What follows is a simple list of our human rights -- the rights that every American, every immigrant to the United States, every human being anywhere possesses as a birthright and is meant to enjoy. It is our hope that by listing these rights, and sorting them for easy access, we will encourage our fellow Americans to become more familiar with our human rights, and more determined in our struggle to bring about their full implementation in the United States.


This list is drawn entirely from the official versions of the existing international human rights covenants, which are listed at the end. There too we have assembled a bibliography of the sources most useful for putting together this book, for those who want to become better informed about the history and current practice of the international movement for human rights.


The rights indicated in boldface below are those specified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) & other treaties that have been signed & ratified by the U.S. The rest, all of which have been agreed to by many or most other UN member states, have not yet been formally accepted by the U.S. It should be noted that some rights provided by conventions not yet been ratified by the U.S. are nevertheless widely enjoyed in this country, while others provided by conventions the U.S. has signed and ratified are not so widely enjoyed.


For purposes of comparison and reinforcement, those rights designated with an asterisk (*) are guaranteed to citizens of the United States as well by our Constitution, with its Bill of Rights & subsequent amendments. Many additional rights, of course, are guaranteed to citizens by U.S. statute law.


All human beings, wherever we may reside, possess & are entitled to demand recognition of the following human rights -- regardless of our race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, sexual orientation or other status:


Political Rights:


To life, liberty, & security of person.


To a nationality, and to the right to change nationality.


*To freedom of opinion & expression, & to seek, receive & impart information & ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.


*To freedom of peaceful assembly & association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.


*To take part in government through freely chosen representatives, & to be employed in public service.


*To participate in the election of government officials. The will of the people, expressed in periodic, genuine elections by secret ballot with universal suffrage, is the basis of government authority.


To a social & international order in which the dignity, worth, rights & freedoms of every person can be fully realized.


To effective remedy for any violations of these fundamental rights, including the right to appeal in writing to the UN Human Rights Committee when domestic remedies have been exhausted (C2).




Civil Rights:


To freedom from torture & from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.


To freedom from capital punishment. Execution by the state violates the dignity of the human person (D).


To freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, & to equal protection under the law.


To fair & public trials before independent & impartial tribunals, in the determination of any criminal charges laid against them.


To be presumed innocent until proved guilty in a court of law, & to be provided with adequate legal defense when brought to trial.


Not to be found guilty of penal offences which were not penal offences when they were committed.


To be free of arbitrary interference with their privacy, families, homes or correspondence, & of arbitrary attacks upon their honor & reputation.


To seek & enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries, except for non-political crimes or acts contrary to the principles of the UN.



Economic Rights:


To freedom from slavery & servitude.


To own property, alone & in association with others. None shall be arbitrarily deprived of their property.


To work, free choice of employment, just & favorable conditions of work, equal pay for equal work, & protection against unemployment.


To remuneration for their work that is sufficient to ensure for themselves & their families an existence worthy of human dignity, supplemented if necessary by other means of social protection.


To form & join trade unions for the protection of their interests, with no other restrictions than those required by national security, public order, & the protection of the rights & freedoms of others. Trade unions may exercise the right to strike in conformity with law.


To rest & leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours & periodic holidays with pay.


To a standard of living adequate for the health & well-being of themselves & their families, including food, clothing, housing, medical care & necessary social services.


To technical & vocational training, & to policies aimed at achieving steady economic, social & cultural development as well as full & productive employment under conditions that safeguard the fundamental political & economic freedoms of individuals.


To safe & healthy working conditions.


To equal opportunity for promotion at work, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority & competence.


To enjoy the inherent right of all peoples to utilize fully & freely their natural wealth & resources.



Social Rights:


To freedom from hunger, & assistance where necessary by programs to improve methods of production, conservation & distribution of food, to disseminate knowledge of the principles of nutrition, & to reform agrarian systems so as to achieve the most efficient development & utilization of natural resources.


To enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical & mental health.


To medical service & attention in the event of sickness.


To enjoy the benefits of policies aimed at improving all aspects of environmental & industrial hygiene, & preventing, treating & controlling epidemic, endemic, occupational & other diseases.


To be free to move & reside within the borders of each country, & to leave & return to any country, including their own.


To marry freely & found families, & to equal rights both during marriage & at its dissolution.


To social security & to the economic, social & cultural rights indispensable to their dignity & to the free development of their personalities.


To social security, including social insurance, in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond the personŐs control.


Cultural Rights:


To freedom of thought, conscience & religion, including freedom to change religion or belief, & to manifest it in teaching, practice, & observance both public & private.


To participate freely in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts, & to share in the benefits of scientific advancement.


To enjoy the benefits of policies that guarantee the conservation, development & diffusion of science & culture, respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research & creative activity, & encourage international cooperation in scientific & cultural fields.


To fundamental education for those who have not completed the whole period of their primary & secondary education as children.








In addition to the universal human rights specified above, some additional rights are recognized for particular classes of people:




To be registered at birth with a name & a nationality.


To know and be cared for by parents who have common responsibilities for the care & development of their children.


To be raised in a family environment of happiness, love & understanding.


To the highest attainable standard of health.


To the benefits of social security, including social insurance.


To a standard of living adequate for physical, mental, spiritual, moral & social development Đ including for members of ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities, the enjoyment of their own cultures, religions or languages.


To education that is directed to the development of each childŐs personality, talents & physical abilities to their fullest potential.


