Human Rights

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Posted by bender 03/28/2009 @ 20:07

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News headlines
Obama and human rights - Los Angeles Times
Even as the US joins a UN panel on human rights, White House stands on torture photographs and military tribunals raise doubts. The Obama administration says it is committed to protecting human rights and supporting multilateral institutions,...
Ethiopia calls US human rights report "lies" - Reuters
By Barry Malone ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia rejected on Monday a US government human rights report published in February that accused security forces in the Horn of Africa nation of politically motivated killings. The US State Department 2008...
Obama's Choice - New York Times
The constitutional ideals put forth upon its shores in the late 18th century guided the way other societies organized themselves, from the Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen in France in 1789, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights...
Soldiers win protection of Human Rights Act - Independent
By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent Britain's armed forces were facing a crisis yesterday after a High Court ruling that soldiers should receive the full protection of the Human Rights Act even when they are on the battlefield....
'Faith, Race and Human Rights' draws big crowd in Redlands - Redlands Daily Facts
REDLANDS - It was standing room only Friday night at "Faith, Race and Human Rights," a unity forum held at the University of Redlands. Equality California, an organization that lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, has held 11 of...
EU seeks human rights abuse inquiry - Irish Times
EU FOREIGN ministers have called for an independent investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka during the recent conflict between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. They have also asked the Sri Lankan authorities to...
UN Rights Chief Calls for Aung San Suu Kyi's Immediate Release - Salem-News.Com
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and guarantees the right to fair trial and to freedom of opinion and expression, which, Ms. Suu Kyi has exercised peacefully and courageously over many years....
Human rights groups urge Jordan to scrap NGO law - Ynetnews
International human rights groups are urging Jordan to scrap proposed amendments to a law that would restrict activities of non-governmental organizations in the kingdom. The Human Rights Watch and Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network say the...
Human Rights Groups Blast Obama Guantanamo Decision - Voice of America
By Al Pessin President Obama's decision to continue using military commissions to try terrorism detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay has surprised and angered human rights activists. As a candidate Mr. Obama criticized the military trials,...
After Notre Dame: No 'abortion rights' only Human Rights - Catholic Online
The Right to Life is the foundation of every other human right. Only human persons can have rights because such rights are goods of the human person. CHESAPEAKE (Catholic Online) - I cannot listen to that phrase any longer, “abortion rights”,...

Human rights

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

Human rights refer to the "basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled." Examples of rights and freedoms which have come to be commonly thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.

The earliest sign of human rights has been found on the Cyrus Cylinder written during the reign of Cyrus the Great of Persia/Iran. The history of human rights covers thousands of years and draws upon religious, cultural, philosophical and legal developments throughout recorded history. Several ancient documents and later religions and philosophies included a variety of concepts that may be considered to be human rights. Notable among such documents are the Edicts of Ashoka issued by Ashoka the Great of India between 272-231 BC; and the Constitution of Medina of 622 AD, drafted by Muhammad to mark a formal agreement between all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib (later known as Medina), including Muslims, Jews and Pagans. The English Magna Carta of 1215 is particularly significant in the history of English law, and is hence significant in international law and constitutional law today.

Much of modern human rights law and the basis of most modern interpretations of human rights can be traced back to relatively recent history. The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery was the first public document of its kind that declared equal rights for all humans. The British Bill of Rights (or “An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown”) of 1689 made illegal a range of oppressive governmental actions in the United Kingdom. Two major revolutions occurred during the 18th century, in the United States (1776) and in France (1789), leading to the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen respectively, both of which established certain legal rights. Additionally, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 encoded a number of fundamental rights and freedoms into law.

Many groups and movements have managed to achieve profound social changes over the course of the 20th century in the name of human rights. In Western Europe and North America, labour unions brought about laws granting workers the right to strike, establishing minimum work conditions and forbidding or regulating child labour. The women's rights movement succeeded in gaining for many women the right to vote. National liberation movements in many countries succeeded in driving out colonial powers. One of the most influential was Quaid - Azam's movement to free his native India from British rule. Movements by long-oppressed racial and religious minorities succeeded in many parts of the world, among them the civil rights movement, and more recent diverse identity politics movements, on behalf of women and minorities in the United States.

The establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the 1864 Lieber Code and the first of the Geneva Conventions in 1864 laid the foundations of International humanitarian law, to be further developed following the two World Wars.

The World Wars, and the huge losses of life and gross abuses of human rights that took place during them were a driving force behind the development of modern human rights instruments. The League of Nations was established in 1919 at the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles following the end of World War I. The League's goals included disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation, diplomacy and improving global welfare. Enshrined in its Charter was a mandate to promote many of the rights which were later included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the 1945 Yalta Conference, the Allied Powers agreed to create a new body to supplant the League's role. This body was to be the United Nations. The United Nations has played an important role in international human rights law since its creation. Following the World Wars the United Nations and its members developed much of the discourse and the bodies of law which now make up international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The Geneva Conventions came into being between 1864 and 1949 as a result of efforts by Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The conventions safeguard the human rights of individuals involved in armed conflict, and build on the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions, the international community's first attempt to formalize the laws of war and war crimes in the nascent body of secular international law. The conventions were revised as a result of World War II and readopted by the international community in 1949.

The Geneva Conventions define what is today referred to as humanitarian law. The International Committee of the Red Cross is the controlling body of the Geneva conventions.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a non-binding declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, partly in response to the atrocities of World War II. Although the UDHR is a non-binding resolution, it is now considered to be a central component of international customary law which may be invoked under appropriate circumstances by national and other judiciaries. The UDHR urges member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights are part of the "foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." The declaration was the first international legal effort to limit the behaviour of states and press upon them duties to their citizens following the model of the rights-duty duality.

Some of the UDHR was researched and written by a committee of international experts on human rights, including representatives from all continents and all major religions, and drawing on consultation with leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi. The inclusion of both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights was predicated on the assumption that basic human rights are indivisible and that the different types of rights listed are inextricably linked. This principle was not then opposed by any member states (the declaration was adopted unanimously, with the abstention of the Eastern Bloc, Apartheid South Africa and Saudi Arabia), however this principle was later subject to significant challenges.

The drafters of the Covenants initially intended only one instrument. The original drafts included only political and civil rights, but economic and social rights were added early. Western States then fought for, and obtained, a division into two covenants. They insisted that economic and social right were essentially aspirations or plans, not rights, since their realization depended on availability of resources and on controversial economic theory and ideology. These, they said, were not appropriate subjects for binding obligations and should not be allowed to dilute the legal character of provisions honoring political-civil rights; states prepared to assume obligations to respect political-civil rights should not be mitments. There was wide agreement and clear recognition that the means required to enforce or induce compliance with socio-economic undertakings were different from the means required for civil-political rights. See Louis Henkin, Introduction, The International Bill of Rights 9-10 (1981).

Because of the divisions over which rights to include, and because some states declined to ratify any treaties including certain specific interpretations of human rights, and despite the Soviet bloc and a number of developing countries arguing strongly for the inclusion of all rights in a so-called Unity Resolution, the rights enshrined in the UDHR were split into two separate covenants, allowing states to adopt some rights and derogate others. Though this allowed the covenants to be created, one commentator has written that it denied the proposed principle that all rights are linked which was central to some interpretations of the UDHR.

Article 28: Social order · Article 29.1: Social responsibility  · Article 29.2: Limitations of human rights · Article 29.3: The supremacy of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Article 30: Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Human rights law is a system of laws, both domestic and international, designed to promote human rights.

In 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were adopted by the United Nations, between them making the rights contained in the UDHR binding on all states that have signed this treaty, creating human rights law.

The enforcement of international human rights law is the responsibility of the Nation State, and its the primary responsibility of the State to make human rights a reality. There is currently no international court that upholds human rights law (the International Criminal Court deals with crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide), although the Council of Europe is responsible for both the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights that acts as a court of last appeal for human rights issues in member states (see the section Europe below).

In practice, many human rights are very difficult to legally enforce due to the absence of consensus on the application of certain rights, the lack of relevant national legislation or of bodies empowered to take legal action to enforce them.

Universal jurisdiction is a controversial principle in international law whereby states claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside the boundaries of the prosecuting state, regardless of nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting country. The state backs its claim on the grounds that the crime committed is considered a crime against all, which any state is authorized to punish. The concept of universal jurisdiction is therefore closely linked to the idea that certain international norms are erga omnes, or owed to the entire world community, as well as the concept of jus cogens.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, created at the 2005 World Summit to replace the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has a mandate to investigate violations of human rights. The Human Rights Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and reports directly to it. It ranks below the Security Council, which is the final authority for the interpretation of the United Nations Charter. Forty-seven of the one hundred ninety-one member states sit on the council, elected by simple majority in a secret ballot of the United Nations General Assembly. Members serve a maximum of six years and may have their membership suspended for gross human rights abuses. The Council is based in Geneva, and meets three times a year; with additional meetings to respond to urgent situations.

Independent experts (rapporteurs) are retained by the Council to investigate alleged human rights abuses and to provide the Council with reports.

The Human Rights Council may request that the Security Council take action when human rights violations occur. This action may be direct actions, may involve sanctions, and the Security Council may also refer cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) even if the issue being referred is outside the normal jurisdiction of the ICC.

The Security Council hears reports from all organs of the United Nations, and can take action over any issue which it feels threatens peace and security, including human rights issues. It has at times been criticised for failing to take action to prevent human rights abuses, including the Darfur crisis, the Srebrenica massacre and the Rwandan Genocide.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court recognizes the Security Council the power to refer cases to the Court, where the Court could not otherwise exercise jurisdiction.

A modern interpretation of the original Declaration of Human Rights was made in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. The degree of unanimity over these conventions, in terms of how many and which countries have ratified them varies, as does the degree to which they are respected by various states. The UN has set up a number of treaty-based bodies to monitor and study human rights, under the leadership of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). The bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties. They are created by the treaty that they monitor.

Each treaty body receives secretariat support from the Treaties and Commission Branch of Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva except CEDAW, which is supported by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). CEDAW meets at United Nations headquarters in New York; the other treaty bodies generally meet at the United Nations Office in Geneva. The Human Rights Committee usually holds its March session in New York City.

