Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” This article protects some of the most fundamental human rights and is a core principle of human rights law. Here is an overview of why Article 3 is so vital.
It protects the right to life
The right to life is the most basic human right. Without it, all other rights are meaningless. Article 3 declares that every human has an inherent right to life simply by virtue of being human. This imposes a duty on governments to protect life and not arbitrarily take it away. The right to life is enshrined in many national constitutions and international treaties. It is the supreme right without which no other civil, political, social, cultural or economic rights could be enjoyed.
Key aspects of the right to life
- It prohibits arbitrary killing by the state such as extrajudicial executions.
- It restricts the application of the death penalty.
- It imposes a duty on governments to protect life by investigating suspicious deaths.
- It requires governments to take positive steps to safeguard life by ensuring access to essentials like food, water and healthcare.
Challenges in implementing the right to life
Some key challenges faced in implementing the right to life globally include:
- Extrajudicial killings still occur in some countries.
- Some states use capital punishment extensively.
- Armed conflicts continue to claim civilian lives.
- People die from preventable diseases and malnutrition.
Therefore, there is an urgent need for states to strengthen mechanisms to protect the right to life and end practices that violate Article 3.
It upholds the right to liberty
The right to liberty is another fundamental human right laid out in Article 3. It protects against arbitrary arrest or detention by the state. Liberty enables people to live their lives freely based on their own choices and interests. Infringing on someone’s liberty requires strong justification, like preventing harm to others.
Key aspects of the right to liberty
- It prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention without due legal process.
- It regulates the treatment of prisoners and prevents inhumane conditions.
- It restricts the use of forced labor.
- It limits the use of restrictive measures like solitary confinement and shackling.
Challenges in implementing the right to liberty
Challenges to upholding the right to liberty globally include:
- People are detained arbitrarily in some countries, like dissidents and marginalized groups.
- Some states use torture and ill-treatment against prisoners.
- Forced labor exists in many forms globally, from human trafficking to abusive prison work programs.
- Solitary confinement and shackling are overused in some prison systems.
More must be done to enforce due process rights and humane prison conditions worldwide.
It upholds the right to security of person
The right to security of person means freedom from threats or acts that endanger one’s physical or mental well-being. This right obliges states to protect people against harm from either state or private actors.
Key aspects of the right to security of person
- It requires states to establish laws protecting bodily integrity.
- It obliges states to protect vulnerable groups from harm, like women, children and minorities.
- It prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
- It requires investigating and prosecuting violent crimes.
Challenges in implementing the right to security of person
Challenges to upholding the right to security globally include:
- Gender-based violence remains pervasive worldwide.
- Hate crimes threaten the security of minority groups in many societies.
- Torture persists in some countries, especially against marginalized groups.
- Domestic violence often goes under-reported and under-prosecuted.
More concerted efforts are needed to protect vulnerable groups and hold perpetrators of violence accountable.
It underpins the prohibition against slavery
Though not explicitly mentioned in Article 3, the rights to life, liberty and security have been interpreted as underpinning the prohibition against slavery. Slavery fundamentally violates all three rights.
Key points on slavery and Article 3
- Slavery relies on destroying a person’s life, liberty and security for the profit of others.
- Prohibiting slavery is implicit in upholding the human rights outlined in Article 3.
- Any form of exploitative, forced labor violates Article 3 protections.
- States have an obligation under Article 3 to criminalize and prevent slavery.
Article 3 provides a strong basis in international human rights law for abolishing slavery in all its modern forms.
It is the basis for other key rights
While Article 3 focuses on three fundamental human rights, it has been interpreted more broadly as the basis for other key rights as well:
Rights supported by Article 3
|Basis in Article 3
|Right to health
|Supports the right to life
|Freedom of movement
|Flows from the right to liberty
|Right to food and water
|Essential to the right to life
|Freedom of religion
|Protected by rights to liberty and security
Therefore, Article 3 establishes a foundation for many other human rights principles.
It reflects a common standard of humanity
The rights in Article 3 reflect the basic standards of treatment that no human being should be denied. Upholding these rights is a baseline for a society to be considered civilized and humane. As such, Article 3 establishes fundamental moral principles that should be respected regardless of differences in culture or national laws.
Aspects of Article 3’s universal nature
- These rights apply to all human beings equally, regardless of status.
- No circumstances justify derogation from Article 3.
- It articulates cross-cultural norms on protecting human dignity.
- It expresses innate human rights independent of government authority.
Article 3 thus expresses fundamental moral truths about the value of human life, liberty and security that transcend barriers between nations and peoples.
In summary, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds foundational human rights to life, liberty and security of person. This article protects individuals from grave abuses by requiring governments to safeguard people from harm. Article 3 has underpinned the development of an international human rights system dedicated to the universality of basic freedoms and protections. No matter where someone lives, or their social status, Article 3 affirms their inherent worth as a human being. While implementation challenges remain, Article 3 establishes an indispensable cornerstone for building a just global society.