What are Human Rights?

What are Human Rights?

Human rights are rights that we all have, simply because we are human beings. You can’t earn them nor can someone else give them to you. Human rights are rights that you have from the time you are born and throughout the rest of your life.

Human rights cannot be given away, sold or taken away from you, but not all rights are used in the same way. Some rights are absolute, such as the right not to be tortured or made a slave, and then, at times, some rights can be “limited”. These differences are there because everyone has rights and one person’s rights may clash with another person’s right or may even clash with the rights of a whole community.

Rights and Responsibilities

Because everyone has human rights, we have to respect each other’s rights. The means we should avoid violating another person’s rights. It is also important to remembers that human rights do not replace our laws but are laws are used to protect our rights.

The Constitution of St Helena Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

The Constitution is the “top” law in St Helena- it tells us how the government is made up and how the island must be run. No other St Helenian law can go against the Constitution. The Constitution is a basic guide that everyone should follow.

In the Constitution of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha 2009, there is a chapter setting out the important human rights of St Helena (whereas others are found in our laws). Theses human rights are in the Constitution to make sure that they cannot be changed or taken away.

What does it mean to have my rights in the “top” law?

This means that anyone can use the law to stop the government, another person or a private company from abusing their rights. The Constitution is there to protect a person’s rights from being interfered with or even taken away.

For example: The right to equality means no one can discriminate against you because you are a different colour, or a woman or because you are older than others. If you apply for a job and are told that you are the wrong colour, this will not be allowed. The right to equality mean that the government or anyone in private business cannot discriminate like this.

Our Constitution’s fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual

There are 16 rights in the Constitution. Each one is called a Clause. They are all taken from the European Convention on Human Rights.

  • The right to life (Clause 6)
  • The right to live without fear or inhuman treatment (Clause 7)
  • The right to live free from slavery and forced labour (Clause 8)
  • The right to personal liberty (Clause 9)
  • The right to have a fair trial (Clause 10)
  • The right of prisoners to human treatment (Clause 11)
  • The right to have freedom of movement (Clause 12)
  • The right to private and family life and for privacy of home and other property (Clause 13)
  • The right to marry or not to marry (Clause 14)
  • The right to freedom of conscience (Clause 15)
  • The right to education (Clause 16)
  • The right to freedom of Expression (Clause 17)
  • The right to freedom of assembly and association (Clause 18)
  • The right to freedom from deprivation of property (Clause 19)
  • The right to protection from arbitrary deprivation of St Helenian status or British citizenship (Clause 20)
  • The right to protection from discrimination (Clause 21)

Some of your rights can be limited… Rights can be Absolute, Limited or Qualified

Sometimes for the good of others, the country, or even yourself, your rights may need to be suspended or restricted. But remember certain rights can never be restricted or suspended.

Absolute rights in the Constitution

There are only two absolute rights in our constitution: the right to protection from torture or inhumane treatment (Clause 7) and the right to protection from slavery and forced labour (Clause 8).

When a right is absolute it means that no-one, not even the government, can interfere with or take away your rights. For example, no-one can torture you or treat you inhumanely or without dignity

It is all to so with being human and the mutual respect between people and when someone is arrested or convicted of a crime and imprisoned they still must be treated with humanity and dignity.

Limited rights in the Constitution

There are several rights which can be limited and some of these limitations are surprising! The right to personal liberty is limited- someone who is convicted of a crime may be put in prison and their right to liberty is taken away.

Qualified rights in the Constitution

You have the right to privacy but if the police suspect you of having been involved in a crime, then they can get a search warrant (from our courts) and come and search your home. If the police weren’t allowed to do this they would not be able to solve crimes. So sometimes the rights of the community are seen as more important than the rights of one person. In this case the right to privacy will be qualified.

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