The Basics

Our “Basics” section is an introductory guide to the diverse and expansive field of human rights. Both new and experienced readers may navigate this page to explore the international bodies and legal institutions governing human rights law, recent innovations which have impacted the field, and numerous additional resources.

A little context: what is “human rights?” 
Human rights are rights that guarantee equal dignity and equal treatment for all people. Most people think of human rights in the context of the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. The UN Declaration of Human Rights was catalyzed by WWII and adopted in the context of the aftermath of the holocaust and other brutalities that had occurred during the war. But human rights existed before the UNDHR was ever written, and the international laws and treaties that have been written since 1948 guaranteeing human rights come from many diverse sources such as The Hindu Vedas, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, the Bible, the Quran (Koran), and the Analects of Confucius.

So what guarantees my human rights today?
International human rights are guaranteed under international law, which has four main sources: treaties/conventions, international custom, general principles, and judicial decisions. Various branches of law protect your international rights in different contexts. International Humanitarian Law, for example, protects people in times of war and conflict, and applies to people actively participating in that conflict. International Human Rights Law, on the other hand, applies to both times of conflict and times of “peace.”