To special safeguards & care, including legal protection against discrimination or punishment due to the behavior of parents or legal guardians. In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child are primary.


To state support for their well-being, as expressed in appropriate legislative & administrative measures to ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival & development of each child.


To state respect for each childŐs identity, including name, nationality, &


To maintain relations & direct contact with both parents when they are living in different countries.

To protection from all forms of abuse while in the care of parents or any other persons.


To protection against separation from parents against the wishes of the child, except when deemed by impartial authority to be in the best interests of the child. Children deprived of their family environments, or whose best interests are not served in that environment, are entitled to special protection by the state.


To protection of their best interests in all cases of adoption.


To a humane & expeditious response to any childŐs application to enter or leave a country for purposes of family reunification.


To protection against illicit transfer abroad.


To express views & be heard in judicial & administrative proceedings affecting themselves.


To freedom of expression, limited only by respect for others & the protection of national security.


To freedom of peaceful assembly.


To protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, or attacks upon honor or reputation.


To free access to information & material from a diversity of national or international sources.


To appropriate protection & humanitarian assistance when seeking refugee status, & to the protection thereafter of all applicable rights as set forth in the present convention, & in other international human rights instruments.


Every mentally or physically disabled child is entitled to enjoy a full & decent life, with the right to special care provided free of charge, to effective access to education, training, health care, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment & recreation, & to periodic review of the treatment provided. States parties to this Convention agree to promote the exchange of information in the fields of health care, & of the medical, psychological & functional treatment of disabled children.


To rest & leisure to engage in play & recreational activities, & to participate in cultural life & the arts.


To be protected from economic exploitation & from hazardous work & from interference with the childŐs education or to be harmful to the childŐs health.


Shall provide for a minimum for admission to employment, & for appropriate regulation of hours & conditions of employment.


To protection from the illicit use of narcotic drugs & psychotropic substances, & the use of children in the illicit production & trafficking of such substances.


To protection from all forms of sexual exploitation & sexual abuse, including prevention of a) inducement or cohercion to engage in any unlawful sexual activity, b) the exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; c) the exploitative use of chlldren in pornographic performances & materials.


To protection from the abduction, sale or trafficking of children for any purpose or in any form.


To protection from all other forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of the childŐs welfare.


To protection from torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. No child shall be deprived of his liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity & respect or the inherent dignity of the human person.

d) every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal & other appropriate assistance.













To respect for the rules of international humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts to ensure that persons under the age of 15 do not take a direct part in hostilities. To refrain from recruiting any person under the age of 15 into their armed forces. States shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection & care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.


To state support for the physical & psychological recovery & social reintegration of a any child victim of neglect, exploitation or abuse, torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or armed conflicts


To be treated in a manner conducive to affirming the childŐs sense of dignity and worth, when accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law. Child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law, to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the childŐs sense of dignity & worth, which reinforces the childŐs respect for the human rights & fundamental freedoms of others & which takes into account the childŐs age & the desirability of promoting the childŐs reintegration & the childŐs assuming a constructive role in society: a) no child shall be alleged as, be accused of, or regognized as having infringed the penal law by re3ason of acts of omission that were not permitted by national or international law at the teime they were committed; b) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law; c) to be informed promptly & directly of the charges, & to have legal or other appropriate assistance in the preparation Y& presentation of his or her defense. D) to have the matter determined without delay by a competent independent & impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing according to law, in the presence of legal or other appropriate assistance; e) not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess gullt, to examine or have examined adverse witnesses, & to obtain the participation & examination of witnesses on his or her behalf, under conditions of equalty; f) if considered to have infringed the penal law, to have this decision & any measures imposed in consequences thereof, reviewed by a higher competent, independent & impartial authority or judicial body according to law; g) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if the child cannot understand or speak the language used; h) to have his or her privacy fully respected at all stazges of the proceedings; I) shall seek to promote the establishment of laws, procedures, authorities & institutions specificallyt applicable to children, & in particular the establishment of a minimu age below which children shall be presumed not to have the capacity to infringe the penal law; (j whenever appropriate & desirable, measur3es to deal with such children without resorting to judicial proceedings, providing that human rights & legal safeguards are full respected, a variety of dispositions such as care, guidance, & supervision orders, counseling, probation, foster care, education & vocational training programs & other alternatives to institutional care shall be available.



WomenŐs Rights:


Women have a right to expect of their governments that they will


A, embody in their Constitutions & other legislation the principle of the equality of women & men, & the effective protection of women against acts of discrimination by any person, organization or enterprise or by government itself.


B. protect them against any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of sex which impairs or nullifies the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of marital status, of their human rights & fundamental freedoms on the basis of equality with men.


C. guarantee to them equality with men as voters, as candidates for election to public office, as formulators & implementers of government policy, as representatives of their governments in international affairs, & as participants in NGOs concerned with public & political affairs.


In addition, they have the right:


To equality with men in acquiring, changing or retaining nationality regardless of marital status, & in transferring nationality to children.


To equality in access to education of all kinds.


To remunerative work, & to equal pay for equal work.



MigrantsŐ Rights:


Indigenous PeopleŐs Rights:


Disabled PeoplesŐ Rights:




[i] The rights specific to gay and lesbian people have not yet been specified by the international human rights covenants; but for the most part they may readily be derived from the covenants already in effect.