Lesson Two: Human Rights

Meaning of Human Rights
Human rights are the inalienable rights of an individual guaranteed by the constitution. For example, it says that all people have the right to liberty, religious and political freedom, education and economic well-being.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR)
After the Second World War (WW II), the United Nations adopted a Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR) on 10th December, 1948. This declaration proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal and it establishes basic rights for all people and also norms of behaviour for all governments of member nations. This makes the declaration binding on all governments.

The Seven Core Freedoms of the UNDHR
The seven core freedoms of the UNDHR are designed to enable everyone to live a decent, secure and peaceful life in all countries of the world. These freedoms are to be enjoyed irrespective of gender, religion, race or political belief. They are:

1. Freedom from Discrimination: Nobody must be discriminated against on account of religion, race, gender or health condition. For example, no agency of government or private employer must refuse to give employment to anyone because he/she is HIV positive or because he/she belongs to a particular religion.

2. Freedom from Fear: Citizens have the right to peaceful living without fear of attack, molestation or threat to their well-being.

3. Freedom of Movement: Citizens must be free to move about or settle in any part of the country without disturbance.

4. Freedom of Religion: People are free to practise any religion of their choice and according to their conscience without coercion.

5. Freedom of Expression: People are free to express their opinion on any matter without being punished for it. However, the law of libel forbids a person from slandering or maligning another person.

6. Freedom from Want or Deprivation: People are entitled to have the basic necessities of life like shelter, food, water and other human needs.

7. Freedom of Assembly and Association: People have the right to associate with other people or groups as they desire. They also have the right to assemble without harassment from agents of government or other individuals.

Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Governments in UNDHR .
In order to ensure the effectiveness of the UNDHR, individuals, groups and governments have their roles to play. Let us briefly look at different roles of each of these.

Citizens must make it their duty to do the following:

1. They must know their rights as enshrined in the constitution.
2. They must express or report any infringement of their rights or the rights of others to the relevant authorities.
3. They must participate in all activities that will encourage peace in their community or nation.

Civil rights groups abound all over the world and make sure that governments comply with the UNDHR.

They do this by:

1. Advocating through the print and electronic media. They also create public awareness by using all other modem information platforms available.

2. Groups like the Legal Aid Council offer free legal services to people who cannot afford the services of lawyers to solicit for them.

3. Civil society groups also engage governments through peaceful processions to make them comply with the UNDHR. .

4. They also organise workshops and seminars to create human rights awareness among the citizens.

The government is expected to implement the UNDHR by:

1. Enacting laws that will improve the quality of lives of the people.
2. Establishing agencies to curb the violation of human rights.

Factors that Lead to Limitation of Human Rights
As much as these rights are guaranteed in the constitution, there are occasions when some rights can be curtailed or denied lo a people or person or group of people. The following situations can lead to the limitation of rights:

1. When a Person is Convicted in the Law Court: When a person is convicted by a court of law, he loses his right to freedom of movement as well as some other rights. This is because a person who is in prison cannot go about as he was doing before conviction.

2. During Wars: When war breaks out, the people are not free to move about because of inadequate security.

3. State of Emergency: When there is an emergency, some aspects of democratic rights are suspended. For example, when the President of Nigeria declared a state of emergency in Ekiti State in 2006, the governor was sacked and an administrator was appointed to replace the elected governor. In this situation, the people could not enjoy all the privileges of a democratic government.

4. Military Rule: During military rule, some rights like freedom of expression (press freedom) and freedom of assembly, and sometimes freedom of movement are curtailed or limited. For example, journalists have been jailed for expressing their opinions in this country under military rule.

5. Natural Disasters: Where there is a natural disaster, people’s rights are limited in order to save lives. A recent flood disaster in Benue made the government demolish some houses which were built on the waterways. The people so affected lost their right to live where they wanted.

What Happens During Emergency Periods
Emergency periods are unusual periods when some or all aspects of the constitution are suspended. The following can happen during emergency periods:

1. Limitation of Movement: Movements are limited or restricted by the authorities, and this decision cannot be challenged in law courts.

2. Suspension of Freedom of Assembly: During emergency periods, people’s right to assembly is curtailed. During the military era, for instance, people were sent to jail for unlawful assembly. However, in a democratic government, there is no such thing as an unlawful assembly.

3. Loss of Freedom of Expression: This is a situation in which people are denied the right to free expression. The media are always the greatest victims because the military government or an unelected government can shutdown newspaper houses, as well as radio and television stations. Journalists are also sent to jail for merely expressing their opinions.

4. Suspension of the Legislature: The legislative arm of government is usually the first victim of an emergency rule. Because of the peculiarity of this situation, lawmakers are sacked and authoritarian rule is established.

5. Fettered Judiciary: The judges are also affected because they are forced to give judgement that suits the authority during emergency rule.

6. Slowdown of Development: Progress and development are slowed down because that the factors which encourage development in a country have been suspended.

End of Lessons for SS1 Civic Education 2nd Term

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