(1) - Human Rights Instruments


Human rights are those that are recognised and guaranteed by a number of international legal instruments. Human rights create minimum standards, but not comprehensive guidelines for life. Most human rights, as guaranteed by treaties, require strict legal interpretations as to what they do and do not cover. The UN Charter states that ’promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms’ is one of the purposes of the United Nations. Since the adoption of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, the UN Member States have cooperated on the creation of a range of human rights treaties.

(Photo: United Nation Palace, Geneva © Ingmar Zahorsky Source: Flickr)


(2) - Human Rights in Europe


Europe has a longstanding tradition of protecting human rights where different international organisations, such as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) or the Council of Europe monitor the situation. The latter organisation is a political organisation set up to defend the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has particular importance since its judgements are legally binding and therefore often seen as more effective than the opinions of UN-style committees. The European Social Charter sets out social rights and establishes a supervisory mechanism, guaranteeing their respect by the States Parties.

(Photo: European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg © Marcella Bona Source: Flickr)


(3) - Human Rights and Health


The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being was enshrined in WHO’s Constitution. In the UN framework, the right to health is an inclusive right, extending not only to timely and appropriate health care, but also to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe, drinkable water and adequate sanitation, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information, including on sexual and reproductive health. The Special Rapporteur on the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health implements the mandate through different means and activities. The WHO Health and Human Rights Publication Series aim to clarify the relationship between human rights and specific health topics

(Photo © World Health Organization)


(4) - Fundamental Rights in Europe


Recognising the importance of Fundamental Rights, the first European Convention was convened to prepare and draft the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Fundamental rights, as presented in this Charter, are more than just principles, they draw from several different legal sources, such as: constitutional traditions and international obligations common to Member States, the primary law of the EU (the Treaties), the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Social Charters adopted by the EU and the Council of Europe, and the case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). As regards the legal landscape in the EU, several institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, European Ombudsman, Court of Justice of the European Union and the Fundamental Rights Agency) are responsible for implementing these fundamental rights.

(Photo: Signing the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union © Source: European Commission)


(5) - Equal treatment legislation in Europe


TFEU Article 19 19 provides the EU with a legal basis to combat all forms of discrimination based on sex, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The objective of Directive 2000/43/EC is to combat discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, which is supplemented by the Directive 2000/78/EC on equal treatment in employment and occupation. The new ‘Article 19 Directive’would ban discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in all areas of life within EU competence (including education, housing, and access to goods and services). However, in light of the positions of specific Member States, the new directive will not be adopted during the 2009-2014 legislative period.


- EPHA Briefing on Human Rights, Fundamental Rights and equal treatment legislation in Europe- (one-page, pdf)

- FULL EPHA Briefing on Human Rights, Fundamental Rights and equal treatment legislation in Europe(full, pdf)


(Photo © Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) )

(Article’s Logo: Human Rights Council, Geneva 14th Session © UN Geneva Source: Flickr)


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Last modified on May 7 2014.