Civil rights facts

Savka Dabcevic Kucar
Savka Dabčević-Kučar, Croatian Spring participant; Europe's first female prime minister

Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression.

Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples' physical and mental integrity, life, and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as race, gender, national origin, colour, age, political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability; and individual rights such as privacy and the freedoms of thought, speech, religion, press, assembly, and movement.

Political rights include natural justice (procedural fairness) in law, such as the rights of the accused, including the right to a fair trial; due process; the right to seek redress or a legal remedy; and rights of participation in civil society and politics such as freedom of association, the right to assemble, the right to petition, the right of self-defense, and the right to vote.

Civil and political rights form the original and main part of international human rights. They comprise the first portion of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (with economic, social, and cultural rights comprising the second portion).

Protection of rights

T. H. Marshall notes that civil rights were among the first to be recognized and codified, followed later by political rights and still later by social rights.

In many countries, they are constitutional rights and are included in a bill of rights or similar document. They are also defined in international human rights instruments, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1967 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Civil rights are considered to be natural rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote that "a free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate."

The question of to whom civil and political rights apply is a subject of controversy. In many countries, citizens have greater protections against infringement of rights than non-citizens; at the same time, civil and political rights are generally considered to be universal rights that apply to all persons.

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