What Do Human Rights Mean For Me?
Where we have been able to find information in BSL relating to human rights we have included links in these pages. We have also asked some of the main organisations dealing with Human Rights to produce more deaf friendly materials in BSL and we will add these to these pages when we get them.
What do we mean by human rights?
Our Human rights concern the things that are important to us all as human beings and make it possible for us to live our lives to their full potential free from harm and with dignity and respect.
They include the basic rights such as the right to life, to have enough to eat, a roof over our head, an education and to good health. They also include our rights to freedom of thought, the rights to express our opinions and to organise ourselves politically to achieve change. They include our rights to defend our interests at work and the right to express and practice our religion or other kinds of beliefs - provided these do not interfere with the rights of others.
Human rights help us to live our lives the way we want to according to our own needs and choices. This includes who we form friendships or relationships with.
Where do human rights come from?
Human rights come from the moments in history where individuals and groups of people tried to change the world for the better and make it fairer, more tolerant and more equal. This came about because people recognised the injustices which threatened their existence, limited their lives and stopped them achieving their potential. These struggles are deep in our history.
The first internationally agreed statement of human rights emerged in 1948 following the horrors of the Second World War and especially the persecution of Jewish people and other minorities by the Nazi regime in Germany. This led to the development of the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' (UDHR) in 1948.
"But aren't they just for prisoners and terrorists?"
In recent years the press have highlighted cases of human rights applying to prisoners, suspected terrorists of other groups who you may feel do not deserve them.
No matter who you are, where you are or what you may have done, you still have human rights. There may be some rights which are applied differently in some situations. Human Rights can be limited in certain circumstances - such as when someone goes to prison. Despite this basic rights to human dignity apply to everyone in a human rights framework and this includes those who have broken the law.
Human rights are for everyone
Human rights laws and thinking are increasingly making a difference to other people in society including those discriminated against because of their gender, age or sexual orientation. There have been important human rights cases involving the services needed by older people in care homes, Children and young people and vulnerable asylum seekers fleeing persecution and torture. It is now more common for a human rights based approach to be applied to other things which affect our lives such as being treated differently because of our disabilities or because we are D/deaf.
An overwhelming majority of people in the UK support legislation to protect their human rights and want to see a human rights approach incorporated into public services in ways that help both users and service providers to benefit,an Equality and Human Rights Commission Report in 2009 confirmed this. You can view a summary of the report by clicking here.
To view the BSL summary of the report click here and look for the BSL summary button on the right hand side of the page.
As human rights ideas and laws are better understood in our society they will be used by all of us to overcome the barriers we face to living better lives. We must not allow them to be distorted by those who seek to undermine them by dividing people and setting them against one another by claiming that some deserve human rights and some don't.
What do the human rights laws actually say?
International human rights laws requires states to respect our human rights and forbids them from interfering in them. They place a duty on states to protect rights and ensure that they are not undermined or restricted. The requirement to fulfil human rights requires states to promote them and encourage people to seek and improve their rights. Although international law can be hard to enforce at the national level it is increasingly having a strong influence on rights partly because of international treaties enshrined in our national laws in the UK and in Scotland. This is also because developing a rights based approach is now better understood as the right thing to do.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the best known and most important, human rights document. All other human rights laws take the UDHR as their starting point. It is the foundation of modern human rights law. To access a BSL version of the declaration click here
After the UDHR, many other international agreements, or treaties, were developed for specific groups and issues. Many of these treaties are reflected in anti-discrimination and protection laws in the UK. The international agreement of most relevance in relation to the human rights of deaf people is probably the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
To watch a BSL version of the guide to this treaty click here
For an easy to read version of the main points in the treaty produced by Independent Living in Scotland click here.
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
This was produced by the nations of the Council of Europe (including the UK) in the aftermath of World War II. In fact The Council of Europe was founded to defend human rights, democracy and the Rule of Law. People who feel their rights have been violated by their own government or its public authorities at the national level may be able to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights using the European Convention on Human Rights, after exhausting domestic remedies.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ECHR The Council of Europe has published a leaflet that highlights the impact of the ECHR on citizens' lives and its importance in the development of international law in the last 60 years. You can read more about the achievements of the ECHR and the European Court of Human Rights by clicking here
Human rights in Scotland
The Scottish Human Rights Commission ( SHRC) promotes and protects the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These are now part of the law of Scotland as a result of the UK Parliament passing the Human Rights Act 1998 and carrying the duties into the Scottish Parliament through the Scotland Act 1998.
The SHRC works with the Equalities & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who are responsible for promoting the implementation of UK equalities laws such as the Equalities Act 2010. The EHRC promote human rights relating to issues which are the responsibility of the UK Parliament. The SHRC also works closely with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland in their shared role as independent monitoring mechanism for international treaties such as the UN Disability Convention in Scotland
What is the Human Rights Act 1998?
The Human Rights Act gives people in Scotland the opportunity to have their human rights legal case heard in a Scottish court. The Human Rights Act contains most of the rights which are included in the European Convention on Human Rights.
What does the Human Rights Act do?
The Human Rights Act requires public authorities to consider human rights when they are making or interpreting the law here in Scotland. If you feel that one or more of your rights have been breached by a public authority, you may be able to take the matter to court if required. This also means that people can argue for human rights concerns to be taken into account in the design of laws or the policy decisions which flow from them. If you are unhappy with the decision of a Scottish Court and have pursued the issue as far as it can go in the UK, you can then take your case to the European Court of Human Rights. To view a BSL guide to the Act produced by Bristol City Council click here.
How is Deaf Connections improving human rights?
We feel that deaf people are routinely unable to access their human rights due to issues relating to communication, prejudice and discrimination. Click here to view a BSL version of the World Federation for the Deaf website which gives their interpretation of the main human rights issues which affect deaf people. We feel that many aspects of our lives are affected by the denial of our human rights or the failure to do what needs to be done to help us achieve them.
Deaf Connections provide many practical services which seek to help people with the day to aspects of life which others take for granted. These include help with communication, specialist care education and community development support.
The lack of information and awareness of the human rights needs of deaf people means that they are often not fully considered when services are planned. Although progress is being made on this and other equalities concerns there is still a lot to do.
Compliance with Human Rights duties
In 2012 Scotland will develop a national action plan for identifying and tackling human rights issues. This may require changes to Scotland's laws and improvements to the policies and practice of service providers. It will promote and strengthen a rights based approach for delivering the Human Rights of all Scotland's people. Deaf Connections Ishara project will make sure that our communities are part of this process and we want you be part of it to. Let's make sure that the services we are entitled to treat people fairly, respectfully, equally and promote their autonomy. These are principles which should be used to plan and deliver services but they are also fundamental human rights available to people under United Kingdom, Scottish & International Law.
For more information about Ishara's Framework for Action campaign to deliver equalities and human rights for deaf BME people visit the Ishara Manifesto section of our website.
If you have found the information about Human Rights on these pages useful and you would like to know more then please visit the following websites
- The Scottish Human Rights Commission at http://www.scottishhumanrights.com/
- Equalities & Human Rights Commission at http://equalityhumanrights.com/human-rights/
- The British Institute of Human Rights http://www.bihr.org.uk/