1) Introduction

          The term Human Rights denotes all those rights which are inherent in their nature and without which we cannot live as human beings.  Human Rights being eternal part of the nature of nature of human beings. The human rights are classified into three categories which include Human Rights incorporated in the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights 1966 and Collective Rights 1966. The conception of Human Rights is not very modern, though it appears to be so. It has developed through different stages in human history. In the earliest stages,  the concept and benefits of Human Rights remained primarily confined to the higher classes of people.  Later,  the bill of rights, 1689  declared certain freedom available to all citizens. In its declaration of independence, 1776 the United States of America has declared certain unalienable rights as human rights.  after the French Revolution, it was declared that " all men are born free, they remain free and have equal rights".     The concept of human right is a part of International Law. In fact, the concept of human right has acquired an International status because it has crossed all geographical boundaries and it has been recognized throughout the world today.


2) Meaning of Human Rights

           The Term "Human Rights" denotes all those rights which are inherent in their nature and without which we cannot live as human beings. The Human Rights being eternal part of the nature of human beings are essential for the development of individual personality and human qualities, the intelligence, talent and consciences and to enable them to satisfy the spiritual and other higher demands.

            Human Rights are derived from the principle of Natural Law. They are neither derived from the social order nor conferred upon the individual by the society.

            Human rights are the rights that a human being has in virtue of whatever characteristics he has that are both specifically and universally human.


See... Human Rights of Prisoners | Human Rights


3) Origin and Development of Human Rights:

       The conception of Human Rights is not very modern, though it appears to be so.

Historical background -

       The origin and development of Human Rights has been on two bases, the first is the National and the second is International.
       On the National base, the conception of human rights got its breed to originate and develop in the form of religion in different countries and in different times. The conception may be felt to originate in the ideas of Mercy, Kindness and Pity on human beings in various scriptures.
        The origin of human rights can be traced back to the times of Ancient Greece. In Antigone, A Greek play, human rights are recognized as the natural rights of man.
        Antigone's Brother, while he was rebelling against the king, was killed and his burial was prohibited by the King. Antigone buried her brother in defiance of the king's prohibitory order.  She was arrested. Her defense was that she had acted in accordance with "Immutable unwritten laws of heaven"  which, even the king, had no authority to break. According to some Scholars, the concept of Human Rights lies in the Ideology of Natural law. 
      Stoic Philosophy developed the "Natural Law Theory" and explained the nature of Human Rights First.
        According to Stoic Philosophy,  Human Rights were such a rights which every human being possesses by virtue of being a Human. But,  it is said that even before the formulation of natural law theory, the Greek City States original enjoy the same basic rights like-

          (i)  the freedom of speech (Isogoria)

         (ii)  the right to equality before the law (Isonomia)  and

         (iii)  the right to equal respect for all (Isotimia)


The theory of natural law was formulated after The breakdown of the Greek city States.

         Stoic philosophers claim that the principles of Natural Law were universal in their application. The principles of natural over Universal throughout the world.

         Cecero (106-43 BC)  also believe that the Natural Law theory for the universal acceptation, and unchanging and everlasting.


See... Role of legal profession in enforcement of human rights | Human Rights


(a) The Middle Ages -

           During the era,  notable thinkers like Albert (1079-1142) and Thomas (1224-1274) developed the Theory of Natural Law as a higher Principle of Law to be derived from reason. But, neither of the two make the human personality as the main focus of law and social life.  Thomas Aquinas believed in and favored the existence of slavery.  More emphasis was laid on the development of the principle of sovereignty and not on the development of the theory of human rights.

            Swain J.E notes "this approach later one become one of the greatest obstacles to the law relating to the protection of human rights"

            During the Renaissance there began a steady decline of feudalism. New beliefs replaced the old beliefs.  because of the  Renaissance movement, there arose a concept of individual freedom out of the natural law.   Ideas like Liberty, equality right to private property were slowly begin accepted.  This change was a consequence of the ideology of Aquinas (1224-1274), Hugo and Grotius and others including the proclamation of Magna Carta (1215). The Magna Carta (1215) is often considered to be the source of Human Rights. However, it is not really so. The Magna Carta was only a deed of compromise upon the allotment of powers between King John and his subjects. The British Parliament had fought against the King and out of this struggle had emerged the bill of rights. In the Bill of rights there is no specific mention of Human Rights though the bill of rights contains certain matters which relate to human rights. The American Declaration of Independence, 1776 has clearly declared that all human beings are equal.

         At the end of the 18th century and in the beginning of 19th-century certain laws,  eliminating the institution of slavery were passed.  The League and Nations has put a ban on slavery in 1926.The Red Cross was established in 1863 for the protection of human rights

        In the charter of the league of nations are there was no provision for human rights. the Charter had directed its member States to adopt a humanitarian approach in all matters relating to women and children.


See... Human Rights of Women In India


(b) After the Frist War - 

       After the First World War was over, some attempts were made to promote and universalizes Human Rights. The Treaty of Versailles was entered into but it did not have any impact.  This Treaty was entered into because it was felt that the rights of individuals must be protected against violation by one's own country. A private organization, Institute of International Law, took steps to formulate the provisions of Human Rights.


(c) After Second World War - 

              During the Second World War the world had seen the horror of War and unleashing of nuclear weapons made future wars seem much more dangerous and dreadful. Development to become an important Agenda of the post Second World War International community.

       At the San Francisco conference held on 25th  26th June 1945, the charter of the United Nations was finalized.  In this charter, there were incorporated numerous provision relating to the protection and promotion of Human Rights.

        The Universal Declaration of Human rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th December 1948. This paved the way for the preparation of other documents on human rights like International Covenant on civil and political rights,1966, and the International Covenant on economic social and cultural rights 1966.


4) See also 


Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Constitution of India

Human Rights of Children and International Instruments to Protect their Rights


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