National Human Rights Laws

National human rights laws protect everyone in that society; they are negotiated agreements that guarantee a basic quality of life.

A Bill of Rights was incorporated in the Amendments to the US Constitution to prevent the Federal Government from infringing people’s liberty.  It was partly conditioned by a wish to avoid repeating the country’s experience under British Colonial rule.  Individual cases that have been subject to State rulings can be referred to the Supreme Court if necessary – as when a convicted murderer appealed against execution by nitrogen, on the grounds that it was a “cruel and unusual” punishment.  Although it was rejected in that case, it did illustrate that human rights were considered to be a legal basis for making the appeal.

National human rights are an important component of inclusivity – as expressed by Lord Phillips, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, in a speech on Terrorism and Human Rights, where he said:

“Respect for human rights must, I suggest, be a key weapon in the ideological battle.  Since the Second World War we in Britain have welcomed to the United Kingdom millions of immigrants from all corners of the globe, many of them refugees from countries where human rights were not respected.  It is essential that they, and their children and grandchildren, should be confident that their adopted country treats them without discrimination and with due respect for their human rights.  If they feel that they are not being fairly treated, their consequent resentment will inevitably result in the growth of those who, actively or passively, are prepared to support the terrorists who are bent on destroying the fabric of our society.  The Human Rights Act is not merely their safeguard, it is a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism”. [para. 89]

Lord Phillips’ remarks are particularly apposite with regard to the role of human rights in fostering peaceful pluralism, as described in the previous section.  People in minority ethnic groups may feel threatened by a feeling that the majority might outvote them, if they are in a democracy, or try to impose unacceptable cultural values upon them.  Guaranteed human rights ensure that governance is of at least some value to everyone.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/5471.htm.