Human Rights, as a concept, is as old as human history. It is a matter of understanding that: the first man got the chance of living that’s why today’s world population is 7.674 billion, right of worship sustained that’s why today’s number of world religion is 4,300, and freedom of speech and expression survived that’s why there are 7000 languages in the world. However, human rights as a concept is as old as human beings are, but its codification started later on in different stages of history. The evolution of these human rights can be traced out through these documents. Before grasping those human right’s stepping stone, it is significant to know the meaning of human rights.
What are the Human Rights?
Keeping it simple as a term, Human rights is the combination of two words; human and rights. Certain rights to which individuals are entitled by virtue of their humanity. It is pertinent to mention that human is who is a member of the homo sapiens species – a man, a woman, a child or a person. Human rights are the basis of all other freedoms. These are universal, equal for all and inalienable. In short, these are the rights to which humans are entitled to being human. Human rights are embedded in our political consciousness.
The Cyrus Cylinder
The Cyrus Cylinder is considered the oldest written document on Human Rights. That was engraved on a cylinder of backed-clay back in 539 B.C. The year when Cyrus the Great, the ancient Persian empire’s first king, conquered Babylon. After the victory, he gave a new direction to human rights.
Cyrus The Great
He set the slaves free and declared the freedom for all to choose their religion. He also announced racial equality. From here, the idea of human rights travelled to Rome, India, and Greece. Eventually, these got the shape of natural laws. The charter has been translated into all languages of United Nations Organizations.
Magna Carta, 1215
Magna Carta (the Great Charter) was passed by King John on 15th June, 1215. King John signed this document under 5the pressure of rebellious barons. It is said that this document laid the foundation of modern democracies and is considered as the cornerstone in the formation of individual rights in the Anglo-American Jurisprudence. According to this, the rule of law was established. It was decided that no one can override the rights of people, even the king.
Petition of Rights ,1628
Petition of Rights is an English constitutional document that was passed on 7th June 1628. It is of equal value to Magna Carta. It was about an individual’s protection against the state. It was presented to the King Charles and was based on four fundamentals: no tax will be imposed without parliament’s approval, no imprisonment without due process of law, no martial law can be declared during peace and there will no military posting on the citizens.
John Locke (1632-1704)
The origins of human rights are also found in the works of John Locke. Locke propounded, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, that there are certain rights that belong to humanity. He gave them the name of natural rights. Locke’s idea of rights was negative, such as defiance of political absolutism and freedom from arbitrary authority and interference of the state. The legitimacy of government then depends on upholding these rights.
British Bill of Rights 1689
This bill was signed and promulgated by the co-rulers in British history, William III and Marry II. Through ensuring few fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees, this bill established parliament supremacy over monarchy.
US Declaration of Independence 1776
It is pertinent to mention that it was not just a coincidence that the U.S. declaration of independence appeared in human rights history after the multiple fundamental rights developments in Britain. Changes in the systems of rulers make their way into the subjugated ones, so is the case of the USA. Britishers ruled over America from 1607 to 1783. Finally, thirteen North American British Colonies announced their separation from British rule in this declaration on July 4, 1776.
French Revolution 1789
Revolutions of the world have proved the notion that liberty is an ideal that is worth fighting for and dying for, So is the case of the French Revolution 1789. Through revolution, it was asserted that power inherits in the will of people. Behind the aim and slogan of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’, the people of France reshaped their social and political destiny. It reviewed the nature of the relationship between the rulers and the ruled. Moreover, this revolution gave the fruit in the shape of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizens (1789).
At last passing through the trajectory of Bill of Rights 1789 in America, First Geneva convention 1864, failure of League of Nation 1919 and miseries of WWII (Sep 1,1939-Sep 2,1945), human history saw the dawn of the United Nation Organization on 24 October 1945.
History bears witness that the absence of war does not amount to peace. Peace has wider scope and meaning; that is why, the preamble of the United Nations Organization added the aim of reaffirmation in fundamental human rights besides the aim of saving successive generations from the scourge of war.
On December 10, United Nations Organization accepted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although it is not binding in nature, it has almost gained popularity equivalent to customary International law. It has thirty basic human rights and freedoms, which are adopted by a majority of the states in their constitutions, including Pakistan. The preamble of UDHR affirms that Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in cruel acts. These have awakened the conscience of humankind; moreover, these have also outraged the need to create a world in which humanity will enjoy the freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear, slavery, and want. These are the highest aspiration of the common people. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
To conclude, besides all developments in the past and ongoing law-making on human rights, mankind could not reach the zenith of human dignity. Human suffering is still continued in different forms. These documents are the stepping stones only. Many loopholes need to be filled, and a lot of work needs to be done to make the earth a more equitable and just place for successive generations.
About Miss Bakhtawar Zulfiqar
Miss Bakhtawar Zulfiqar has been guiding law and competitive students for 5 years and has an adept command at revenue matters, General Knowledge and the Constitutional history of Pakistan.
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