The three principal regional human rights instruments are the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights (the Americas) and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The African Union (AU) is a supranational union consisting of fifty-three African states. Established in 2001, the AU's purpose is to help secure Africa's democracy, human rights, and a sustainable economy, especially by bringing an end to intra-African conflict and creating an effective common market.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights is the regions principal human rights instrument and emerged under the aegis of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (since replaced by the African Union). The intention to draw up the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights was announced in 1979 and the Charter was unanimously approved at the OAU's 1981 Assembly. Pursuant to its Article 63 (whereby it was to "come into force three months after the reception by the Secretary General of the instruments of ratification or adherence of a simple majority" of the OAU's member states), the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights came into effect on 21 October 1986 – in honour of which 21st of October was declared "African Human Rights Day".

In pursuit of these goals, the Commission is mandated to "collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the field of human and peoples, rights, organise seminars, symposia and conferences, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples' rights and, should the case arise, give its views or make recommendations to governments" (Charter, Art. 45).

With the creation of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (under a protocol to the Charter which was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in January 2004), the Commission will have the additional task of preparing cases for submission to the Court's jurisdiction. In a July 2004 decision, the AU Assembly resolved that the future Court on Human and Peoples' Rights would be integrated with the African Court of Justice.

The Court of Justice of the African Union is intended to be the “principal judicial organ of the Union” (Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union, Article 2.2). Although it has not yet been established, it is intended to take over the duties of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as act as the supreme court of the African Union, interpreting all necessary laws and treaties. The Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights entered into force in January 2004 but its merging with the Court of Justice has delayed its establishment. The Protocol establishing the Court of Justice will come into force when ratified by 15 countries.

There are many countries in Africa accused of human rights violations by the international community and NGOs.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was established in 1979 with the purpose of enforcing and interpreting the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Its two main functions are thus adjudicatory and advisory. Under the former, it hears and rules on the specific cases of human rights violations referred to it. Under the latter, it issues opinions on matters of legal interpretation brought to its attention by other OAS bodies or member states.

Many countries in the Americas, such as the United States, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela, have been accused of human rights violations.

There are no Asia-wide organisations or conventions to promote or protect human rights. Countries vary widely in their approach to human rights and their record of human rights protection.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and political organization of eight countries in Southern Asia, representing almost 1.5 billion people. It was established in 1985 by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan. In April 2007, at the Association's 14th summit, Afghanistan became its eighth member.

The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) is a trade bloc involving the seven Arab states of the Persian Gulf, with many economic and social objectives. Created in 1981, the Council comprises the Persian Gulf states of Yemen Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

None of the above organisations have a specific mandate to promote or protect human rights, but each has some human rights related economic, social and cultural objectives.

A number of Asian countries are accused of serious human rights abuses by the international community and human rights organisations.

The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, is the oldest organisation working for European integration. It is an international organisation with legal personality recognised under public international law and has observer status with the United Nations. The seat of the Council of Europe is in Strasbourg in France. The Council of Europe is responsible for both the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. These institutions bind the Council's members to a code of human rights which, though strict, are more lenient than those of the United Nations charter on human rights. The Council also promotes the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the European Social Charter. Membership is open to all European states which seek European integration, accept the principle of the rule of law and are able and willing to guarantee democracy, fundamental human rights and freedoms.

The Council of Europe is separate from the European Union, but the latter is expected to accede to the European Convention and potentially the Council itself. The EU also has a separate human rights document; the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The European Convention on Human Rights defines and guarantees since 1950 human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. All 47 member states of the Council of Europe have signed this Convention and are therefore under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In order to prevent torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3 of the Convention), the Committee for the Prevention of Torture was established.

The European Court of Human Rights is the only international court with jurisdiction to deal with cases brought by individuals (rather than states).

There are no regional approaches or agreements on human rights for Oceania, but most countries have a well-regarded human rights record.

Australia is the only western democracy with no constitutional or legislative bill of rights, but a number of laws have been enacted to protect human rights and the Constitution of Australia has been found to contain certain implied rights by the High Court. However, Australia has been criticised at various times for its immigration policies, treatment of asylum seekers, treatment of its indigenous population, and foreign policy.

Several theoretical approaches have been advanced to explain how and why human rights become part of social expectations.

One of the oldest Western philosophies on human rights is that they are a product of a natural law, stemming from different philosophical or religious grounds.

Other theories hold that human rights codify moral behavior which is a human social product developed by a process of biological and social evolution (associated with Hume). Human rights are also described as a sociological pattern of rule setting (as in the sociological theory of law and the work of Weber). These approaches include the notion that individuals in a society accept rules from legitimate authority in exchange for security and economic advantage (as in Rawls) - a social contract.

Natural law theories base human rights on a “natural” moral, religious or even biological order that is independent of transitory human laws or traditions.

Socrates and his philosophic heirs, Plato and Aristotle, posited the existence of natural justice or natural right (dikaion physikon, δικαιον φυσικον, Latin ius naturale). Of these, Aristotle is often said to be the father of natural law, although evidence for this is due largely to the interpretations of his work by Thomas Aquinas.

The development of this tradition of natural justice into one of natural law is usually attributed to the Stoics.

Some of the early Church Fathers sought to incorporate the until then pagan concept of natural law into Christianity. Natural law theories have featured greatly in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, Francisco Suárez, Richard Hooker, Thomas Hobbes, Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, and John Locke.

In the Seventeenth century Thomas Hobbes founded a contractualist theory of legal positivism on what all men could agree upon: what they sought (happiness) was subject to contention, but a broad consensus could form around what they feared (violent death at the hands of another). The natural law was how a rational human being, seeking to survive and prosper, would act. It was discovered by considering humankind's natural rights, whereas previously it could be said that natural rights were discovered by considering the natural law. In Hobbes' opinion, the only way natural law could prevail was for men to submit to the commands of the sovereign. In this lay the foundations of the theory of a social contract between the governed and the governor.

Hugo Grotius based his philosophy of international law on natural law. He wrote that "even the will of an omnipotent being cannot change or abrogate" natural law, which "would maintain its objective validity even if we should assume the impossible, that there is no God or that he does not care for human affairs." (De iure belli ac pacis, Prolegomeni XI). This is the famous argument etiamsi daremus (non esse Deum), that made natural law no longer dependent on theology.

John Locke incorporated natural law into many of his theories and philosophy, especially in Two Treatises of Government. Locke turned Hobbes' prescription around, saying that if the ruler went against natural law and failed to protect "life, liberty, and property," people could justifiably overthrow the existing state and create a new one.

The Belgian philosopher of law Frank Van Dun is one among those who are elaborating a secular conception of natural law in the liberal tradition. There are also emerging and secular forms of natural law theory that define human rights as derivative of the notion of universal human dignity.

The term "human rights" has replaced the term "natural rights" in popularity, because the rights are less and less frequently seen as requiring natural law for their existence.

The Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau suggested the existence of a hypothetical social contract where a group of free individuals agree for the sake of the common good to form institutions to govern themselves. This echoed the earlier postulation by Thomas Hobbes that there is a contract between the government and the governed - and led to John Locke's theory that a failure of the government to secure rights is a failure which justifies the removal of the government.

The relationship between government and the governed in countries which follow the English law tradition is a fiduciary one. In equity law, a politician's fiduciary obligations are not only the duties of good faith and loyalty, but also include duties of skill and competence in managing a country and its people. Originating from within the Courts of Equity, the fiduciary concept exists to prevent those holding positions of power from abusing their authority. The fiduciary relationship between government and the governed arises from the governments ability to control people with the exercise of its power. In effect, if a government has the power to abolish any rights, it is equally burdened with the fiduciary duty to protect such an interest because it would benefit from the exercise of its own discretion to extinguish rights which it alone had the power to dispose of.

The Golden Rule, or the ethic of reciprocity states that one must do unto others as one would be treated themselves; the principle being that reciprocal recognition and respect of rights ensures that one's own rights will be protected. This principle can be found in all the world's major religions in only slightly differing forms, and was enshrined in the "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" by the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1993.

The biological theory considers the comparative reproductive advantage of human social behavior based on empathy and altruism in the context of natural selection.

Human security is an emerging school of thought which challenges the traditional, state-based conception of security and argues that a people-focused approach to security is more appropriate in the modern interdependent world and would be more effective in advancing the security of individuals and societies across the globe.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has argued to the effect that those who speak most vehemently about their rights, doubt at the bottom of their soul if they truly have any.

Philosophers who have criticized the concept of human rights include Jeremy Bentham, Edmund Burke, and Karl Marx. A recent critique has been advanced by Charles Blattberg in his essay "The Ironic Tragedy of Human Rights." Blattberg argues that rights talk, being abstract, demotivates people from upholding the values that rights are meant to assert.

The most common categorization of human rights is to split them into civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights.

Civil and political rights are enshrined in articles 3 to 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Economic, social and cultural rights are enshrined in articles 22 to 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

This is held to be true because without civil and political rights the public cannot assert their economic, social and cultural rights. Similarly, without livelihoods and a working society, the public cannot assert or make use of civil or political rights (known as the full belly thesis).

This statement was again endorsed at the 2005 World Summit in New York (paragraph 121).

Although accepted by the signatories to the UDHR, most do not in practice give equal weight to the different types of rights. Some Western cultures have often given priority to civil and political rights, sometimes at the expense of economic and social rights such as the right to work, to education, health and housing. For example, in the United States there is no universal access to healthcare free at the point of use. That is not to say that Western cultures have overlooked these rights entirely (the welfare states that exist in Western Europe are evidence of this). Similarly the ex Soviet bloc countries and Asian countries have tended to give priority to economic, social and cultural rights, but have often failed to provide civil and political rights.

In The No-Nonsense Guide to Human Rights Olivia Ball and Paul Gready argue that for both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights it is easy to find examples which do not fit into the above categorisation. Amongst several others, they highlight the fact that maintaining a judicial system, a fundamental requirement of the civil right to due process before the law and other rights relating to judicial process, is positive, resource-intensive, progressive and vague, while the social right to housing is precise, justiciable and can be a real 'legal' right.

