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Human Right Course
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What are human rights?
the states responsibilities
human rights a goal
The history of human rights
What right do we have?
The protection of Human Rights
Human rights in everyday life
Human Rights

Did you know

Did you know there are about 200 states in the world?




The authorities have a great deal of power in society and to a large extent determine the conditions their citizens live under. In many countries, e.g. Norway, the majority of citizens enjoy many benefits. This is because their society is rich and both the state and individuals possess a large amount of resources. The authorities distribute the resources in such a way that most people get what they need. In other countries people may live under extremely poor conditions. This could be because the state is poor and there are simply not enough resources to go round. However, it could also be because the people in power do not treat people equally, but instead give a lot to a few and little to the others.

Human rights were devised to ensure that authorities do not discriminate and treat individuals and vulnerable groups badly. It is the states themselves that have agreed to the international conventions. The first one was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and since then many other conventions have been agreed. Observing human rights is primarily the responsibility of the state. When states sign (ratify) international conventions on human rights, they undertake to observe these rights for everybody within their territory.

If a state does not respect and observe human rights, other states and international organisations are entitled to criticise it. If someone believes that his or her human rights are being violated, he or she has an opportunity to start legal proceedings against the authorities in their own country in international human rights courts.



- In Europe a citizen who believes that his or her rights are being violated can complain about his or her own country to the European Court of Human Rights as long as his or her country is a member of the Council of Europe, which was established in 1959. If the court finds that the state has violated its citizen's human rights, the relevant state will have a judgement made against it and can be sentenced to pay compensation to the victim. These sorts of judgements can lead to changes in practices and legislation in states.


- The authorities in Norway were criticised throughout the 1990s and as recently as in 2000 by international organisations because of their remand practices with respect to suspected criminals. Remand means that a prisoner is imprisoned without a sentence and often subjected to strict restrictions. In 1998, the UN's Human Rights Committee expressed concern about unreasonably long periods of remand in some cases. During the same year the average time spent on remand was 67 days. Norway has also been criticised by the Council of Europe's Torture Committee for using solitary imprisonment too often. Solitary imprisonment means that the suspect cannot, for example, receive letters or visits, or perhaps even read newspapers, watch TV, or spend time in the company of other prisoners.

- In 1998, the Norwegian authorities produced a "Plan of Action for Human Rights" which stated that the "the promotion of human rights is a mainstay in the Government's efforts".

The states are the authorities in each individual country.

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