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PeopleSpot > Human Rights

Human Rights

Human beings have struggled to protect their basic rights throughout history. The fight against political tyranny led to the creation of such historic documents as the Bill of Rights (1791) and the Declaration of Independence (1776), which contended that humans possess unalienable rights.

Valiant efforts to preserve the dignity of human beings occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, which saw the abolition of slavery, the formation of trade unions and the suffrage movement. The end of World War II, during which millions of people were slaughtered, instigated human rights awareness on a global level.

When the United Nations formed, members vowed to achieve freedoms for everyone, regardless of race, sex, language or religion. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) outlines the UN's commitment to this cause. Article I reads, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Despite international awareness, crimes against humanity continue to make headlines. Rampant human rights abuses occurred during the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Kosovo. Monitor the Latest News on Human Rights Watch to stay abreast of current violations.

Many private groups are involved in human rights advocacy. One of the most well known is Amnesty International. Founded in 1961, Amnesty International is not affiliated with a government or religion. It has approximately a million members and supporters in 162 countries and territories.




The organization's mission is to free "people detained anywhere for their beliefs or because of their ethnic origin, sex, colour, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth or other status." Amnesty International works to ensure fair and speedy trials for political prisoners; abolish the death penalty and mistreatment of prisoners; end political murders and "disappearances"; and stand up to human rights abuses by opposition groups.

Amnesty International members write to countries that condone human rights abuses to urge them to stop. The group also stages demonstrations and fundraising concerts. The organization releases an Annual Report, that details human rights violations against men, women and children worldwide. The document contains regional summaries and details about efforts to stop abuses.

Another organization dedicated to protecting liberties is Human Rights Watch. The group investigates and exposes abusers, pledging to "stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime and to bring offenders to justice."

Human Rights Watch produces its own annual report that documents incidences of abuse around the world. Special sections of the report focus on corporations and human rights, academic freedom, child soldiers, and lesbian and gay rights.

To explore more human rights issues, visit the following sites:

  • Human Rights Internet
    Find a job working to protect human rights.

  • Universal Rights Network
    Read stories of people working to improve women's and children's rights.

  • International Federation of Human Rights
    Find human rights organizations around the world.

  • Human Rights Library
    Read international treaties about human liberties.




   --- C. Smith



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