Civil and political rights

Source: International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which supports, monitors and protects human rights defenders throughout the year, is publishing its 2010 Annual Report. The report focuses on the year-round fight for human rights throughout the world. [see more]
Human rights as we know them today are based on the principles of equality, liberty and solidarity which emerged during the French Revolution and were embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While all human rights must be interpreted taking into account all three of these guiding principles, due to historical reasons, each principle has in turn generated a different set of rights. Those based on the principle of liberty, also called "first generation rights" -whose earliest advocates date back to the 16th century-, include the right to life and physical integrity, to freedom of thought and expression, to take part in the government of one's own country, the right not to be arrested without legal grounds, the right to an impartial trial, and to own property, among others. This set of rights comprises what are known as "civil and political rights". "Second generation" rights refer to economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to employment and just remuneration for work, the right to adequate housing, health, education and culture. The struggle for these rights was staged primarily throughout the last few centuries, with labour movements being among the first to champion them, once it became clear that civil and political rights cannot be exercised unless individuals are guaranteed access to a minimum set of vital resources. This type of demands paved the way for a new way of thinking, which contends that the role of the State cannot be limited to maintaining the public peace and enforcing contracts, but rather that it must act affirmatively towards ensuring that first generation rights become a reality for all and not just a privilege for some. In this sense, second generation rights are said to be a set of demands for equality.

So called "third generation rights" indicate that every person should be born and live in an environment that enables the effective exercise of all their rights. The contamination of natural resources, together with all manifestations of violence, including armed conflicts, jeopardize such possibility of enjoyment. These rights are yet to be embodied in an international declaration, but over the last few years there has been a growing awareness that promoting these rights is key to attaining a more equitable society. This calls for strong international commitment and solidarity.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved in 1948 by the United Nations, proclaims the universality and indivisibility of human rights as two essential conditions for their effective implementation. This means that each right applies to all human beings and that every acknowledged human right has a collective dimension and that together they form a whole which cannot be separated without altering its original purpose. The international political situation of the Cold War era, however, led many countries in the West to promote civil rights, while less developed and Eastern countries focused on securing access to economic and social rights. In 1966, with the adoption of the "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" (ICCPR), on the one hand, and the "International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" (ICESCR), on the other, the international community underscored the division prevalent at the time in the system of human rights. Even now, while there are formal mechanisms for the promotion of civil and political rights, such as the Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, which gives the Human Rights Committee competence to receive and consider reports of alleged violations of any of the rights set forth in the covenant, a similar protocol for economic, social and cultural rights is yet to be adopted.

The world's leading international human rights organizations, formed in the 1960s, focused on the protection of civil and political rights, no doubt contributing significantly to the development of such rights. Undoubtedly, the realization of all human rights cannot be attained without first guaranteeing such basic rights as the right to life and liberty. The actions of many people working to protect human rights worldwide has made it difficult for governments to violate them and has been instrumental in preventing numerous crimes committed by authoritarian regimes from going unpunished. There are still many people today who are victims of this type of abuses and it is necessary to strengthen actions to guarantee the protection of the rights of all human beings, as has been proclaimed in a long list of international treaties. The historical marginalization of economic, social and cultural rights, however, has had an effect on the present and has demonstrated that securing civil and political rights is vital but not enough. Despite the elaborate international legal system designed to satisfy the basic needs of individuals, whole communities continue to be victimized by national and international policies that condemn them to increasing poverty and deny them their rights. Without specific instruments that will allow these policies to be considered as violations of internationally acknowledged rights, social movements will lack effective tools to deal with such situations.