The UDHR enshrines universal rights that apply to all humans equally, whichever geographical location, state, race or culture they belong to.

Proponents of cultural relativism argue for acceptance of different cultures, which may have practices conflicting with human rights.

For example female genital mutilation occurs in different cultures in Africa, Asia and South America. It is not mandated by any religion, but has become a tradition in many cultures. It is considered a violation of women's and girl's rights by much of the international community, and is outlawed in some countries.

Universalism has been described by some as cultural, economic or political imperialism. In particular, the concept of human rights is often claimed to be fundamentally rooted in a politically liberal outlook which, although generally accepted in Europe, Japan or North America, is not necessarily taken as standard elsewhere.

An appeal is often made to the fact that influential human rights thinkers, such as John Locke and John Stuart Mill, have all been Western and indeed that some were involved in the running of Empires themselves.

Cultural relativism is a self-detonating position; if cultural relativism is true, then universalism must also be true. Relativistic arguments also tend to neglect the fact that modern human rights are new to all cultures, dating back no further than the UDHR in 1948. They also don't account for the fact that the UDHR was drafted by people from many different cultures and traditions, including a US Roman Catholic, a Chinese Confucian philosopher, a French zionist and a representative from the Arab League, amongst others, and drew upon advice from thinkers such as Mahatma Gandhi.

Michael Ignatieff has argued that cultural relativism is almost exclusively an argument used by those who wield power in cultures which commit human rights abuses, and that those who's human rights are compromised are the powerless. This reflects the fact that the difficulty in judging universalism versus relativism lies in who is claiming to represent a particular culture.

Companies, NGOs, political parties, informal groups, and individuals are known as non-State actors. Non-State actors can also commit human rights abuses, but are not generally subject to human rights law other than under International Humanitarian Law, which applies to individuals. Also, certain national instruments such as the Human Rights Act 1998 (UK), impose human rights obligations on certain entities which are not traditionally considered as part of government ("public authorities").

In August 2003 the Human Rights Commission's Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights produced draft Norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights. These were considered by the Human Rights Commission in 2004, but have no binding status on corporations and are not monitored.

Henry of Ghent articulated the theory that every person has a property interest in their own body. John Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour." In addition, property precedes government and government cannot "dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily." To deny valid property rights according to Locke is to deny human rights. The British philosopher had significant impacts upon the development of the Government of the UK and was central to the fundamental founding philosophy of the United States. Karl Marx later critiqued Locke's theory of property in his Theories of Surplus Value, seeing the beginnings of a theory of surplus value in Locke's works. In Locke's Second Treatise he argued that the right to own private property was unlimited as long as nobody took more than they could use without allowing any of their property to go to waste and that there were enough common resources of comparable quality available for others to create their own property. Locke did believe that some would be more "industrious and rational" than others and would amass more property, but believed this would not cause shortages. Though this system could work before the introduction of money, Marx argued in Theories of Surplus Value that Locke's system would break down and claimed money was a contradiction of the law of nature on which private property was founded.

Reproductive rights may include some or all of the following rights: the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to control one's reproductive functions, the right to quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to education and access in order to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. Reproductive rights may also be understood to include education about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception, protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and male genital mutilation (MGM).

Rights that cannot be derogated for reasons of national security in any circumstances are known as peremptory norms or jus cogens. Such United Nations Charter obligations are binding on all states and cannot be modified by treaty.

Examples of national security being used to justify human rights violations include the Japanese American internment during World War II, Stalin's Great Purge, and the actual and alleged modern-day abuses of terror suspects rights by some western countries, often in the name of the so-called War on Terror.

Human rights violations occur when any state or non-state actor breaches any part of the UDHR treaty or other international human rights or humanitarian law. In regard to human rights violations of United Nations laws. Article 39 of the United Nations Charter designates the UN Security Council (or an appointed authority) as the only tribunal that may determine UN human rights violations.

Human rights abuses are monitored by United Nations committees, national institutions and governments and by many independent non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International,International Federation of Human Rights,Human Rights Watch, World Organisation Against Torture, Freedom House, International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Anti-Slavery International. These organisations collect evidence and documentation of alleged human rights abuses and apply pressure to enforce human rights laws.

Only a very few countries do not commit significant human rights violations, according to Amnesty International. In their 2004 human rights report (covering 2003), the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Costa Rica are the only (mappable) countries that did not (in their opinion) violate at least some human rights significantly.

There are a wide variety of databases available which attempt to measure, in a rigorous fashion, exactly what violations governments commit against those within their territorial jurisdiction. An example of this is the list created and maintained by Prof. Christian Davenport at the University of Maryland.

Wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, are breaches of International humanitarian law and represent the most serious of human rights violations.

Events and new possibilities can affect existing rights or require new ones. Advances of technology, medicine, and philosophy constantly challenge the status quo of human rights thinking.

There are two basic conceptions of environmental human rights in the current human rights system. The first is that the right to a healthy or adequate environment is itself a human right (as seen in the both Article 21 of the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, and Article 11 of the San Salvador Protocol to the American Charter of Human Rights).. The second conception is the idea that environmental human rights can be derived from other human rights, usually - the right to life, the right to health, the right to private family life and the right to property (among many others). This second theory enjoys much more widespread use in human rights courts around the world, as those rights are contained in many human rights documents.

The onset of various environmental issues, especially climate change, has created potential conflicts between different human rights. Human rights ultimately require a working ecosystem and healthy environment, but the granting of certain rights to individuals may damage these. Such as the conflict between right to decide number of offspring and the common need for a healthy environment, as noted in the tragedy of the commons. In the area of environmental rights, the responsibilities of multinational corporations, so far relatively unaddressed by human rights legislation, is of paramount consideration.

Environmental Rights revolve largely around the idea of a right to a livable environment both for the present and the future generations.

Article 1 of the declaration states "the present generations have the responsibility of ensuring that the needs and interests of present and future generations are fully safeguarded." The preamble to the declaration states that "at this point in history, the very existence of humankind and its environment are threatened" and the declaration covers a variety of issues including protection of the environment, the human genome, biodiversity, cultural heritage, peace, development, and education. The preamble recalls that the responsibilities of the present generations towards future generations has been referred to in various international instruments, including the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO 1972), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (UN Conference on Environment and Development, 1992), the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (World Conference on Human Rights, 1993) and a number of UN General Assembly resolutions relating to the protection of the global climate for present and future generations adopted since 1990.

Some organizations argue that LGBT issues, such as same-sex marriage, gay adoption rights, and protection from discrimination should be considered human rights.Canadian courts have recognized certain rights under section fifteen of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Current campaigns, such as the Human Rights Campaign, specifically focus on the rights of the LGBT community.

Part of this debate includes a proposed UN declaration on LGBT rights which would for the first time condemn “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” While receiving widespread global support, including signatures from the member states of the European Union, opposition has come from several UN member nations, as well as the Vatican, where the Vatican’s permanent observer at the UN, indicated his belief that the declaration would discriminate against states which support "traditional" marriage.

Although both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights emphasize the importance of a right to work, neither of these documents explicitly mention trade as a mechanism for ensuring this fundamental right. And yet trade plays a key role in providing jobs.

Some experts argue that trade is inherent to human nature and that when governments inhibit international trade they directly inhibit the right to work and the other indirect benefits, like the right to education, that increased work and investment help accrue. Others have argued that the ability to trade doesn't affect everyone equally -- often groups like the rural poor, indigenous groups and women are less likely to access the benefits of increased trade.

On the other hand, others think that it is no longer primarily individuals but companies that trade, and therefore it cannot be guaranteed as a human right. Additionally, trying to fit too many concepts under the umbrella of what qualifies as a human right has the potential to dilute their importance. Finally, it is difficult to define a right to trade as either "fair" or "just" in that all trade regimes create winners and losers, and changing the rules only creates different losers, not necessarily fewer.

This principle was reaffirmed at the 3rd and 4th World Water Councils in 2003 and 2006. This marks a departure from the conclusions of the 2nd World Water Forum in The Hague in 2000, which stated that water was a commodity to be bought and sold, not a right. There are calls from many NGOs and politicians to enshrine access to water as a binding human right, and not as a commodity.

Article 28: Social order · Article 29.1: Social responsibility  · Article 29.2: Limitations of human rights · Article 29.3: The supremacy of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Article 30: Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

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Human rights in the United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom has a long and established tradition of avowed respect for its subjects' human rights. At the same time, the UK, like many nations, has also had a history of both de jure and de facto racial and ethnic-religious discrimination, and, even in recent history, occasional violations of basic human rights, particularly in times of national security crises. In recent years, however, British human rights legislation has been criticised for excessive attention to the human rights of offenders at the expense of those of victims; many high-profile cases, such as those of Learco Chindamo and the 2006 Afghan hijackers case, have attracted controversy, sparking calls for the review of the Human Rights Act 1998 and other legislation.

In most democratic countries, the notion of citizenship (as opposed to that of nationality) recognises that a State owes to its people certain inalienable rights which are characterised as "fundamental" in the sense that they enjoy a specially protected status in domestic law. In return, it is accepted that the citizen is expected to meet certain standards and comply with certain requirements vis-à-vis the State.

This concept of citizenship is unknown to English constitutional law which, under the influence of Burke, Bentham, Austin, Dicey and Jennings, has treated British citizens as "subjects of the Crown without the benefit of positive and fundamental constitutional rights giving protection against the state and its agents." The rights that are recognised - "the liberties of the subject" - are "residual and negative" in nature, i.e. the individual is free to do what he or she likes save insofar as the activity is restricted by the law.

The situation is compounded by the absence of an enforceable, constitutionally protected Bill of Rights or a written constitution, which, along similar lines to the United States Bill of Rights or the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, would define the relationship between the citizen and the State, including the rights owed by the State to the citizen and vice versa. The basis of the relationship between State and citizen is instead constructed on a variety of statutory provisions and common rules which, taken en masse, seek to confer on the citizen certain rights and liberties normally associated with citizenship, whilst also imposing certain duties. For example, the case of Entick v. Carrington in 1765 established the limits within which officers of the State could act, the Reform Act of 1867 accorded a wider right to vote, and the National Insurance Act 1911 instituted a basic welfare system. These rights apply regardless of the nationality of the individual in question.

