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Civil liberties is the name given to freedoms that protect the individual from government to a certain extent. Civil liberties set limits for government so that it cannot abuse its power and interfere with the lives of its citizens.

Common civil liberties include freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, and additionally, the right to due process, to fair trial, to own property and to privacy.

The formal concept of civil liberties dates back to the Magna Carta of 1215 which in turn was based on pre-existing documents.

Republics or democracies such as the United States have a Constitution, a bill of rights and similar constitutional documents that enumerate and seek to guarantee civil liberties. Other states have enacted similar laws through a variety of legal means, including signing and ratifying or otherwise giving effect to key conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It might be said that the protection of civil liberties is a key responsibility of all citizens of free states, as distinct from authoritarian states.

The existence of some claimed civil liberties is a matter of dispute, as are the extent of most civil liberties. Controversial examples include reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, possession of guns/arms, and the use of certain drugs. Another matter of debate is the suspension or alteration of certain civil liberties in times of war or state of emergency, including whether and to what extent this should occur.

Civil liberties by country Edit

While the United Kingdom has no codified constitution, relying on a number of legal conventions and pieces of legislation, it is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights which covers both human rights and civil liberties. The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the great majority of Convention rights directly into UK law. Britain has what is called an unwriten constitution: centuries of legislation and legal precident dating back to before the magna carta guarantee the rights of her subjects.

The United States Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights, protects many civil liberties. See Civil liberties in the United States. Human rights within the United States are often called civil rights, which are those civil liberties and civil rights held by citizens or civilians, as distinguished from those held by members of the military.[1] The first ten amendments to the constitution are known as the bill of rights and the first eight guarantee certain personal freedoms. The rights contained are often referred to in legal proceedings, and are viewed with great patriotism by Americans.[citation needed]

The Constitution of Canada includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees many of the same rights as the U.S. constitution, with the notable exceptions of protection against establishment of religion. However, the Charter does protect freedom of religion. The Charter also omits any mention of, or protection for, property.

The European Convention on Human Rights, to which most European countries, including all of the European Union, belong, enumerates a number of civil liberties and is of varying constitutional force in different European states. France's 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen listed many civil liberties and is of constitutional force.

The Constitution of People's Republic of China (apply to mainland China only, not to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) , especially its Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens, claims to protect many civil liberties, although in practise dissidents may find themselves without the protection of the rule of law. See Civil liberties in the People's Republic of China

The Constitution of Russian Federation guarantees in theory many of the same rights and civil liberties as U.S. except to bear arms, i.e.: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and assembly, freedom to choose language, to due process, to a fair trial, privacy, freedom to vote, right for education, etc.

See also Edit


References Edit

  1. Reginald Wilson, Think about Our Rights: Civil Liberties and the United States. 1988. ISBN:0-8027-6751-6. Page 1.

External links Edit

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