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Natural Rights, Human Rights, Legal Rights, Civil Rights – Differences

As Egypt transitions towards self-rule, Egyptians need to know their rights. Rights come in many forms, so I thought I would write this article to outline the differences. If you think it’s useful, or would like to translate this article into Arabic just send me a note.

Natural Rights (حقوق طبیعیة)

Natural Rights, also known as Inalienable Rights, are considered to be self-evident and universal. They don’t depend on laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government.

According to the United States Declaration of Independence natural rights are God-given rights. It states: “The Declaration of Independen­ce, meanwhile, is based upon the “self-evident” truth that “all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.

Different philosophers have suggested various lists of natural rights but most include the right to life and liberty. The British philosopher, John Locke emphasizes “life, liberty and property”. The point is, it is assumed that you are automatically born with these rights. These rights are not granted by any government or any law.

Human rights

Human rights are an attempt to codify some of these natural rights into more specific and globally acceptable forms that can be found in modern declarations and treaties. It is internationally agreed that any person is entitled to these rights simply because he or she is a human being. Human rights have been a cornerstone of public policy around the world and are said to form a common moral language.

These include the following:

1. Right to life

2. Freedom from torture

3. Freedom from slavery

4. Right to a fair trial

5. Freedom of speech

6. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Legal rights

Legal rights are the privileges given to citizens by their governments as a result of the social contract. They include constitutional rights, common law rights, and statutory rights. They differ to reflect specific cultures and governments. Legal rights are enumerated in constitutions, in statutes (by a legislative body), in case law (especially in countries with a common law tradition), in treaties, and in administrative regulations.

People who want larger governments are more enthusiastic about creating and enacting laws (which specify a citizens legal rights) to regulate the activities of citizens. The larger the government, the more the restrictions on freedom. People who want smaller government tend to discourage legislation unless absolutely necessary for fear of abuse from a larger more empowered government. How that plays out differs from one country to another and from one period to the next.

Civil rights

The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. The movement had a legal and constitutional aspect, and resulting in much law-making (anti-discrimination laws) at both national and international levels. Most civil rights movements relied on the technique of civil resistance, using nonviolent methods of struggle, to achieve their aims.

Anti-discrimination laws have been the seat of much debate since they involve government intervention to protect individuals from breaching the rights of one another. This allows government to interfere in our everyday lives which is seen as both inefficient and potentially abusive.

Some of the definitions in this article have been modified from Wikipedia. The content of this article is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

About T. Fouad, MD

Blogging on Egypt, Middle East Politics. Economics. Oncology. Egyptian Liberal, Doctor. كتابة عن مصر والشرق الأوسط, سياسة واقتصاد, طبيب مصري ليبرالي. تابعوني على تويتر @FouadMD



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