Protection of the right to life is primarily ensured by the criminal law (the crimes of murder and manslaughter). Some protection is also offered by the civil law where, for example, the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 allows relatives of people killed by the wrongdoing of others to recover damages. Capital punishment had by 1998 been abolished in respect of all offences.

The law also attaches importance to the preservation of life: aiding and abetting a suicide is a criminal offence (see the Suicide Act 1961) and euthanasia is unlawful (see the Bland case). Furthermore, there is a duty upon medical professionals to keep patients alive unless to do so would be contrary to the patient's best interests based on professional medical opinion (the Bolam Test), taking into account his or her quality of life in the event that treatment is continued.

Where an asylum-seeker claims the existence of a threat to his or her life in the event of deportation, this threat must be balanced against evidence of the risk the person poses to national security were he or she to remain in the UK. Such persons may also be able to rely on the principle of the "common law of humanity" which obliges the state "to afford them relief and to save them from starving" (see R v Inhabitants of Eastbourne (1803) 4 East 103).

Regarded as one of the most important human rights, the courts have stated that there is no difference between the protection offered by the common law, and that guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The freedom of expression of Members of Parliament is encouraged and guaranteed by parliamentary privilege.

The right can be restricted where it is justified in the public interest, for example where national security concerns prevail (see the case of Ponting) or where countervailing interests of privacy, public order or religious tolerance must take priority. In addition, the law may also require that in certain situations information is kept confidential or may place a restriction on its dissemination. This is the case of the confidentiality and defamation laws, as well as the offence of contempt of court. Television, radio and other broadcast media are also subject to legal regulation (see for example the Press Complaints Commission and Ofcom).

Freedom of conscience is related to the freedom of expression and allows an individual to hold certain views without fear of persecution, it also includes the freedom of religion.

The right to free assembly is considered an aspect of the right to freedom of expression. Simply put by Lord Denning, it is the right for ""veryone to meet and assemble with his fellows to discuss their affairs and to promote their views". However, as noted by Lord Bingham, the approach adopted by English law to this right has been "hesitant and negative, permitting that which was not prohibited". This can be seen in Dicey's "An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution" (1959) where he writes that "t no time has there in England been any proclamation of the right to liberty of thought or to freedom of speech", and that "it can hardly be said that our constitution knows of such a thing as any specific right of public meeting". Viewed in this light, the development of a right to free assembly can be seen as a relatively recent constitutional development largely brought on by the gradual growing influence of the European Convention on Human Rights on English law.

The exercise of the right to free assembly has been restricted by the common law as well as legislation. Thus, the criminal offence of breach of the peace is committed when harm is done to a person or his property, or there is a threat of harm, and that harm is caused by an "assault, affray, riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance." Furthermore, the Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place restrictions on public assemblies and the Public Order Act 1936 outlaws the wearing of political uniforms at a public meeting when they suggest an association with a political object. More recently, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 introduced measures limiting the right to demonstrate in Parliament Square, and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives the police powers to break-up certain public gatherings. It is, however, recognised that there is a right to picket (TULR(C)A 1992).

The right to personal privacy is not precisely defined and can be more properly described as the cumulative effect of a collection of different rights. There is no general right to privacy in English law and the courts, when faced with cases alleging an invasion of privacy, have made it clear that the creation of such a right can only be done by Parliament. A patchwork of different torts combine to protect an individual from harassment, including the dissemination of information about him or her, see the torts of trespass, harassment, Defamation, nuisance and malicious falsehood. The criminal law also provides a certain level of protection - it is an offence to use violence to obtain unauthorised access to a property (CLA 1977 and the Protection from Eviction Act 1977) or to intentionally harass a person (POA 1986). A person's right to communicate privately is also protected to a certain degree (RIPA), as is his or her right of access to personal information (DPA 1998). The right to a private life, mentioned below, also links in with this right.

In recent cases involving celebrities the House of Lords have sought to remedy the absence of a right to privacy by extending the protection offered by the law of confidence. Therefore, the model Naomi Campbell was able to obtain damages from a newspaper which had published photographs of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones successfully sued Hello! for publishing unauthorised photographs of their wedding; OK! which had purchased the exclusive rights to the photographs was also able to obtain redress on the basis that it had paid a large sum of money for the images, giving them therefore commercial value worthy of protection by the law. Giving this innovative judgment, Lord Hoffmann emphasised that the ruling did not amount to the recognition of image rights in English law.

Protection against arbitrary searches and seizures overlaps with the rights to liberty, privacy and natural justice. In English law, the right to be free of arbitrary searches and seizures is found mainly in the legislation regulating the powers of the police to conduct searches and take evidence. Therefore, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, a constable's right to stop and search persons and vehicles is limited by section 2, as are the powers of a Justice of the Peace to authorise the entry and search of premises. In addition, section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows a senior police officer to authorise all police officers in a locality to stop and search any pedestrian or vehicle where the officer has grounds for believing that the individual is carrying an 'offensive weapon' or a 'dangerous instrument'. In 1998 this legislation was extended to allow the officer to require the person to remove clothing worn for the purpose of concealing his identity, and to confiscate that article of clothing. Special extended powers also apply in the case of terrorist suspects.

In civil cases, a judge may grant an Anton Piller order authorising the search of premises and seizure of evidence without prior warning. The order's purpose is to prevent the destruction of incriminating evidence, particularly in cases of alleged intellectual property infringement.

An individual's right to respect for his or her private or family life is protected insofar as the activity being pursued has not been outlawed or restricted by the state. In that respect, the fact that an individual has consented to the performance of an act which would otherwise be unlawful does not change the status of the act; thus, in a case involving acts of sado-masochism committed in private between two consenting adults, the House of Lords held that the victim's consent to the acts did not afford their author a defence to charges under the OAPA 1861.

Similarly, an individual is free to make choices as to his private life, for example in pursuing homosexual relationships, but the law may not in certain circumstances intervene to ensure that his status and rights are not affected as a result of these choices. In R v. Ministry of Defence, ex p. Smith the Court of Appeal upheld the Ministry of Defence's policy not to admit homosexuals to the armed forces; the claimants later brought a case before the European Court of Human Rights which found violations of Articles 8 and 13. The Court of Appeal held in another case that it was reasonable for the parents of a child up for adoption to refuse consent to adoption on the ground that the proposed adopter is a lesbian.

The right to respect for family life is qualified by the broad principle that the welfare of the child is paramount and parental rights must take second place. As expressed by Lord Scarman, "parental rights are derived from parental duty and exist only so long as they are needed for the protection of the person and property of the child", and by Lord Fraser, "parental rights to control a child do not exist for the benefit of the parent". The effect of this is to allow state intervention in family life where justified in the interests of the child in question, and the Children Act 1989 gives effect to this by providing a basis on which decisions relating to a child's welfare are made. Section 1 of the Act provides that a court must, when taking a decision with regard to a child, take into account the child's wishes and feelings.

There is no general right to marry.

The bodily integrity of an individual is protected by the criminal law (see OAPA 1861) and, in some circumstances, the civil law (see the tort of battery).

An individual's right to liberty is protected against interference by the state by two principles. Firstly, an individual is free to do anything which is not prohibited by law. Secondly, the state can only interfere with a person's liberty where permitted by law. In addition, the tort of false imprisonment and the crime of kidnapping guarantee some protection against the deprivation of liberty, as does the right of habeas corpus. Where an individual is lawfully arrested on the basis of an arrest warrant, the length of his detention is prescribed by statute; the detainee's rights and the powers of the police during the period of detention are also regulated (see PACE 1984).

The right of freedom of association implies the right to join, form, and withdraw membership from groups, associations and partnerships of different kinds. Respect of this principle can be found in the relative ease by which companies and trusts can be set up. The right is also expressed by the doctrine of freedom of contract whereby one individual has a full and free right to enter into a contract with another individual, and also by the lack of regulation of political parties.

In employment law, an individual has the right in certain circumstances to affiliate with a trade union, an employee can claim unfair dismissal if he is dismissed for trade union activities and is protected from discrimination on the basis of his trade union activities. However, there is no obligation on employers to recognise collective bargaining agreements except in certain very limited circumstances and their role has declined significantly.

The right of freedom of association can be restricted on grounds of public order and national security. See for example the Public Order Act 1936 and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.

The Representation of the People Act 1983 confers the right to vote on British citizens and citizens of the Commonwealth and Ireland who are resident in the UK. In addition, citizens of Member States of the European Union have the right to vote in local elections and elections to the European Parliament. The right to vote also includes the right to a secret ballot and the right to stand as a candidate in elections.

A number of principles combine to guarantee an individual a certain level of protection by law. Firstly, the presumption that a person is innocent of a crime of which he is accused until it is proved otherwise. In discharging the burden of proof, the onus is on the prosecution (see Woolmington v. DPP). Secondly, according to the principle of nullum crimen et nulla poene sine lege, an individual cannot be convicted of an offence which was not provided for by law at the time of his conduct. Thirdly, an individual is entitled to confidential and free legal advice (see legal aid). Finally, every person is entitled to a fair and speedy trial and free and unimpeded access to the courts.

Protection of the right to own and enjoy property is found in the criminal offence of theft, by intellectual property laws and by the principle that there can be no taxation except that which is authorised by Parliament. In addition, the principle of natural justice affords protection of property in that a court with powers to affect an individual's property rights is obliged to allow that individual the right to be heard before it proceeds (see Cooper v Wandsworth Board of Works (1863)). The right to property is qualified by compulsory purchase laws.

The right to education is guaranteed by the Education Act 1944, and the right to housing is enshrined in the Housing Act 1985. The enactment of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 installed a minimum wage and the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 provides access to social security benefits.

The right not to be unjustly excluded from the exercise of a trade or profession has been recognised by the courts (see Nagle v Feilden 2 QB 633).

There is no positive right to healthcare. The National Health Service Act 1977 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to provide "adequate" healthcare, but the courts have not thusfar been willing to enforce this duty.

