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
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
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
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: