Your human rights

Human rights are the fundamental rights and freedoms that belong to every single one of us.

The Human Rights Act protects these rights and allows us to challenge authorities if they violate them. You might not have used it, but it's there if you need it.

Call on the government to save the Human Rights Act

These are your rights, protected by the Human Right Act:

The right to life

© Chris Riddell, My Little Book of Big Freedoms, new colour edition due out in June 2017

The government cannot take your life. There are specific lawful exceptions though, like where death results from the police using no more than absolutely necessary force during an arrest.

In some cases, if your life is at risk the state has a duty to take steps to protect you, and after some suspicious deaths, to investigate what happened. 

Freedom from torture

You’re protected from torture (both mental and physical), and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It also means that the government can’t deport you to another country if there’s a real risk that state would treat you that way.

Your right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way can never be limited or restricted – it is absolute in all circumstances.

Protection from slavery and forced labour

© Chris Riddell, My Little Book of Big Freedoms, new colour edition due out in June 2017

This means you can’t be held as a slave or forced to work against your will. Your right to be protected against slavery and forced labour can never be restricted (though some specific things like military service are not seen as forced labour).

The right to liberty and security

© Chris Riddell, My Little Book of Big Freedoms, new colour edition due out in June 2017

The government cannot take away your freedom by detaining you without good reason.

The good reasons are strictly limited to things like lawful arrest or imprisonment after a fair trial. You always have the right to know why you have been arrested and challenge your detention in court promptly if you think it is unlawful, as well as to compensation if you’re unlawfully detained.

The right to a fair trial

If you’re charged with a crime and have to go to court, it is your right to have a fair trial before you are sentenced for that crime. You also have the same right to a fair trial of any case about your ‘civil rights and obligations’.

A fair trial must – among other detailed requirements – be held within a reasonable time, and before an independent tribunal, and judgment must be given in public.

Everyone charged with a criminal offence must be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

No punishment without law

You cannot be punished for an act if it wasn’t a crime at the time you did it.

But the Human Rights Act does make an exception here. If the act was ‘against the general law of civilised nations’ at the time it was committed, it can be considered a crime – this allowed war criminals to be prosecuted after World War II.

The right to private and family life

This means you have the right to respect for your private and family life, home and personal correspondence.

The concept of ‘private life’ covers a broad range of things, including your right to choose your sexual identity and develop as a person in the way you want. It also means that you should not be spied on without proper cause.

However, your rights under this article are 'qualified' – not absolute – which means that they can be interfered with if it’s lawful, necessary and proportionate for the government to do so in order to achieve one of the legitimate aims, like national security.

Freedom of thought, belief and religion

© Chris Riddell, My Little Book of Big Freedoms, new colour edition due out in June 2017

It’s your right to have your own thoughts, beliefs and religion – and to change them at any time. You’re also allowed to act on and demonstrate your beliefs and religion.

The government can’t stop you practising your religion without a very good reason. However there are some restrictions. The authorities are allowed to limit this right if they can show the limit is lawful, necessary and proportionate for one of the specified legitimate aims.

Freedom of expression

You have the right to express yourself freely and hold your own opinions, as well as to receive and share information. You can express your views aloud or through written materials in many different ways.

While you have the freedom to express your view, the government can put some limits on that where necessary and proportionate for certain aims.

Freedom of assembly and association

This means you have the right to protest by holding meetings and demonstrations with other people. But you must behave peacefully and non-violently.

You also have the right to form and join trade unions, political parties and other groups for the protection of your interests. No-one can force you to join these groups either.

This is also a qualified right so the government can place lawful restrictions on it if those are necessary and proportionate to achieve one of the specified legitimate aims.

The right to marry

People (of legal marriageable age) have the right to marry and start a family, according to the relevant national laws.

Protection from discrimination

The Human Rights Act protects you from discrimination in the enjoyment of these particular rights which are in the European Convention of Human Rights. That means that all of us, no matter who we are, should enjoy the same human rights and the government cannot discriminate in who gets them.

Protection of property

You have the right to peacefully enjoy your property and possessions. The government can’t take away your property without very good reason.

The right to education

You have the right to an education – and no-one can deny you this. But it doesn’t mean you have the right to learn whatever you want, whenever you want – the government is allowed to regulate how, when and where you’re educated.

The right to free elections

You have the right to support your right to free expression by holding free elections in which you’re able to vote in secret under fair conditions for the legislature. However, the government can decide what kind of electoral system to have.

The Death Penalty

The Human Rights Act abolished the death penalty in all cases.

The current government wants to scrap the Human Rights Act, which could bring an end to universal human rights in the UK.

Join our campaign to make sure they don’t turn your universal freedoms into privileges for a chosen few.

These pictures have been created by Chris Riddell, Children’s Laureate, for our My Little Book of Big Freedoms. Order your copy now