In the last few years, with the establishment of a new political scenario, the international community has become aware of this reality, and the original conception of human rights as an indivisible whole is being taken up again. United Nations' agencies, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), have declared their commitment to the indivisibility of human rights and to not establishing a hierarchy of rights. That millions of people may have the real possibility of fully enjoying their rights will depend to a great extent on the success of this conception.
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Monday, September 13 2010
Steadfast in protest
(Source: International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH))
Wednesday, May 12 2010
Mexico’s state of impunity

International instruments

The rights of non-citizens (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHCHR)

Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR)

Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Status of ratifications to the principal international human rights treaties

Regional instruments

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR)

Council of Europe's Directorate General of Human Rights (DG II)

International tribunals

International Criminal Court (ICC) (Choike)

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR/CEDH)

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

Human rights organizations

Southern African Human Rights NGO Network (SAHRiNGON)

Derechos Human Rights

Amnesty International (AI)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)


Human rights organizations & resources (Human Rights Web)

Legal aspects worldwide

Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

Lawyers for Human Rights

The International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS)

Death penalty

Death penalty in 2008 (Amnesty International)

Amnesty International - Death penalty

Secrecy surrounds death penalty (Amnesty International)

Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty (Office of International Law - Organization of American States (OAS))

Why abolish the death penalty? (Amnesty International)

World Day Against the Death Penalty, 10 October 2006 : The death penalty is a failure of justice (International Federation for Human Rights)

The death penalty worldwide: developments in 2004 (Amnesty International)

Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - Abolition of the death penalty

World coalition against the death penalty

Death penalty (Derechos/Equipo Nizkor)

Forced disappearance

Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons

Missing persons: a hidden tragedy (International Committee of the Red Cross)

Convention against enforced disappearances adopted at UN

Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (UNHCHR)

Project Disappeared

Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (FEDEFAM)

Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

Civil society reports

Colombia: targeting civilians in Colombia's internal armed conflict (Amnesty International)

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel: Annual Report 2006/7 (The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI))

Treaty bodies

Strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change

Treaty bodies (Amnesty International)

Human Rights Commitee (HRC)

Reform of the UN Human Rights Treaty System (

Treaty body reform - NGO non-paper (International movement against all forms of discrimination and racism (IMADR))

World Conference on Human Rights

Bangkok Statement on Vienna+10

World Conference on Human Rights

Vienna+5: Five-year review of the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Research and information resources

Compendium of international legal instruments and other commitments concerning core civil society rights (CIVICUS)

Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International (HURIDOCS)

Inter-American Institute of Human Rights

Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa

Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HuRISA)

Human rights research and education centre, University of Ottawa

Human Rights Internet (HRI)

University of Minnesota Human Rights Library

Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School

Project Diana: An Online Human Rights Archive

Human rights defenders

Steadfast in protest (International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH))

Mexico’s state of impunity

Human Rights Watch Report 2010: Abusers target human rights messengers (Human Rights Watch)

Defending the defenders: ethical commitment for Human Rights (Civicus)

Steadfast in protest: Annual Report 2007 of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (International Federation of Human Rights)

Front Line - International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

The 2006 Annual Report of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (International Federation for Human Rights)

Human rights defenders on the front line (International Federation for Human Rights)

Colombia: the voice of the survivours (Choike)

Zimbabwe: Bill threatens human rights NGOs (Conecta Sur)

Human rights defenders in a «security first» environment (FIDH/OMCT)

Human rights education

Asian Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC)

People's Movement for Human Rights Education

UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004)

Human Rights Education Resource Centre (HREA)

Amnesty International Education Program

Torture and other cruel or degrading treatments

Torture in international law: a guide to jurisprudence (Association for the Prevention of Torture - Center for Justice and International Law)

Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (Office of International Law - Organization of American States (OAS))

Combating torture: a manual for action (Amnesty International)

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture: a manual for prevention (APT)

Human Rights Watch on torture (HRW)

Committe against Torture

European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)

World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)

International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)

Stop Torture!

Women's civil and political rights

Decentralization, local power and women's rights (International Development Research Centre - IDRC)

The salience of citizenship and nationality (AWID)

Gender and political participation (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA))

The Global Women in Politics Program (GWIP)

Civil rights of women

Women's Human Rights Net (WHRnet)

Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

Women's Access and Leadership Initiative (International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES))

Human Rights Watch - Women's Rights Division

Women's Human Rights (Amnesty International)

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