There are many human rights, the most important of which are known as being ‘fundamental’. Of these, the right to life, the right not to be tortured, and the right to a fair trial form the top three. In a liberal democracy, a positive obligation rests with the State to protect these rights.


Right to Life  

This is the understanding that a human being has the right to live and that nobody – including the State – can end a person’s life other than in exceptional circumstances, such as self-defence. Controversy on the right to life usually surrounds alleged police brutality cases, lawful killings by the police and the death penalty. 

Prohibition of Torture  

In human rights law, the prohibition of torture means a complete ban on torture. The ban extends to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Under no circumstance is torture, degrading or ill-treatment permitted. In policing, this right is most often violated in the context of prisoners and interviews, especially where a suspect confesses. 

Fair Trial 

This is vital in a just society. It is the right to ‘due process’ (requirement on the State to respect all legal rights owed to a person). Due process is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, read your rights, the right to remain silent, told the reason for the arrest (where possible), access to a lawyer, right to be heard in a court open to the public (transparency) and the decision or verdict explained. 

‘The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.’

John F Kennedy.

It is important also to be mindful of three principles which determine the legitimacy of any action taken which could infringe on the above rights, ensuring that it is reasonable, necessary and lawful. Below is a broad explanation of the three principles in general terms. 


Principle of Proportionality  

This is also called the principle of reasonableness and is balancing human rights or fundamental rights in law, requiring that the interference with rights must be justified by reasons that keep a good relationship with the intensity of the interference. Proportionality is about balance – weighting the benefit of interfering with a right against not interfering. 

Principle of Necessity  

This is when there are no other viable options, which have been considered and the interference chosen is the only means of achieving the legitimate aim. 

Principle of Lawfulness 

This is about any interference with a right is prescribed by law and is necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and is proportionate to that aim. 

For those working in law enforcement, not only is it their responsibility to uphold the law but also to protect people’s human rights.  

Everything we do as Rose Partners when implementing reform programmes is based on the three principles and rights defined above.  

If you’d like to know more about our reform programmes, get in touch with a member of the Rose Partners team today.  

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