Human rights

What is the Human Rights Act?

The Human Rights Act came into effect in October 2000. 

It means people can take a case about their human rights to a UK court. Before then they had to take complaints about their human rights to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world regardless of their nationality and citizenship.

They are fundamentally important in maintaining a fair and civilised society.

Human rights are based on core principles like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and autonomy. They are relevant to your day-to-day life and protect your freedom to control your own life.

There are 16 basic rights in the Human Rights Act – all taken from the European Convention on Human Rights. As you would expect, they concern matters of life and death, like freedom from torture and being killed, but they also cover rights in everyday life, such as what a person can say and do, their beliefs, their right to a fair trial and many other similar basic entitlements.

Visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website for more details on the Human Rights Act.

How do human rights affect me?

Public authorities must act in accordance with the Convention rights. Public officials must understand human rights and take them into account when in their day-to-day work. This applies if they are delivering services directly or developing policies and procedures.

Some convention rights are absolute while others are limited or restricted. When decisions are made rights must be balanced. Any restrictions must be no greater than is needed to achieve the objective.

Anyone who believes their rights have been breached by the state can take a case against the state. The Convention does not apply to disputes between individuals or against private organisations.

Visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website for practical guidance on human rights.

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