There is no unqualified right to strike in English law and participation in strike action will generally constitute a breach of the employment contract of the workers concerned, even a criminal offence in certain cases. However, dismissal of an employee for taking strike action will constitute unfair dismissal.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows transsexual (or transgender) people to change their legal gender.

To these rights can be added other rights and 'freedoms' as recognised by European Community law. These include the so-called "Four Freedoms of Movement" enabling citizens of the Member States of the European Union to (a) move freely between Member States, (b) provide services in another Member State, (c) to move capital between States and (d) to move goods between States without restriction. The rights to equal pay and to equal treatment in the workplace and with regard to social security are also recognised.

In addition, Articles 8 - 8E of the Treaty on European Union introduce the notion of 'Citizenship of the European Union' which confers five rights on citizens of the Member States: (a) the right to move and reside freely within the Member States, (b) the right to vote and stand for election in the Member State in which the EU citizen resides, (c) the right to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any Member State in a country where his or her own State is not represented, (d) the right to petition the European Parliament, and (e) the right to apply to the European Ombudsman.

The United Kingdom is party to a number of international treaties and agreements which guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms. Although such agreements have no direct legal effect in the UK until they have been given formal effect by a domestic law, their provisions have a bearing in the drafting of domestic legislation and by the interpretation of domestic law by the courts. Ministers are recognised to have a duty to comply with international law and citizens may reasonably expect them to do so.

The UK played an important role in the drafting of the Convention, with figures such as Arthur Goodhart, John Foster QC and the UK-based Hersch Lauterpacht providing the impetus for the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949 as a means of guarding against the rise of new dictatorships and to provide the citizens of Soviet-occupied countries with a beacon of hope.

The initiative in producing a legally-binding human rights agreement had already been taken by the International Council of the European Movement, an organisation whose cause had been championed by Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, and whose international juridical section (counting Lauterpacht and Maxwell Fyfe amongst its members) had produced a draft convention.

Chaired by Maxwell Fyfe and the former French resistance leader Teitgen, the Legal Committee of the Council of Europe's Consultative Assembly proposed that the Council's Committee of Ministers draw up a convention which would take in and ensure the effective enjoyment of the rights proclaimed in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948, as well as establishing a European Court and Commission of Human Rights. The Committee agreed and the text of what was to become the European Convention of Human Rights was in the main drafted by Sir Oscar Dowson, a retired senior legal adviser to the Home Office.

There was grudging support for the Convention back in the UK where Attlee's Labour government were in power. The Lord Chancellor Jowitt, the Colonial Secretary Griffiths and the Chancellor Sir Stafford Cripps wanted to protect the British Empire against what they perceived as subversive European influences. They were also keen to protect their own ministerial powers against review by foreign judges whose values were unknown. This, combined with fears that some British practices such as emergency detention without trial, led to the government denying British citizens a right of petition to the European Court of Human Rights or the Court's jurisdiction to try cases involving British matters.

Nevertheless, the UK became the first state to sign the Convention on 8 March 1951, and the first to ratify it with effect from 23 September 1953. No domestic legislation was introduced and no attempt was made to implement the rights into UK law until the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998. The right to petition the European Court was eventually allowed in 1966.

Currently, over 45 countries have ratified the Convention. Over the years, protocols have been added through agreement between participating nations - not all protocols must be agreed to by all nations, though it is encouraged.

Following ratification of the ECHR, the campaign began for the recognition of the right of British citizens to take their cases before the European Court of Human Rights - 'the right of petition' - and, as part and parcel of this, the recognition of the Court's jurisdiction. The Conservative government in power from 1951 resisted the right of petition on the grounds that the common law would come under scrutiny by an international court. In December 1964 Terence Higgins MP tried to persuade Harold Wilson's new Labour administration to alter the UK's position, as did the British judge at the European Court of Human Rights, Lord McNair.

In 1965 Wilson informed the House of Commons that the right of petition would be recognised for an initial period of three years with effect from 14 January 1966. At the time the government were concerned that the Burmah Oil Company would take advantage of the new right to contest the legality of the War Damage Act 1965 (which deprived the company of its right to compensation to damage caused during the Second World War as had been recognised by a decision of the House of Lords), and so the date chosen fell outside the six month limitation period for challenges to the 1965 Act.

The first public call for the incorporation of the Convention into UK law was made in 1968 and was repeated in 1974 by Lord Scarman and by Roy Jenkins in 1976. In 1978 a House of Lords Select Committee published a report recommending incorporation which was debated in the Lords leading to an amendment being moved requesting that the government introduce legislation on the matter. Lord Wade succeeded in securing the Lords' approval for a draft bill but it did not make any progress in the Commons where Alan Beith's unsuccessful attempt to secure a second reading of the bill was poorly attended. In 1986 Lord Broxbourne secured the Lords' approval for his incorporation bill, but was unsuccessful in the Commons, even though a second reading had been obtained.

By 1991 the momentum for incorporation had grown, garnering support from organisations such as Charter88, Liberty and the Institute for Public Policy Research - the latter two having published proposals for a British Bill of Rights incorporating the rights. Incorporation was also advocated by senior members of the judiciary, both past and present, including Lord Gardiner, Lord Hailsham, Lord Taylor and Lord Bingham, by the Law Society and the Bar Council, also by two former Home Secretaries, Roy Jenkins and Leon Brittan.

The Labour Party leader John Smith QC made a speech on 1 March 1993 entitled "A Citizen's Democracy" in which he called for a 'new constitutional settlement, a new deal between the people and the state that puts the citizen centre stage'. This objective found its way into the Labour Party's proposals for constitutional reform published in 1993, and reiterated at their Conference in that year where a two-stage process was outlined: the incorporation of the Convention, followed by the setting-up of a Commission to prepare a British Bill of Rights.

In 1994 Lord Lester introduced a bill in the Lords which was based on the New Zealand Bill of Rights which would give the ECHR a similar status in UK law as that accorded to European Community law, i.e. allowing courts to disapply future and existing Acts of Parliament which were incompatible with the ECHR, imposing a duty on public authorities to comply with the ECHR and making provision for effective remedies (including damages) for breaches of the ECHR. Introduced during a period of concern over the impact of European Community law on the sovereignty of Parliament, the bill had a rough ride through the Lords and was subject to wrecking amendments by Conservative ministers.

Upon the advice of senior members of the judiciary, a second bill was introduced in February 1997 which, unlike the first bill, did not confer the power on the courts to strike down Acts of Parliament. The effectiveness of the new bill would depend on the courts' willingness to attribute to it a special constitutional status in UK law and to interpret it widely. The bill had been introduced shortly after the publication on 18 December 1996 by the shadow Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw of a consultation paper headed "Bringing Rights Home" which put forward the case for incorporation of the ECHR into domestic law. On 5 March 1997 a Labour and Liberal Democrat Consultative Committee on Constitutional Reform chaired by Robin Cook and Robert Maclennan published a report calling for the creation of a "Human Rights Commissioner" to oversee the operation of the bill and to bring cases on behalf of those seeking protection of their rights.

The election of Tony Blair's Labour Party in May 1997 led to the publication of a white paper on the bill - "Rights Brought Home: The Human Rights Bill" - which received its second reading on 3 November 1997. The Liberal Democrats supported the bill, as did numerous eminent crossbenchers - Lord Bingham, Lord Scarman, Lord Wilberforce, Lord Ackner, Lord Cooke of Thorndon and Lord Donaldson. The bill was opposed by the Conservative Party, although several eminent backbenchers rebelled against the party line, most notably Lord Renton and Lord Windlesham.

The bill successfully negotiated the Commons and the Lords as the "Human Rights Act 1998" and entered into force on 2 October 2000.

The Act seeks to give direct effect to the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic law, thereby enabling claimants to bring an action directly before UK courts instead of having to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights, as had previously been the case. The Act makes it unlawful for a public body to act contrary to certain rights prescribed by the Convention, and allows a UK court to award a remedy in the event of a breach. The Act only has horizontal effect, i.e. it cannot be invoked in disputes between private parties.

Should an Act of Parliament be passed which conflicts with the Convention, the courts cannot, however, overrule or disregard it. The later Act must be interpreted, in sofar as is possible, consistently with the Human Rights Act, but must be implemented, regardless of whether it is lawful according to the convention or not. The court can make a "declaration of incompatibility", but even this cannot force a change, merely strongly encourage reconsideration by Parliament, which remains sovereign.

The Human Rights Act 1998 has been severely criticised by UK political figures and the media for putting the rights of offenders over those of victims, leading to short prison sentences and lenient treatment of criminals. After a tribunal ruled that Learco Chindamo, the Italian national who murdered headteacher Philip Lawrence in 1996, could not be deported to Italy after his release from prison, opposition leader David Cameron called for the abolition of the Act and its replacement with a "British Bill of Rights". Although the Labour government, under former prime minister Tony Blair, was responsible for introducing the Act, the perceived leniency of sentencing has been criticised by Blair and other senior Labour figures. The 2006 Afghan hijackers case, where a group of Afghan men who hijacked an aircraft in order to enter the UK were granted leave to remain in the UK, was severely criticised in the British media and by both opposition and government politicians.

The European Convention includes a right to privacy. This is one right that British law had not taken seriously beforehand, and there was a lot of speculation in the legal community as to how far the new act would change the law; battles between privacy and free speech were expected. Although Naomi Campbell and Sara Cox have both won high-profile cases, the law has not had quite the impact that had been anticipated. Indeed, the House of Lords in the case Wainwright v. Home Office (2003) involving the routine strip-searching of visitors to a prison, recognised that only Parliament itself could create a specific right to privacy. The claimant later applied to the European Court of Human Rights which found that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention (right to privacy).

During the 1970s and 1980s, the British government focused a lot of effort on measures to combat the activities of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Included in these measures, the government curtailed the civil liberties - and arguably the human rights - of some interned PIRA suspects. The Ministry of Defence stated "moderate physical pressure" was applied to the men. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that this constituted "cruel and inhuman treatment", but fell short of torture in a landmark 1978 case.

Since 2001, the "War on Terrorism" has led to new human rights concerns.

