Human Rights


Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.

Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Human rights day is observed every year on 10 December.

History of Human Rights

– Antiquity

The first recording of human rights were inscribed by Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, into the Cyrus Cylinder, written on the Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet, created in 539 B.C.

Code of Hammurabi

Rights of Athenian citizens

– Islam

The Last Sermon of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

– Medieval

Magna Carta (1215)

Sir Thomas Aquinas’ theory of natural rights (13th Century)

– Enlightenment

English Declaration of the Rights of Man (1689)

U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776)

French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)

United States Constitution and Bill of Rights (1789)

– Early Developments

International Committee for the Red Cross (1863)

Geneva Convention (1864)

Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)

League of Nations and the International Labor Organization (1919)

– Aftermath of World War II

Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech (January 6, 1941)

The Atlantic Charter Between the United States and Great Britain (August 14, 1941)

The Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals

Creation of the United Nations (1945)

– Modern Protection of International Human Rights

The Preamble to the United Nations Charter states that the “Peoples of the United Nations” are determined “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”

In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration enumerates civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, but the Declaration contains no provisions for monitoring or enforcement.

In 2018, we cannot take for granted that we will be free to gather together in protest or to criticize our governments. In fact, speaking out is becoming more dangerous. – Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

International Human Rights Law – United Nations

International human rights law lays down the obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

One of the great achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law—a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people aspire.

The United Nations has defined a broad range of internationally accepted rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. It has also established mechanisms to promote and protect these rights and to assist states in carrying out their responsibilities.

The foundations of this body of law are the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1945 and 1948, respectively.

Since then, the United Nations has gradually expanded human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups, who now possess rights that protect them from discrimination that had long been common in many societies.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.

It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

Since its adoption in 1948, the UDHR has been translated into more than 501 languages – the most translated document in the world – and has inspired the constitutions of many newly independent States and many new democracies. The UDHR, together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols (on the complaints procedure and on the death penalty) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocol, form the so-called International Bill of Human Rights.

Economic, social and cultural rights

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entered into force in 1976, and had 164 states parties by the end of October 2016. The human rights that the Covenant seeks to promote and protect include:

the right to work in just and favourable conditions;

the right to social protection, to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being;

the right to education and the enjoyment of benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress.

Civil and political rights

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its First Optional Protocol entered into force in 1976. The Covenant had 167 states parties by the end of 2010. The Second Optional Protocol was adopted in 1989.

The Covenant deals with such rights as freedom of movement; equality before the law; the right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; peaceful assembly; freedom of association; participation in public affairs and elections; and protection of minority rights.

It prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life; torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment; slavery and forced labour; arbitrary arrest or detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; war propaganda; discrimination; and advocacy of racial or religious hatred.

Human Rights Conventions

A series of international human rights treaties and other instruments adopted since 1945 have expanded the body of international human rights law. They are generally known as human rights instruments. They include

the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948),

the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965),

the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966),

*the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979),

Convention Against Torture (CAT) (1984),

the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),

Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW or more often MWC) (1990), and

the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (1996),

the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), among others.

Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council, established on 15 March 2006 by the General Assembly and reporting directly to it, replaced the 60-year-old UN Commission on Human Rights as the key UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights.

The Council is made up of 47 State representatives and is tasked with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe by addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them, including responding to human rights emergencies.

The most innovative feature of the Human Rights Council is the Universal Periodic Review. This unique mechanism involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member states once every four years.

The Review is a cooperative, state-driven process, under the auspices of the Council, which provides the opportunity for each state to present measures taken and challenges to be met to improve the human rights situation in their country and to meet their international obligations. The Review is designed to ensure universality and equality of treatment for every country.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights exercises principal responsibility for UN human rights activities. The High Commissioner is mandated to respond to serious violations of human rights and to undertake preventive action.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is the focal point for United Nations human rights activities.

It serves as the secretariat for the Human Rights Council, the treaty bodies (expert committees that monitor treaty compliance) and other UN human rights organs. It also undertakes human rights field activities

Most of the core human rights treaties have an oversight body which is responsible for reviewing the implementation of that treaty by the countries that have ratified it.

Individuals, whose rights have been violated can file complaints directly to Committees overseeing human rights treaties.

International Human Rights Law – Others

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) implemented by the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights

The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man adopted by the Organization of American States in 1948 and the American Convention on Human Rights adopted by the OAS in 1969 which are implemented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter- American Court of Human Rights

Organization of African Unity was founded in 1963 and adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1981. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is charged with supervising the implementation of the African Charter.

Fundamental Rights in Constitution of Pakistan

Fundamental Rights are enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Chapter 1: Fundamental Rights of Part II: Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy of the Constitution contains articles about fundamental rights. Articles 8 to 28 of the constitution deals with the all fundamental rights provided to the citizens of Pakistan. Followings are the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of Pakistan under the constitution.

8 Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights to be avoided.
9 Security of person. No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law.
10 Safeguard as to arrest and detention. All arrested person must be informed of grounds of their arrest, they have the right to consult and defended by a lawyer of their choice.
10A Right of fair trial
11 Slavery, forced labour, etc. prohibited and no child under the age of 14 years be employed in factory and mines.
12 Protection against retrospective punishment
13 Protection against double punishment and self incrimination.
14 Inviolability of dignity of man
15 Freedom of movement
16 Freedom of assembly
17 Freedom of association
18 Freedom of trade, business or profession
19 Freedom of speech
19A Right to information
20 Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions
21 Safeguard against taxation for purposes of any particular religion
22 Safeguards as to educational institutions in respect of religion
23 Provision as to property
24 Protection of property rights
25 Equality of citizens
25A. Right to education
26 Non-discrimination in respect of access to public places
27 Safeguard against discrimination in services
28 Preservation of language, script and culture

Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP)

The Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) was established in 1987 as an independent non-government organization. Since then it has developed to become an influential countrywide human rights body.

