress as an irreversible ratchet. Hard times revive old tribal instincts: different is not welcome.
  • A human life is no more sacred than that of a wolf (as just one example). In some sense, neither are sacred. […] If humans are not the apex—the whole point of the Earth, Galaxy, or Universe being here—then why is one life within a robust population that important? When an ant colony inevitably experiences a factor-of-ten seasonal reduction in population, it’s no tragedy: they’ll bounce back next spring. When flamingo chicks die by the hundreds in their perilous migration from the drying flats, it’s part of the time-tested cycle. What’s important is the propagation of the species, and the maintenance of biodiversity. The fate of individuals has little grand meaning. Once humans are seen as just one of millions of animal species on the planet, it becomes hard to argue that the life of a (comparatively rare) bear who kills a human is any less valuable than that of the human now eliminated from among 8 billion. Human rights represent a self-promoting construct we just made up for our exclusive benefit.
  • For some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are somehow Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists – a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world.I reject these choices. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent-up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America’s interests – nor the world’s – are served by the denial of human aspirations. So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements – these movements of hope and history – they have us on their side.
  • In the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII pointed out that "it is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, coordinated, defended and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For ‘to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority'. Thus any government which refused to recognize human rights or acted in violation of them, would not only fail in its duty; its decrees would be wholly lacking in binding force".
  • While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings. So states the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, among other things, guarantees free elections. The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means. This is not cultural imperialism, it is providing the means for genuine self-determination and protection for diversity. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy. Who would voluntarily choose not to have the right to vote, decide to purchase government propaganda handouts instead of independent newspapers, prefer government to worker-controlled unions, opt for land to be owned by the state instead of those who till it, want government repression of religious liberty, a single political party instead of a free choice, a rigid cultural orthodoxy instead of democratic tolerance and diversity?
  • Though some pro-choicers question whether the fetus is a human being, I think this is a confusion. There and be no doubt, in my view, that the fetus is a human organism. And many who have argued for the moral permissibility of abortion have granted this fact. For example, Laura Purdy and Mihael Tooley write, “A fetus developing inside a human mother is certainly an organism belonging to Homo sapiens [the human species].” And Mary Anne Warren does not doubt that the fetus is human in “the genetic sense,” that is, “the sense in which any member of the species is a human being.” All of these writers distinguish this genetic or biological sense of human from the moral sense according to which being human entitles one to certain moral rights, including normally the right to life. These writers use the term person to signify human in the moral sense-where a person I a bearer of moral rights including a right to life.
  • We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind, that is the approval by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    • Eleanor Roosevelt, in Paris on December 10, 1948. The United Nations General Assembly was gathered in the recently built Palais Chaillot when the chairwoman of the UN Commission on Human Rights rose to give a speech.
  • Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
    • Eleanor Roosevelt, remarks at presentation of booklet on human rights, In Your Hands, to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, United Nations, New York, March 27, 1958. This quotation, lacking the final sentence, was used by Adlai E. Stevenson in 1963 on his Christmas card.
  • My position as regards the monied interests can be put in a few words. In every civilized society property rights must be carefully safeguarded; ordinarily and in the great majority of cases, human rights and property rights are fundamentally and in the long run, identical; but when it clearly appears that there is a real conflict between them, human rights must have the upper hand; for property belongs to man and not man to property.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, address at the Sorbonne, Paris, France (April 23, 1910); in "Citizenship in a Republic", The Strenuous Life (vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., 1926), chapter 21, p. 515–16
  • I find our modern emphasis on 'rights' somewhat overdone and misleading … It makes people forget that the other and more important side of rights is duty. And indeed the great historic codes of our human advance emphasised duties and not rights … The Ten Commandments in the Old Testament and … the Sermon on the Mount … all are silent on rights, all lay stress on duties.
  • Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masqurades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.
    • Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear, Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (July 1991)
  • For Catholics, a prohibition on abortion would not be a gratuitous addition to the UN’s Declaration, but instead a recognition of the principles that supported the entire human rights tradition. Human rights, Catholics believed, were not the product of modern secular values, but were instead derived from the natural law—an unwritten code which, in accordance with the view of the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, could be discovered through reasoned reflection on the purposes for which God had created human beings. Pope Pius XI’s papal encyclicals of the early 1930s had defended both the “sacred rights of the workers that flow from their dignity as men and as Christians” and the “sacred” life of the unborn as inviolable principles derived from the “law of nature”. One of the most influential Catholic proponents of international human rights in the mid-twentieth century—and a contributor to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights—was a natural-law philosopher, Jacques Maritain, who grounded his ethical principles in the thought of Aquinas. Though proponents of abortion law reform often appealed to the principles of New Deal liberalism in arguing that the legalization of therapeutic abortion would save women’s lives and alleviate poverty, Catholic opponents of abortion legalization believed that they were the true guardians of liberal values and the human rights tradition, because their arguments against abortion were grounded in the claim that all people—born and unborn—had the right to life. Without protection for that fundamental right, they believed, no one’s rights would be secure and the “law of the jungle will prevail”.
  • Although the UN had ignored Catholic pleas to include the unborn in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it did include them in its Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959), which asserted that the child “needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”. Catholics were thus able to ground their legal arguments against abortion in a UN statement that they believed offered firm proof that the unborn child had internationally recognized, inalienable human rights. When Fr. James McHugh, director of the US Catholic Conference’s Family Life Bureau, mobilized American bishops in a nationwide campaign against abortion legalization in 1968, he encouraged them to cite the UN declaration as evidence that their campaign was a human rights cause that had the imprimatur of the United Nations behind it.
  • In her classic analysis of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt traced its roots to the nationalization of human rights. Implied in the working system of nation-states from the very outset, she argues, was "that only nationals could be citizens, only people of the same national origin could enjoy the full protection of legal institutions, that persons of different nationality needed some law of exception until or unless they were completely assimilated and divorced from their origins." However, since the emergence of nation-states coincided historically with the development of constitutional government, the inherent dangers of linking rights with nationality remained hidden from view until World War I and its consequences "sufficiently shattered the facade of Europe's political system to lay bare its hiddenframe. Out of this "two victim groups emerged whose sufferings were different from those of all others in the era between the wars," the national minorities in the "successor States" and the Stateless. It was precisely the experience of these sufferings that provided the impetus to reverse the previous historical trend in the wake of World War II by developing a doctrine of "human rights," which was successfully operationalized by way of a multitude of legal instruments at the national and international levels. More recently, however, what began as a mere internationalization of human rights, whereby States undertake to respect the rights of individuals within their jurisdiction as a condition for membership in the international community, has evolved further into a globalization of these rights, in the sense that they are seen to arise in the membership of all individuals in the human species. This amounts to a rudimentary form of citizenship in a Kantian cosmopolitan polity in the making, a notion that entails the concomitant imposition of significant limits on State sovereignty.

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