Human rights Information

Human rights are "basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled." Proponents of the concept usually assert that all humans are endowed with certain entitlements merely by reason of being human. Human rights are thus conceived in a universalist and egalitarian fashion. Such entitlements can exist as shared norms of actual human moralities, as justified moral norms or natural rights supported by strong reasons, or as legal rights either at a national level or within international law. However, there is no consensus as to precise nature of what in particular should or should not be regarded as a human right in any of the preceding senses, and the abstract concept of human rights has been a subject of intense philosophical debate and criticism.

The modern conception of human rights developed in the aftermath of the Second World War, in part as a response to the Holocaust, culminating in the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. However, while the phrase "human rights" is relatively modern the intellectual foundations of the modern concept can be traced through the history of philosophy and the concepts of natural law rights and liberties as far back as the city states of Classical Greece and the development of Roman Law. The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the enlightenment concept of natural rights developed by figures such as John Locke and Immanuel Kant and through the political realm in the in the United States Bill of Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Although ideas of rights and liberty have existed for much of human history, it is unclear how much such liberties can be described as "human rights" in the modern sense. The concept of rights certainly existed in pre-modern cultures; ancient philosophers such as Aristotle wrote extensively on the rights of citizens to property and participation in public affairs. However, neither the Greeks nor the Romans had any concept of universal human rights; slavery, for instance, was justified both in ancient and modern times as a natural condition. Medieval charters of liberty such as the English Magna Carta were not charters of human rights, let alone general charters of rights. They instead constituted a form of limited political and legal agreement to address specific political circumstances, in the case of Magna Carta later being mythologised in the course of early modern debates about rights.

Wikipedia, Human rights, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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