Portal:Human rights

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Welcome to the Human Rights portal

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Human rights are commonly understood as "inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being". Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national and international law. The doctrine of human rights in international practice, within international law, global and regional institutions, in the policies of states and in the activities of non-governmental organizations, has been a cornerstone of public policy around the world. In The idea of human rights it says: "if the public discourse of peacetime global society can be said to have a common moral language, it is that of human rights". Despite this, the strong claims made by the doctrine of human rights continue to provoke considerable skepticism and debates about the content, nature and justifications of human rights to this day. Indeed, the question of what is meant by a "right" is itself controversial and the subject of continued philosophical debate.

Many of the basic ideas that animated the movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of the Shoah, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

In 1949, 10 governments — Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom — set up the Council of Europe. It paved the way for the introduction of the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1950, and the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights, to supervise states’ compliance with the convention.

The modern concept of human rights developed during the early Modern period, alongside the European secularization of Judeo-Christian ethics. The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval natural law tradition that became prominent during the Enlightenment with such philosophers as John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, and featured prominently in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Selected article

People's Republic of China

Human rights in China are considered problematic by most Western countries and human rights organizations. Multiple sources, including the U.S. State Department's annual People's Republic of China human rights reports, as well as studies from other groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented the PRC's abuses of human rights in violation of internationally recognized norms. Controversial human rights issues in China include policies such as capital punishment, the one-child policy, the social status of Tibetans, and lack of protections regarding freedom of press and religion.

Random picture

Olympic Flame London relay 2008.jpg
Credit: Flickr user zoonabar
The 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay was met with protests by human rights groups particularly on the issue of Tibet. The Chinese government complained at the politicization of a sporting event. However, track-suited Chinese security officials who accompanied the torch in London were called "thugs" by both the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and chairman of the London Olympic Committee Lord Coe, because of their behaviour.


Did you know...

... that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force on May 3, 2008?

... that Tom Kahn organized American unions' $300,000 aid to the Polish labor-union Solidarity in 1979–1981, despite Secretary of State Muskie's warnings that this aid might provoke a new Soviet invasion?

Random quote

Human rights in the sense of human solidarity has created a new universal and equal language going beyond racial, gender, ethnic or religious boundaries. That is why we consider it a doorway to dialogue for people of all socio-cultural groups and all ideologies.

Munir Said Thalib (1965–2004)

Selected biography

Tank Man, or the Unknown Rebel, is the nickname of an anonymous man who achieved widespread international recognition as a heroic figure when he was videotaped and photographed during the protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. Several photographs were taken of the man, who stood in front of a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks.

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