The HRCP has established a leading role in providing a highly informed and objective voice on a national level in the struggle for the provision of human rights for all and democratic development in Pakistan. HRCP’s role in highlighting human rights abuses has been recognized not only on a national level but also internationally.

Besides monitoring human rights violations and seeking redress through public campaigns, lobbying and intervention in courts, HRCP organizes seminars, workshops and fact finding missions.

It also issues a monthly magazine in the Urdu language called Jehd-i-Haq and an annual report on the state of human rights in the country, available in both English and Urdu.

The main office of the secretariat is in Lahore while HRCP maintains a presence through branch offices in Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta. Special Task Forces in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, Turbat/Makran, and Gilgit report issues from their areas and attend important meetings and seminars on HRCP’s behalf.

HRCP’s mission includes the following:

To work for the ratification and implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of other related Charters, Covenants, Protocols, Resolutions, Recommendations and internationally adopted norms by Pakistan;

To promote research and studies in the field of human rights and to mobilize public opinion in favor of accepted norms through all available media and forums, and other activities like holding conventions and publishing reports to further the cause

To cooperate with and aid national and international groups, organisations and individuals engaged in the promotion of human rights and to participate in meetings and conferences on human rights at home and abroad;

To take appropriate action to prevent violations of human rights and to provide legal aid and expertise to victims of those violations and to individuals and groups striving to protect human rights.

Judicial Commission on enforced disappearances

In March 2010 the Pakistan government created a judicial commission to investigate disappearance cases, with a view to tracing individuals who had been disappeared.

At the time of its formation, the Commission was criticized for having a very narrow mandate and for not recording evidence from individuals who had reappeared (in order to learn about the circumstances of their disappearance and to use this information to end impunity).

It has also been criticised for its failure to investigate the role of the intelligence agencies, the main body accused of involvement in the disappearances, and to hold officials implicated in cases to account.

The Commission started holding hearings on April 28, 2010 and submitted its finding to the federal government on December 31, 2010, with a request that the government provide a response to the commission’s report, and a recommendation that Pakistan’s National Assembly should introduce legislation to curb the practice of enforced disappearances.

On January 10, 2011, a three-member judges bench of the Supreme Court resumed hearings of disappearances cases. The Judicial Commission’s report was presented in the court.

During this hearing it was announced that the Commission was able to trace 134 missing persons, interestingly all of these cases are people who recent were disappearance (in 2009-2010). Those who disappeared during the Musharraf era have not been traced.

Human Rights Situation in Pakistan

– Political Freedom in Pakistan
– Freedom of the press in Pakistan
– Provincial inequality
– Debt Slavery
– Bonded Labor
– Tribal traditions of Wanni, Karo Kari
– A False concept of honor associated with women
– Increased Violence against Women
– Humanitarian response to conflict
– Internally displaced people
– Discrimination against religious minorities
– Human rights violations of Ahmadi Community
– Religious persecution of Hazara Shia Community
– Missing Persons
– Controversies related blasphemy laws
– Intolerance against Hindus and other minorities – Forced conversions

Measures for Human Rights

– Identifying Human Rights and recognize civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights
– Protecting and Promoting Human Rights in Personal Life.
– Learn about human right, embrace the duty to protect and promote human rights and participate in local human rights activism
– Document human rights violations, report local human rights violations to a trusted organization and report serious human rights violations to the United Nations
– Working for a human rights organization and supporting political leaders dedicated to human rights
– Protection of refugees
– Protection of War victims and Prisoners of wards
– Education of Human Rights to be part of the syllabus
– Awareness of Human Rights in General Public
– Awareness of Human Rights in Security Forces
– Promotion of dialogue among different ethnic and religious groups
– Promotion of protection of Human Rights as the very foundation of Democracy
– Religious Freedom
– Role of Judiciary
– Role of Media
– Role of NGOs
– Role of Religious Scholars
– Role of International War Crimes Tribunals
– Fewer Laws but hard laws
– Effective Institutions Building
– Mechanisms to protect human rights and to make human rights a priority in government policymaking
– Human Rights as the mainstream guiding principles in every walk of life

10 Steps for Improving Human Rights in Pakistan

Human Rights Watch proposed the following 10 steps in 2013;
1. End Sectarian Attacks
2. Protect Religious Minorities
3. Protect Women’s Rights
4. End Abuses and Enforced Disappearances in Balochistan
5. End Militant Abuses
6. End Counterterrorism Abuses
7. Ensure Media Freedom
8. Restore Human Rights Ministry
9. Constitute the National Human Rights Commission
10. Restore Moratorium on Death Penalty

Human Rights Watch Report 2020 – Pakistan

The Human Rights Watch Report 2020 – Pakistan covers the following aspects;

– Freedom of Expression and Attacks on Civil Society
– Freedom of Religion and Belief
– Women’s and Children’s Rights
– Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and Law Enforcement Abuses
– Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
– Death Penalty
– Key International Actors