The most recent criticism has concerned the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, a response to a perceived increased threat of Islamic terrorism. This act allows the house arrest of terrorist suspects where there is insufficient evidence to bring them to trial, involving the derogation (opting-out) of human rights laws, through the imposition of control orders. This aspect of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced because the detention without trial of nine foreigners at HM Prison Belmarsh under Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was held to be unlawful under human rights legislation, by the House of Lords, in A and Others v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (2004).

Both the above Acts have been criticised for the lack of parliamentary discussion; the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 went from introduction to Royal Assent in 32 days, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 in 17.

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 has also been criticised as giving the government very wide-ranging power in an emergency.

On February 2, 2005, Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights also suggested that the proposed legislation on the British national identity card might contravene Article 8 of the European Convention (the right to respect for private life) and Article 14 (the right to non-discrimination).

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was passed.

Part 4 of the Act provided for the indefinite detention without charge of foreign nationals certified by the Home Secretary as "suspected international terrorists" where such persons could not be deported on the grounds that they faced a real risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment if removed to their home country.

Part 4 did not create new detention powers - under the 1971 Immigration Act, the Home Secretary has the power to detain a foreign national pending deportation. Instead, Part 4 removed a limitation on detention powers imposed by the requirements of Article 5(1)(f) of the European Convention on Human Rights (which provided, among other things, that someone could only be detained for a short period prior to deportation). This was achieved by the British government derogating from the ECHR on the basis that the threat to the UK amounted to a 'public emergency threatening the life of the nation' within the meaning of Article 15.

However, the use of immigration detention powers meant that, although the British government could not force them, the detainees were technically free to return (albeit facing a real risk of torture). However, 2 detainees did leave - one to France and one to Morocco.

In 2002, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission held that indefinite detention under Part 4 was incompatible with the right to non-discrimination under Article 14 ECHR, on the basis that only suspected terrorists who were foreign nationals were subjected to detention, while suspects who were British nationals remained free. However, SIAC's declaration of Part 4's incompatibility with Article 14 was quashed by the Court of Appeal.

In December 2004, the House of Lords held 8-1 that Part 4 was incompatible with both Article 5 and Article 14 ECHR on the basis that indefinite detention was both a disproportionate measure notwithstanding the seriousness of the terrorist threat, as well as discriminatory.

Following the judgment, the government moved to introduce control orders as an (highly controversial) alternative measure. The use of control orders and the repeal of Part 4 of the 2001 was secured by the passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

There has been a growing awareness of human trafficking as a human rights issue in the UK, in particular the trafficking of women and under-age girls in to the UK for forced prostitution. A particular high profile case resulted in the conviction of five Albanians who ‘trafficked’ a 16 year old Lithuanian girl and forced her into prostitution. According to Home Office figures, there are over 1,000 cases of trafficking each year. Under pressure from organisations such as Amnesty International, the UK government has recently signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

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Human rights in Russia

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The rights and liberties of the citizens of the Russian Federation are granted by Chapter 2 of the Constitution adopted in 1993. Russia is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has also ratified a number of other international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (fully) and the European Convention of Human Rights (with reservations). These international law instruments take precedence over national legislation according to Chapter 1, Article 15 of the Constitution.

In recent years Vladimir Lukin, current Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, has invariably characterized the human rights situation in Russia as unsatisfactory. However, according to Lukin, this is not discouraging, because building a lawful state and civil society in such a complex country as Russia is a hard and long process.

Freedom House considered Russia partially free with scores of 5 on both political rights and civil liberties (1 being most free, 7 least free) in 2002-2004 and not free with 6 on political rights and 5 on civil liberties in 2005-2007 according to the Freedom in the World reports. In 2006 The Economist published a democracy rating, putting Russia at 102nd place among 167 countries and defining it as a "hybrid regime with a trend towards curtailment of media and other civil liberties." In 2009 Russia occupies 146th place of 179 countries in the Index of Economic Freedom, composed by Heritage Foundation.

Andrey Illarionov claimed that the rule of law has ceased to exist in Russia and that litigants are now forced to apply not to the Russian courts, but to the European Court of Human Rights. The court has indeed become overwhelmed with cases from Russia. As of June 1, 2007, 22.5% of its pending cases were directed against the Russian Federation. In 2006 there were 151 admissible applications against Russia (out of 1634 for all the countries), while in 2005 - 110 (of 1036), in 2004 - 64 (of 830), in 2003 - 15 (of 753), in 2002 - 12 (of 578).

According to international human rights organizations as well as domestic press, violations of human rights in Russia include widespread and systematic torture of persons in custody by police, dedovshchina in Russian Army, neglect and cruelty in Russian orphanages, violations of children's rights. According to Amnesty International there is discrimination, racism, and murders of members of ethnic minorities. Since 1992 at least 47 journalists have been killed.

The situation in the Russian republic of Chechnya, ravaged by war, has been especially worrying. During the Second Chechen War, started in September 1999, there were summary executions and "disappearances" of civilians in Chechnya. According to the ombudsman of the Chechen Republic, Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, as of March 2007 the most complex and painful problem is finding over 2700 abducted and forcefully held citizens; analysis of the complaints of citizens of Chechnya shows that social problems ever more often come to the foreground; two years ago complaints mostly concerned violations of the right to life.

The Federal Law of 10 January 2006 changed the orders affecting registration and operation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society was closed.

There are cases of attacks on demonstrators organized by local authorities. High concern was caused by murders of opposition lawmakers and journalists Anna Politkovskaya, Yuri Schekochikhin, Galina Starovoitova, Sergei Yushenkov, as well as imprisonments of human rights defenders, scientists, and journalists like Trepashkin, Igor Sutyagin, and Valentin Danilov.

The judiciary is a subject to manipulation by political authorities according to Amnesty International. According to Constitution of Russia, top judges are by the Federation Council, following nomination by the President of Russia. Anna Politkovskaya described in her book Putin's Russia stories of judges who did not follow "orders from the above" and were assaulted or removed from their positions. Former judge Olga Kudeshkina wrote an open letter in 2005 in which she criticized the chairman of the Moscow city court O. Egorova for "recommending judges to make right decisions" which allegedly caused more than 80 judges in Moscow to retire in the period from 2002 to 2005.

In the 1990s, Russia's prison system was widely reported by media and human rights groups as troubled. There were large case backlogs and trial delays, resulting in lengthy pre-trial detention. Prison conditions were viewed as well below international standards. Tuberculosis was a serious, pervasive problem. Human rights groups estimated that about 11,000 inmates and prison detainees die annually, most because of overcrowding, disease, and lack of medical care. A media report dated 2006 points to a campaign of prison reform that has resulted in apparent improvements in conditions. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been working to reform Russia's prisons since 1997, in concert with reform efforts by the national government.

The rule of law has made rather limited inroads in the criminal justice since the Soviet time, especially in the deep provinces. The courts generally follow the non-acquittals policy; in 2004 acquittals constituted only 0.7 percent of all judgments. Judges are dependent on administrators, bidding prosecutorial offices in turn. The work of public prosecutors varies from poor to dismal. Lawyers are mostly court appointed and low paid. There was a rapid deterioration of the situation characterized by abuse of the criminal process, harassment and persecution of defense bar members in politically sensitive cases in recent years. The principles of adversariness and equality of the parties to criminal proceedings are not observed.

The Constitution of Russia forbids arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment. Chapter 2, Article 21 of the constitution states, "No one may be subjected to torture, violence or any other harsh or humiliating treatment or punishment." However Russian police are regularly observed practicing torture - including beatings, electric shocks, rape, asphyxiation - in interrogating arrested suspects. In 2000, human rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov estimated that 50% of prisoners with whom he spoke claimed to have been tortured. Amnesty International reported that Russian military forces in Chechnya rape and torture local women with electric shocks, when electric wires are connected to the straps of their bra on their chest.

In the most extreme cases, hundreds of innocent people from the street were arbitrary arrested, beaten, tortured, and raped by special police forces. Such incidents took place not only in Chechnya, but also in Russian towns of Blagoveshensk, Bezetsk, Nefteyugansk, and others.

On 2007 Radio Svoboda ("Radio Freedom", part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) reported that an unofficial movement "Russia the Beaten" was created in Moscow by human rights activists and journalists who "suffered from beatings in numerous Russian cities". Torture and humiliation are also widespread in Russian army (see also dedovshchina). Many young men are killed or commit suicide every year because of it. It is reported that some young male conscripts are forced to work as prostitutes for "outside clients". Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia works to protect rights of young soldiers.

In the 1990s, the growth of organized crime (see Russian mafia and Russian oligarchs) and the fragmentation of law enforcement agencies in Russia coincided with a sharp rise in violence against business figures, administrative and state officials, and other public figures. President Vladimir Putin inherited these problems when he took office, and during his election campaign in 2000, the new president won popular support by stressing the need to restore law and order and to bring the rule of law to Russia as the only way of restoring confidence in the country's economy.

According to data by Demoscope Weekly, the Russian homicide rate showed a rise from the level of 15 murders per 100,000 people in 1991, to 32.5 in 1994. Then it fell to 22.5 in 1998, followed by a rise to a maximum rate of 30.5 in 2002, and then a fall to 20 murders per 100,000 people in 2006. Despite positive tendency to reduce, Russia's index of murders per capita remains one of the highest in the world with the fifth highest of 62 nations.

With a prison population rate of 611 per 100,000 population, Russia was second only to the United States (2006 data). Furthermore, criminology studies show that for the first five years since 2000 compared with the average for 1992 to 1999, the rate of robberies is up by 38.2% and the rate of drug-related crimes is higher by 71.7%.

During the Soviet period, scientists encountered substantial administrative barriers when working with foreign colleagues. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, which coincided with a decrease in government funding of science, many scientists broadened their contacts with foreign laboratories. A point to note is that administrative norms of secrecy in Russia are still more strict than those accepted in the West.

There were several cases when the FSB accused scientists of alleged revealing state secretes to foreign nationals, while the defendants and their colleagues claimed that the information or technology was based on already published and declassified sources. Even though the cases often garnered public reaction, the cases themselves were in most cases held in closed chambers, with no press coverage or public oversight.

