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Human Rights and Civil Liberties

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 7 Nov 2022 | comments*Discuss
Civil Liberties Human Rights Freedoms

What Are Civil Liberties?

The difference between human rights and civil liberties may be largely semantic. It could be said that human rights are those fundamental rights considered to be universal to all people. Civil liberties, however, may be those rights and freedoms recognised by a particular country.

Civil liberties are the rights and freedoms that protect an individual from the state and which are underpinned by a country’s legal system. Civil liberties are the basic freedoms granted to a country’s citizens – they are often defined by law (including, but not limited to, human rights law) and evidenced in government documentation. People need not earn civil rights - citizenship automatically confers them in most cases. Civil liberties prevent governments from abusing their powers and restrict the level of interference in peoples' lives.

Countries around the world may define civil liberties differently - and may, depending on prevailing circumstances, be more or less likely to uphold those civil liberties. This may be as true of notorious authoritarian states, as of countries which are celebrated for the permissive stance they take towards their citizens.

Where Do Civil Liberties Come From?

In 1215, King John of England signed the Magna Carta. At the time, John’s principle motivation for signing the Magna Carta was to placate the medieval barons who were rebelling against the supreme power of the throne. Today it is considered by many people to be the blue print for constitutions and bills of rights all over the world. The Magna Carta guaranteed certain basic levels of treatment for the people and limited the government’s ability to act without reason or to abuse its power.

A well known example of a Bill of Rights actively followed and upheld by its people is the one enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. This automatically grants citizens and residents certain civil liberties - including the right to speak or write freely, to assemble when they want, to practice the religion of their choice and to “bear arms”. These rights are frequently relied upon in the American courts.

Human Rights and Civil Liberties in the UK

Whilst the UK may not have a written constitution, setting out the civil liberties and rights of its citizens, it has a long common law history of recognising certain freedoms. Indeed, many written constitutions around the world are based on the rights long upheld by the British courts. An example of a very old English right is “Habeas corpus” – which appears to have been in effect in the UK since at least the 14th Century and may pre-date the Magna Carta. Under this rule anyone who has been arrested, or deprived of their liberty, may request that they are presented before a judge so that the legality of their detention can be judicially determined. It has been argued that the spirit of this ancient law has been severely undermined by the introduction of modern anti-terrorist legislation.

The UK Human Rights Act came into force in 2000, giving effect to the European Convention on Human Rights. The rights contained in the Act affect ordinary people in all areas of life – protecting them from breaches of their rights by “public authorities”. The Act also made it possible for people to bring a case in a UK court based on a breach of European Convention rights. Prior to the Human Rights Act a British citizen who had their Convention rights breached would have to have gone to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Human Rights Act requires UK judges to take decisions of the European Court of Human Rights into account when hearing cases. Whenever possible, judges should interpret other UK legislation in a way which is compatible with the European Convention. If it is not possible to interpret existing legislation in a way which is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights judges may issue a “declaration of incompatibility”. This declaration does not affect the validity of a UK Act – which is intended to reflect the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty. An individual may still take his case to the European Court of Human Rights as a last resort.

Civil Liberties Around the World

In countries all over the world people argue for greater freedoms to be accorded. In America and other Western societies, for example, there have been campaigns to extend the right to marry to all people regardless of their sexuality. In more restrictive countries, some people risk their lives in support of basic civil liberties such as free speech, the right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly. What constitutes a civil liberty may depend very much on the country that a person calls home.

