- October 11, 2012
- Posted by: essay
- Category: Term paper writing
The emergence of the concept of human rights was closely related to the concept of the natural law which was developed by leading philosophers, who attempted to develop a new philosophy and socio-political system, which could eliminate the injustice existing in the society and provide all people with natural rights. The first practical manifestation of the concept of natural rights could be found in the English Bill of Rights and the American Bill of Rights, which declare the basic rights of people and create the legal precedent for the official protection of human rights and guarantee from the part of the authorities to protect these rights. These early manifestations of civil rights legislation eventually led to the emergence of the global concept of human rights which resulted in the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has become the fundamental international document that defines basic human rights and liberties which are supposed to be observed worldwide, at least, within UN member-states. In such a way, through the English Bill of Rights, the American Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is possible to trace the evolution of human rights legislation from the early legal documents implemented on the local level to the international legal norms, which influence consistently policies of the overwhelming majority of states worldwide.
In fact, the English Bill of Rights mainly focuses on the regulation of legal norms of succession of English crown, but it was an important legal document which actually defined rights to succession and regulated the relationship in the political life of England. In such a way, the English Bill of Rights became an important legal document which defined basic rights to succession. Even though, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 failed to grant English people with large rights and liberties, it was still the official documented which regulated the succession to English thrown and implied the consent of people in certain cases of succession. Consequently, the English Bill of Rights involved people into the participation in the political life of the country, but this participation was extremely limited and, in actuality, people had a little impact on the authorities. For instance, the English Bill of Rights the right of people to petition to the monarch. This means that the English Bill of Rights formally provided people with an opportunity to communicate with the monarch and send their petitions to the King or Queen of England. On the other hand, it is obvious that the English Bill of Rights had very limited liberties and rights ordinary people could exercises to protect themselves from the oppression from the part of the ruling elite, while petitions of people did not oblige the monarch to take the decision people asked for. Nevertheless, in spite of its purely formal nature, the English Bill of Rights laid the foundation to the legal practice of introduction of legal acts and norms which limited the authority and power of the monarch and granted power to people.
In this respect, the American Bill of Rights of 1789 was consistently more progressive in regard to civil rights and liberties. To put it more precisely, the American Bill of Rights introduced amendments to the US Constitution to ensure the protection of basic human rights and liberties along with the limitation of the impact of the state on the life of people, their rights and liberties. For instance, the American Bill of Rights prohibited the interference of the state in the religious life of people and insured the freedom of speech, which is now one of the fundamental rights, namely the First Amendment reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
At the same time, the American Bill of Rights protected privacy of people and prohibited unauthorized and illegal search and seizure in terms of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In such a way, the American Bill of Rights was primarily concerned with rights and liberties of American citizens, while the role of states was minimized. Therefore, it is possible to speak about the shift from the dominant role of the state to the people sovereignty and the concentration of power in hands of citizens, while the role of state agencies was to administer the country and protect human rights and liberties.
In such a context, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 became the fundamental document aiming at the protection of human rights and ensuring that human rights and liberties are primary concerns of the international community. The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads as follows:
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction
In such a way, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the international document which defines human rights and liberties which are standard for the world community. Any deviations from these standards imply that human rights and liberties are violated and the state violating human rights and liberties cannot be viewed as democratic.
Remarkably, in spite of significant difference between the three documents mentioned above, they all admit that people have some basic rights which were recognized even in the English Bill of Rights. One of such common rights is the right which may be defined as sovereignty of people, which implies that the state is liable to the control by people. The English Bill of Rights granted people with the right to petition to the monarch, which was the early manifestation of the people sovereignty right, while the American Bill of Human Rights admits that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”¯, that grants people with the power to take decisions that influence their life independently from the state. Similarly, Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads as follows: “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”¯ Hence, it is obvious that all of the three aforementioned documents ensure the right of people to participate in the government of their country. At the same time, it is also possible to trace some elements of the concept of the freedom of speech in the English Bill of Rights, since the petition of people to the monarch may be viewed as a form of the freedom of speech, while the American Bill of Rights (Amendment 1) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) define freedom of speech as one of the fundamental rights of people.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the evolution of human rights was characterized by a steady enlargement of human rights and liberties. At first, human rights and liberties were quite restricted and the role of people was insignificant.
For instance, the English Bill of Rights provided people with a very limited involvement in the political life of their country. Gradually, people gained more and more rights and liberties that can be traced through the comparison of the English and American Bills of Rights, while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly defines the major human rights, including the right to life, health care services, freedom of speech, religious beliefs, etc.