Ecologist and journalist Alexander Nikitin, who worked with the Bellona Foundation, was likewise accused of espionage. He published material exposing hazards posed by the Russian Navy's nuclear fleet. He was acquitted in 1999 after spending several years in prison (his case was sent for re-investigation 13 times while he remained in prison). Other cases of prosecution are the cases of investigative journalist and ecologist Grigory Pasko, sentenced to three years' imprisonment and later released under a general amnesty, Vladimir Petrenko who described dangers posed by military chemical warfare stockpiles and was held in pretrial confinement for seven months, and Nikolay Shchur, chairman of the Snezhinskiy Ecological Fund who was held in pretrial confinement for six months.

Viktor Orekhov, a former KGB captain who assisted Soviet dissidents and was sentenced to eight years of prison in the Soviet era, was sentenced in 1995 to three years of prison for alleged possession of a pistol and magazines. After one year he was released and left the country.

Vladimir Kazantsev who disclosed illegal purchases of eavesdropping devices from foreign firms was arrested in August 1995, and released at the end of the year, however the case was not closed. Investigator Mikhail Trepashkin was sentenced in May 2004 to four years of prison.

Journalist Vladimir Rakhmankov in January 9, 2006 was sentenced for alleged defamation of the President in his article "Putin as phallic symbol of Russia" to fine of 20,000 roubles (about 695 USD).

Political dissidents from the former Soviet republics, such as authoritarian Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, are often arrested by the FSB and extradited to these countries for prosecution, despite the protests from international human rights organizations. The special security services of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaidjan also kidnap people in Russian territory, with the implicit approval of the FSB.

Many people were also held in detention to prevent them from demonstrating during the G8 Summit in 2006.

Some Russian opposition lawmakers and investigative journalists are suspected to be assassinated while investigating corruption and alleged crimes conducted by state authorities or FSB: Sergei Yushenkov, ‎Yuri Shchekochikhin, Alexander Litvinenko, Galina Starovoitova, Anna Politkovskaya, Paul Klebnikov.

The Russian Government's policies in Chechnya are a cause for international concern. It has been reported that Russian military forces have abducted, tortured, and killed numerous civilians in Chechnya, but Chechen separatists have also committed abuses, such as abducting people for ransom. Human rights groups are very critical of cases of people disappearing in the custody of Russian officials. Systematic illegal arrests and torture conducted by the armed forces under the command of Ramzan Kadyrov and Federal Ministry of Interior have also been reported. There are reports about repressions, information blockade, and atmosphere of fear and despair in Chechnya.

As claimed in 2005 report by Memorial, there is a system of "conveyor of violence" in Chechen Republic (as well as in neighbouring Ingushetiya) when a person suspected in crimes connected with activity of separatists squads, is unlawfully detained by members of security agencies, and then disappears. After a while part of detainees is found in centers of preliminary detention (while some allegedly disappear forever), and then he is tortured to confess to a crime or/and to slander somebody else. According to Memorial, psychological pressure is also in use. Known Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya compared this system with Gulag and claimed the number of several hundred cases.

A number of journalists were killed in Chechnya or supposedly for reporting on the conflict. List of names includes less and more famous: Cynthia Elbaum, Vladimir Zhitarenko, Nina Yefimova, Jochen Piest, Farkhad Kerimov, Natalya Alyakina, Shamkhan Kagirov, Viktor Pimenov, Nadezhda Chaikova, Supian Ependiyev, Ramzan Mezhidov and Shamil Gigayev, Vladimir Yatsina, Aleksandr Yefremov, Roddy Scott, Paul Klebnikov, Magomedzagid Varisov, and Anna Politkovskaya.

Efforts to institutionalize official human rights bodies have been mixed. In 1996, human rights activist Sergey Kovalev resigned as chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission to protest the government's record, particularly the war in Chechnya. Parliament in 1997 passed a law establishing a "human rights ombudsman," a position that is provided for in Russia's constitution and is required of members of the Council of Europe, to which Russia was admitted in February 1996. The Duma finally selected Duma deputy Oleg Mironov in May 1998. A member of the Communist Party, Mironov resigned from both the Party and the Duma after the vote, citing the law's stipulation that the Ombudsman be nonpartisan. Because of his party affiliation, and because Mironov had no evident expertise in the field of human rights, his appointment was widely criticized at the time by human rights activists. International human rights groups operate freely in Russia, although the government has hindered the movements and access to information of some individuals investigating the war in Chechnya.

Some German politicians see things differently; Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, explained to all the Western states that Putin is a "flawless democrat".

The lower house of the Russian parliament passed a bill by 370-18 requiring local branches of foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to re-register as Russian organizations subject to Russian jurisdiction, and thus stricter financial and legal restrictions. The bill gives Russian officials oversight of local finances and activities. The bill has been highly criticized by Human Rights Watch, Memorial organization, and the INDEM Foundation for its possible effects on international monitoring of the status of human rights in Russia. In October 2006 the activities of many foreign non-governmental organizations were suspended using this law; officials said that "the suspensions resulted simply from the failure of private groups to meet the law's requirements, not from a political decision on the part of the state. The groups would be allowed to resume work once their registrations are completed." Another crackdown followed in 2007.

The Constitution of Russian Federation provides for freedom of religion and the equality of all religions before the law as well as the separation of church and state. As Vladimir Lukin had stressed in his 2005 Ombudsman's report, "the Russian state has achieved significant progress in the observance of religious freedom and lawful activity of religious associations, overcoming a heritage of totalitarianism, domination of a single ideology and party dictatorship".

Russia is a multi-ethnic country with a large majority of Orthodox Christians (61%), high proportion of Muslims (12%), 1% of Jews, about 1% of Catholics, and so on. According to Alvaro Gil-Robles, relations between the representatives of the different religious communities are generally harmonious.

Gil-Robles emphasized the amount of state support provided by both federal and regional authorities for the different religious communities, and stressed the example of the Republic of Tatarstan as "veritable cultural and religious melting pot". Along with that, Catholics are not always heeded as well as other religions by federal and local authorities.

Vladimir Lukin noted in 2005, that citizens of Russia rarely experience violation of freedom of conscience (guaranteed by the article 28 of the Constitution). So, the Commissioner's Office annually accepts from 200 to 250 complaints dealing with the violation of this right, usually from groups of worshipers, who represent various confessions: Orthodox (but not belonging to the Moscow patriarchy), Old-believers, Muslim, Protestant and others.

The different problem arises with concern of citizens' right to association (article 30 of the Constitution). As Vladimir Lukin noted, although quantity of the registered religious organizations constantly grows (22144 in 2005), an increasing number of religious organization fail to achieve legal recognition: e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and others.

The influx of missionaries over the past several years has led to pressure by groups in Russia, specifically nationalists and the Russian Orthodox Church, to limit the activities of these "nontraditional" religious groups. In response, the Duma passed a new, restrictive, and potentially discriminatory law in October 1997. The law is very complex, with many ambiguous and contradictory provisions. The law's most controversial provisions separates religious "groups" and "organizations" and introduces a 15-year rule, which allows groups that have existed for 15 years or longer to obtain accredited status. According to Russian priest and dissident Gleb Yakunin, new religion law "heavily favors the Russian Orthodox Church at the expense of all other religions, including Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism.", and it is "a step backward in Russia's process of democratization".

The claim to guarantee "the exclusion of any legal, administrative and fiscal discrimination against so-called non-traditional confessions" was adopted by PACE in June 2005.

Anna Politkovskaya described cases of prosecution and even murders of Muslims by Russia's law enforcement bodies at the North Caucasus. However, there are plenty of Muslims in higher government, Duma, and business.

Reporters Without Borders put Russia at 147th place in the World Press Freedom Index (from a list of 168 countries). According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 47 journalists have been killed in Russia for their professional activity, since 1992 (as of January 15, 2008). Thirty were killed during President Boris Yeltsin's reign, and the rest were killed under the former president Vladimir Putin. According to the Glasnost Defence Foundation, there were 8 cases of suspicious deaths of journalists in 2007, as well as 75 assaults on journalists, and 11 attacks on editorial offices. In 2006, the figures were 9 deaths, 69 assaults, and 12 attacks on offices. In 2005, the list of all cases included 7 deaths, 63 assaults, 12 attacks on editorial offices, 23 incidents of censorship, 42 criminal prosecutions, 11 illegal layoffs, 47 cases of detention by militsiya, 382 lawsuits, 233 cases of obstruction, 23 closings of editorial offices, 10 evictions, 28 confiscations of printed production, 23 cases of stopping broadcasting, 38 refusals to distribute or print production, 25 acts of intimidation, and 344 other violations of Russian journalist's rights.

Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, famous for her criticisms of Russia's actions in Chechnya, and the pro-Kremlin Chechya government, was assassinated in Moscow. Former KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky believes that the murders of writers Yuri Shchekochikhin (author of Slaves of KGB), Anna Politkovskaya, and Aleksander Litvinenko show that the FSB has returned to the practice of political assassinations, practised in the past by the Thirteenth KGB Department.

Russian Federation is a multi-national state with over 170 ethnic groups designated as nationalities, population of these groups varying enormously, from millions in case of e.g. Russians and Tatars to under ten thousand in the case of Nenets and Samis. Among 83 subjects which constitute the Russian Federation, there are 21 national republics (meant to be home to a specific ethnic minority), 5 autonomous okrugs (usually with substantial or predominant ethnic minority) and an autonomous oblast. However, as Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Gil-Robles noted in 2004 report, whether or not the region in "national", all the citizens have equal rights and no one is privileged or discriminated on account of their ethnic affiliation.

As Gil-Robles noted, although co-operation and good relations are still generally the rule in most of regions, tensions do arise, whose origins vary. Their sources include problems related to peoples that suffered Stalinists repressions, social and economic problems provoking tensions between different communities, and the situation in Chechnya and the associated terrorist attacks with resulting hostility towards people from the Caucasus and Central Asia, which takes the form of discrimination and overt racism towards the groups in question.

Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe in May 2007 issued concern that Russia still hasn't adopted comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, and the existing anti-discrimination provisions are seldom used in spite of reported cases of discrimination.