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28 Ezekiel Street Ikeja Lagos, Nigeria, 7/11/2022 10.43pm Nigerian time Good Morning, Sir/Madam, My name is Olawale Abdul-ganiyu Adeshina, 37 years, I write again to you today and I believe that you care for one life and right, this is not poverty but it liberty, or freedom, from bondage and not just one person but from about 200 million people. A copy been send to world court human right which contained photo in pdf. Please I need to leave Nigeria I just attached to know I was the one auto-mobile & green energy project. I first want to tell the reason this as become more strong and every day it increases, though I have already this problem that I was block by maybe families feeling that I get access to work while they or their children never and they try to stop me for the benefit of their children or them from there It happen that it get more and more until they start involve corporate to doing it. And it mature to what you see. Since 2009 Later days in 2015, I think about how I can make a no gas generating machine and I keeptrying to see how to gather material and other source that will enable me get the result since I was still on this problem of attack and I try to contact some few people from abroad then to assist me with some knowledge. In 2018 I hear about when they call formeeting to discuss about the climate change. And I think this my source will be a bit helpful when I show it to the engineers or professional. So I write a to patern it and then I seek for fund, my problem start it was still at the patern place when they hack my mail from Nigeria to see what I am into and when they see it they come to my house and steal the hard dicks but I still have a back up and they now promise not to allow me get money from any source so that they project will continue any where I was to get fund they track it from the hard dicks with all the document for it and so on I spend some money I have then and I lost my dad and mom the same year 2020. Ever since then they have been monitoring my movement and who want to help is the reason my account was made so that money will not come in all the people I contacted for assistance then that have send money to me they block it from the cloud and never allow it come. Lastly because I have friend then I tell that I need help. And a friend my girl friend who assisted me to add me to a site that from their I can get help too and meet people to discuss thisand after some month they hack in and downloaded the file to control it here in Nigeria and I start loss contact. When I meet someone discussing this to come they will block the person from the airport and tell never to do business with me and take all the money that they never want me leave them or get money. I try another one to get money in the country to build about 500 tons of soya oil plant and wheat flour plant of about 500 as well they block it and tell they want to do and I should never have money. Sir/madam this is very serious they
ADEGAN95 - 7-Nov-22 @ 10:19 PM
Hi Karen, I am so sorry about your situation, I want to say that your son does not blame you, and that it's the system at fault, and as usual we always need a lawyer and cant afford one. Have you tried writing or calling or making your complaint to the governor, DOJ, attorney general, the place where they have your son and demanding they take him back, . I say tell your story and file complaints everywhere to everybody until you get an answer, maybe sit down and think about what it is you want to happen and why and stick to that point, be clear that you did not consent to what happened and how thier actions are harming to you and your son, make copies of any answers you get and post your story everywhere to everybody, and pray, pray to our heavenly father for guidance and comfort, he hears our prayers. I am also going thru a similar situation, everyday my heart is in shambles but I have to be strong and have faith and keep trying.
MaBarker - 21-Dec-20 @ 1:38 AM
When someone is cryingfor help, do you help them? How should we ask for help? Why do we not get the help we ask for from our government? How could I help ? where do I start to get a petition going? And could you please tell me, or give me some pointers on how to demand or request something from the government. Thank you
MaBarker - 21-Dec-20 @ 1:23 AM
I was locked up on false charges in 2006 at pentoville prison released after 28 day ,can i still get compensation.
Demmy - 15-Apr-19 @ 4:54 PM
Please help me I am being subjected to an enemy of the State scenario by a Police Officer
Ghost - 1-Mar-18 @ 10:52 PM
Shelly - Your Question:
Please remove my last comment I didn't realise it would be published.

Our Response:
Where did you post it? The previous post on this page is from some time ago.
AboutHumanRights - 30-Sep-16 @ 11:18 AM
Please remove my last comment I didn't realise it would be published.
Shelly - 29-Sep-16 @ 8:51 AM
I need help and justice for my son he has been locked away 13years in a mental hospital it's horrendous no one is hearing me he has been detained 13 yrs for nothing where is justice he has been very poorly bleeding from his mouth he needs camera down his thoart on 16th June if it wasn't for me that wouldn't be taken place it's a nightmare I need help for my son please please hear my crys for help I'm at my wits end no one wants to help it's so unfair he's a good man he's my world I love him with every breath I breath they have taken his life away it's disgusting god help me please I'm begging on my hands and knees for some help he needs out he needs a sheltered accommodation he needs a life before there is a death it's harsh words about my son it's breaking me and his loving family they moved him from Birmingham to Manchester alfa house to be away from his mother me yes me I live in Coventry it's heartbreaking to keep hearing him ask mum when you getting me out my hands are tied behind my bk please I'm begging help us 13years of his life this has to end before its to late there has got to be a god some where I'm begging you.. miss k bailey I live at 11 lowerford street Coventry cv1 5ps
karon - 29-May-15 @ 11:16 PM
You are discussing constitutional law with an American who say UK has no constitution. What does she mean and what's your opinion?
pink - 16-Aug-14 @ 8:07 PM
Judge daley at warrington crown court , called me a liar without any evidence, as i was have always spoken the truth, she said i cannot go back to court without a solicitor, cant afford one , owing 30 grand on divorce already . pls can someone help with me on how to handle my situation !
Bambi07 - 11-Sep-12 @ 12:08 AM
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