Main characteristics of Human Rights

Human rights are individual rights and guarantees that advocate for principles such as freedom, dignity and the common good of all human beings without exception.

Although defined primarily as universal, inalienable and unlimited, human rights are governed by a series of principles and share the following characteristics:


All human beings, regardless of country of origin, are protected by human rights.

These are rights that are recognized naturally, from which derive other guarantees collected in the legal orders of the different nations. Therefore, all human rights apply to all people.


Human rights represent a basic need for all human beings and as such cannot be abrogated. Although some rights may be exceptionally restricted by very specific circumstances, others, such as the right to life, are inalienable.

An exceptional case took place during the pandemic experienced in 2020. With the declaration of the state of emergency, some of these rights were temporarily suspended in many countries.


The subjective nature of human rights is underlined because they are titles that belong to each person, to the individual, they are not collective rights.

They are rights that are recognized naturally, by the mere fact of being born, of existing, of being people.


No human being can renounce Human Rights, nor can they be stripped of them. In the same way, they cannot be transferred or commoditized.

The person is the holder of these rights and will not cease to be so, not even by his own decision. These are rights that cannot be revoked by law and that must be protected by governments.


Human rights were conceived as a whole that cannot be fragmented. The principle of indivisibility makes the person own and inherent.

Moreover, they are rights that cannot be dissociated, one part of human rights cannot be conceived without taking into account all the others.


Each of the Human Rights is closely linked to the rest, that is to say, one right cannot be violated without the others being affected.

For this same principle, it is not possible to exercise only a part of it, but the whole set serves the same level of importance and must be defended and guaranteed.


The legitimacy of Human Rights does not fade over time, they do not have a specific period of validity. For this reason, there are multiple legal mechanisms that promote them and ensure their protection.


Its progressive nature refers to the fact that Human Rights have not been achieved everywhere at the same time. It could be defined as a process in which States work so that everyone can enjoy a dignified life, in freedom and equality.

See also:


  • Alex, CFP (2014). Principles and normative characteristics of human rights. SEECI Communication Magazine, (33), 44-58.
  • General Assembly of the United Nations. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 217 (III) A. Paris, 1948.
  • Serrano, S., & Vázquez, D. (2011). Theoretical foundations of human rights. Characteristics and principles. CDHCM, Mexico.
Marcela Endres Balbão

Reviewed by Marcela Endres Balbão

Lawyer by training (Federal University of Rio Grande del Sur-2016). She is a professor in Education Sciences (University of Porto-2019). Write for passion.

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