As Gil-Robles has noted in 2004, minorities are generally represented on local and regional authorities, and participate actively in public affairs. Gil-Robles emphasized the degree of co-operation and understanding between the various nationalities living in the same area, as well as the role of regional and local authorities in ethnic dialogue and development. Along with that, Committee of Ministers in 2007 noted certain setbacks in minority participation in public life, including the abrogation of federal provisions for quotas for indigenous people in regional legislatures.

Although the Constitution of the Russian Federation recognises Russian as the official language, the individual republics may declare one or more official languages. Most of subjects have at least two — Russian and the language of the "eponymous" nationality. As Ministers noted in 2007, there is a lively minority language scene in most subjects of the federation, with more than 1,350 newspapers and magazines, 300 TV channels and 250 radio stations in over 50 minority languages. Moreover, new legislation allows usage of minority languages in federal radio and TV broadcasting.

In 2007, there were 6,260 schools which provided teaching in altogether 38 minority languages, and over 75 minority languages were taught as a discipline in 10,404 schools. Ministers of Council of Europe has noted efforts to improve the supply of minority language textbooks and teachers, as well as greater availability of minority language teaching. However, as Ministers has noted, there remain shortcomings in the access to education of persons belonging to certain minorities.

There are more than 2,000 national minorities' public associations and 560 national cultural autonomies, however the Committee of Ministers has noted that in many regions amount of state support for the preservation and development of minority cultures is still inadequate. Alvaro Gil-Robles noted in 2004, that there's a significant difference between "eponymous" ethnic groups and nationalities without their own national territory, as resources of the last are relatively limited.

Russia is also home of a particular category of minority peoples, i.e. small indigenous peoples of the North and Far East, who maintain very traditional lifestyles, often in a hazardous climatic environment, while adapting to the modern world. After the fall of the Soviet Union Russian Federation passed legislation to protect rights of small northern indigenous peoples. Gil-Robles has noted agreements between indigenous representatives and oil companies, which are to compensate potential damages on peoples habitats due to oil exploration. As Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe noted in 2007, despite some initiatives for development, the social and economic situation of numerically small indigenous peoples was affected by recent legislative amendments at the federal level, removing some positive measures as regards their access to land and other natural resources.

Alvaro Gil-Robles noted in 2004, that like many European countries, Russian Federation is also host to many foreigners, who when concentrated in a particular area make up so-called new minorities, who experience troubles e.g. with medical treatment due to absence of registration. Those who are registered encounter other integration problems because of language barriers.

Committee of Ministers has noted in 2007 that despite efforts to improve access to residency registration and citizenship for national minorities, still those measures haven't regularised the situation of all the persons concerned.

On October 2002 the Russian Federation has introduced new legislation on legal rights of foreigners, designed to control immigration and clarify foreigners' rights. Despite this legal achievement, as of 2004, numerous foreign communities in Russia faced difficulties in practice (according to Alvaro Gil-Robles).

As of 2007, almost 8 million migrants are officially registered in Russia , while some 5-7 million migrants do not have legal status.

Most of foreigners arriving in Russia are seeking for job. In many cases they have no preliminary contracts or other agreements with a local employer. A typical problem is the illegal status of many foreigners (i.e., they are not registered and have no identity papers), what deprives them of any social assistance (as of 2004) and often leads to their exploitation by the employer. Despite that, foreigner workers still benefit, what with seeming reluctance of regional authorities to solve the problem forms a sort of modus vivendi. As Gil-Robles noted, it's easy to imagine that illegal status of many foreigners creates grounds for corruption. Illegal immigrants, even if they have spent several years in Russia may be arrested at any moment and placed in detention centres for illegal immigrants for further expulsion. As of 2004, living conditions in detention centers are very bad, and expulsion process lacks of funding, what may extend detention of immigrants for months or even years. Along with that, Gil-Robles detected a firm political commitment to find a satisfactory solution among authorities he spoke with.

There's a special case of former Soviet citizens. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, 1991 Nationality Law recognised all former Soviet citizens permanently resident in the Russian Federation as Russian citizens. However, people born in Russia who weren't on the Russian territory when the law came into force, as well as some people born in the Soviet Union who lived in Russia but weren't formally domiciled there weren't granted Russian citizenship. When at December 31, 2003 former Soviet passports became invalid, those people overnight become foreigners, although many of them considered Russia their home. The majority were even deprived of retirement benefits and medical assistance. Their morale has also been seriously affected since they feel rejected.

Another special case are Meskhetian Turks. Victims of both Stalin deportation from South Georgia and 1989 pogroms in the Fergana valley in Uzbekistan, some of them were eventually dispersed in Russia. While in most regions of Russia Meskhetian Turks were automatically granted Russian citizenship, in Krasnodar Krai some 15,000 Meskhetian Turks were deprived of any legal status since 1991. Unfortunately, even measures taken by Alvaro Gil-Robles in 2004 didn't make Krasnodar authorities to change their position; Vladimir Lukin in the 2005 report called it "campaign initiated by local authorities against certain ethnic groups". The way out for a significant number of Meskhetian Turks in the Krasnodar Krai became resettlement in the United States. As Vladimir Lukin noted in 2005, there was similar problem with 5.5 thousand Yazidis who before the disintegration of the USSR moved to the Krasnodar Krai from Armenia. Only one thousand of them were granted citizenship, the others could not be legalized.

In 2006 Russian Federation after initiative proposed by Vladimir Putin adopted legislation which in order to "protect interests of native population of Russia" provided significant restrictions on presence of foreigners on Russian wholesale and retail markets.

There was a short campaign of frequently arbitrary and illegal detention and expulsion of ethnic Georgians on charges of visa violations and a crackdown on Georgian-owned or Georgian-themed businesses and organizations in 2006, as a part of 2006 Georgian-Russian espionage controversy.

As Alvaro Gil-Robles noted in 2004, the main communities targeted by xenophobia are the Jewish community, groups originating from the Caucasus, migrants and foreigners, and sexual minorities.

In his 2006 report, Vladimir Lukin has noted rise of nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments in Russia, as well as more frequent cases of violence and mass riots on the grounds of racial, nationalistic or religious intolerance.

Human rights activists point out that 44 people were murdered and close to 500 assaulted on racial grounds in 2006.. According to official sources, there are 150 "extremist groups" with over 5000 members in Russia.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has noted in 2007, that high-level representatives of the federal administration have publicly endorsed the fight against racism and intolerance, and a number of programmes have been adopted to implement these objectives. This has been accompanied by an increase in the number of convictions aimed at inciting national, racial or religious hatred. However, there has been an alarming increase in the number of racially motivated violent assaults in the Russian Federation in four years, yet many law enforcement officials still often appear reluctant to acknowledge racial or nationalist motivation in these crimes. Hate speech has become more common in the media and in political discourse. The situation of persons originating in the Northern Caucasus is particularly disturbing.

Vladimir Lukin noted that inactivity of the law enforcement bodies may cause severe consequences, like September 2006 inter-ethnic riot in town Kondopoga of the Republic of Karelia. Lukin noted provocative role of the so-called Movement Against Illegal Immigration. As the result of the Kondopoga events, all heads of the "enforcement bloc" of the republic were fired from their positions, several criminal cases were opened.

According to nationwide opinion poll carried by VCIOM in 2006, 44% of respondents consider Russia "a common house of many nations" where all must have equal rights, 36% think that "Russians should have more rights since they constitute the majority of the population", 15% think "Russia must be the state of Russian people". However the question is also what exactly does the term "Russian" denote. For 39% of respondents Russians are all who grew and were brought up in Russia's traditions; for 23% Russians are those who works for the good of Russia; 15% respondents think that only Russians by blood may be called Russians; for 12% Russians are all for who Russian language is native, for 7% Russians are adepts of Russian Christian Orthodox tradition.

According to statistics published by Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2007 in Russia foreign citizens and people without citizenship has committed 50,1 thousand crimes, while the number of crimes committed against this social group was 15985.

There are numerous cases when people "inconvenient" for Russian authorities are imprisoned in psychiatric institutions during the last years.

Little has changed in the Moscow Serbsky Institute where many prominent Soviet dissidents had been incarcerated after having been diagnosed with sluggishly progressing schizophrenia. This Institute conducts more than 2,500 court-ordered evaluations per year. When war criminal Yuri Budanov was tested there in 2002, the panel conducting the inquiry was led by Tamara Pechernikova, who had condemned the poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya in the past. Budanov was found not guilty by reason of "temporary insanity". After public outrage, he was found sane by another panel that included Georgi Morozov, the former Serbsky director who had declared many dissidents insane in the 1970s and 1980s. Serbsky Institute also made an expertise of mass poisoning of hundreds of Chechen school children by an unknown chemical substance of strong and prolonged action, which rendered them completely incapable for many months. The panel found that the disease was caused simply by "psycho-emotional tension".

Currently, the estimated orphan population in Russia is 2 million and the street children is 4 million. According to an earlier Human Rights Watch report in 1998, "Russian children are abandoned to the state at a rate of 113,000 a year for the past two years, up dramatically from 67,286 in 1992." "Of a total of more than 600,000 children classified as being “without parental care,” as many as one-third reside in institutions, while the rest are placed with a variety of guardians." "From the moment the state assumes their care, orphans in Russia—of whom 95 percent still have a living parent—are exposed to shocking levels of cruelty and neglect." Once officially labelled as retarded, Russian orphans are "warehoused for life in psychoneurological internaty. In addition to receiving little to no education in such internaty, these orphans may be restrained in cloth sacks, tethered by a limb to furniture, denied stimulation, and sometimes left to lie half-naked in their own filth. Bedridden children aged five to seventeen are confined to understaffed lying-down rooms as in the baby houses, and in some cases are neglected to the point of death." Life and death of disabled children in the State institutions was described by writer Ruben Galiego. Still, the recent adoption law made it more difficult to adopt Russian children from abroad.

The end of communism and collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia has contributed to an increase in human trafficking, with the majority of victims being women forced into prostitution. Russia is a country of origin for persons, primarily women and children, trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Russia is also a destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation from regional and neighbouring countries into Russia and beyond. Russia accounted for one-quarter of the 1,235 identified victims reported in 2003 trafficked to Germany. The Russian government has shown some commitment to combat trafficking but has been criticised for failing to develop effective measures in law enforcement and victim protection.

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