In Europe, Human Rights have been split into:
(1) civil rights and
(2) social, economic and cultural rights.
Civil rights mostly deal with things that governments must not do to citizens or must not stop citizens from doing (freedoms).
Guernsey recognised the European Convention on Human Rights in 1953 and then introduced Guernsey’s Human Rights Law (mirroring and giving effect to the European Convention) in 2000.
Examples of civil rights include:
- the right to life
- the right to respect for private and family life
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- The right to marry
Examples of economic, social and cultural rights include:
- Employment rights
- Right to social security
- Right to family life
- Right to an adequate standard of living
- Right to health
- Right to free education
- Right to participation in cultural life
One major difference between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights is that civil rights have immediate effect while economic, social and cultural rights may be progressively realised. The speed of that realisation will depend on the resources of the member nation.
For the first time ever, human rights laws allow citizens to challenge the actions of their government and, ultimately for such complaints to be heard by an independent regional court. For citizens of Guernsey that court is the European Court of Human Rights.
The situation is different with economic, cultural and social rights. Because these rights may be realised progressively, it is generally not possible to challenge noncompliance through the court system. Instead, the UN operates a monitoring system where member nations undertake to provide periodic reports on progress.