Human Rights Norms

Human rights are justified moral claims inherent in all human beings of whatever nationality, place of residence, ethnic origin, gender identity, religion, language or any other status, in order for them to lead a minimally decent life. Human rights norms are basic moral minimums, a moral floor beneath which governments must not sink. All are equally entitled to have their human rights respected without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and unalienable. The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act, or refrain from acting, in certain ways in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

Specific human rights norms at issue will be determined by legal advocates preparing the cases, but may include:

  • The right to life, security of person and bodily integrity;
  • The right to health;
  • The right to a healthy, viable and supportive environment;
  • The right to water;
  • The rights to access to information and public participation in environmental decision making;
  • The right to justice, equality and non-discrimination in environmental matters;
  • The right to respect for private and family life;
  • The right to property;
  • The right to peacefully enjoy one’s possessions;
  • The right to a social and international order in which all human rights may be fully realized.

These norms can be found in a variety of international human rights instruments, including those comprising the international Bill of Rights:

These and other human rights documents are also available online at The University of Minnesota Human Rights Library, an online searchable collection of Human Rights documents, treaties, bibliographies and other educational materials.