Human Rights Violations

  1. definition
  2. examples and/or illustrations
  3. other useful sources
  4. bibliography


In order to accurately define the term “Human Rights Violations”, the term must be broken down into two separate terms to be defined: “Human Rights” and “Violations”.

Human Rights – noun plural

  1. Rights (as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons (Merriam-Webster, 2014, p.1).
  2. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2012, p.1).

Violation – noun

  1. The act of violating, or the state of being violated (Merriam-Webster, 2014, p.1).

a. The act of doing something that is not allowed by a law or rule.

b. The act of ignoring or interfering with a person’s rights.

c. The act of showing disrespect for something (usually by damaging it).

2. To violate the most basic human rights is to deny individuals their fundamental moral entitlements. It is, in a sense, to treat them as if they are less than human and are undeserving of respect and dignity (Maiese, M. 2003, p.2).


Examples and/or Illustrations

Used in a sentence:

“The North Korean government has been accused of committing human rights violations against its own citizens for several decades, including forced labour camps and torture.”

The following is a brief list of human rights violations, which can be found on the website of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

  1. Forcibly evicting people from their homes (violates the right to adequate housing).
  2. Banning the use of minority or indigenous languages (violates the right to participate in cultural life).
  3. Contaminating or illegally disconnecting water for personal or domestic use (violates the right to health and right to water) (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2012, p.1).


Other Useful Sources

Amnesty International. (2013, February 26). Five Human Rights stories you probably didn’t know about. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/news/five-human-rights-stories-you-probably-didn-t-know-about-2013-02-26 (accessed on February 23, 2014)

Human Rights Watch. Defending Human Rights worldwide. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/ (accessed on February 23, 2014)

Ontario Human Rights Commission. Human Rights in Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en (accessed on February 23, 2014)

United Nations. (1948, December 10). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/  (accessed on February 23, 2014)

United for Human Rights. Youth for Human Rights: Making Human Rights a global reality. Retrieved from http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/ (accessed on February 23, 2014)

Case Law:


The appellants (John Taylor & the Western Guard Party) handed out cards which invited calls to a Toronto-area telephone number, with the calls being responded to by pre-recorded messages. The recorded messages were of statements that were denigrating of the Jewish race and religion. This case was established after complaints were made with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In response, the Commission established a tribunal which stated that the messages were considered a discriminatory practice under section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits any communication of hate messages by telephone. After the initial ruling, the decision was appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal due to an allegation of bias arising from the fact that the Canadian Human Rights Commission appointed the tribunal itself. Once the case moved up to the Supreme Court, it was ultimately decided that section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act did not violate the appellants’ rights laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


The applicant was a woman of Roma ethnic origin. It was noted that her mother tongue was the Roma language; she finished compulsory education in the sixth grade and was unemployed. This case was brought forward after the applicant was medically sterilized during the caesarian-section delivery of her second child, at the Health Care Centre in Prešov (“Prešov Hospital”). During a painful labour, the applicant was asked if she wanted to have more children by doctors. When she replied that she did, they responded with false information that if she tried to conceive another child, either her or the baby would die. She signed a sterilization agreement, which she did not understand, fearing possible fatal consequences if attempting another birth. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the applicant, finding the sterilization a direct violation of her right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and her right to private and family life (Article 8 of the Convention).

Other related terms:

  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • United Nations Declaration of Human Rights
  • Human Rights record
  • International law



European Court of Human Rights. (2011, November 8). Case of V.C. v. Slovakia. Retrieved from http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-107364 (accessed on February 23, 2014)

Maiese, M. (2003, July). Human Rights violations. Retrieved from http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/human-rights-violations (accessed on February 23, 2014)

Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/  (accessed on February 23, 2014)

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. United Nations Human Rights. Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/en/ (accessed on February 23, 2014)

Supreme Court of Canada. (1990, December 13). Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Taylor, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 892. Retrieved from http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/697/index.do (accessed on February 23, 2014)