Definition - Civil Liberties
Area of Law: Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties/Human Rights - Human rights are fundamental, inherent rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled irrespective of their race, religion, nationality, gender, language, ethnic origin or other status.

Civil liberties differ from human rights in that they are established by individual states in their laws and are applied within the jurisdiction of those states. Human rights are enshrined in custom and international law and impose standards of conduct upon all states and are held to such a degree that they cannot be created or abrogated by an individual state or government.

Human rights are regarded as universal in that all people are regarded as equal by virtue of their humanity.

The principles of human rights are supported by several international conventions and treaties such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and a number of specific national Human Rights Acts. Human rights encompass political, economic and cultural rights including the rights to life, liberty, education, equality before the law, belief, and freedom of speech, religion, movement and nationality.

The concept of a set of universally accepted human rights developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the holocaust although the first recorded definition was penned by Scottish philosopher John Locke and was later enhanced in the American Declaration of Rights in 1776 which declared 'All men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights'.

Civil Liberties Specialists