How are democracy and human rights connected?

Human rights

Axel Herrmann

To person

Dr., is a historian and runs a high school in the city of Hof. For years he worked as a textbook author and had a teaching position for history didactics at the universities in Bamberg and Bayreuth. As a long-standing member of Amnesty International, he deals intensively with human rights issues and is particularly committed to the prohibition of torture.

Contact: [email protected]

In order to be valid, human rights must be implemented in national law. This is illustrated using Germany as an example and it shows which conflicts of interest can arise.

Under the impression of the Nazi dictatorship and the World War II, the Parliamentary Council saw it as its immediate duty to attach central importance to fundamental rights. (& copy AP)

introduction

The proclamation of human rights does not automatically create applicable law. Even if the natural legal character of human rights is undisputed, according to the international view, law-making by the sovereign state is necessary. In natural law, it is argued, only the legal conscience is realized, in positive law, on the other hand, legal will. Most states feel that they are primarily bound by the legal norms that they have laid down in their constitutions. However, there we usually find a list of different basic rights that does not make a conceptual distinction so easy.

The example of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany shows that not all basic rights laid down in modern constitutions are human rights. Certain basic rights such as the freedom of assembly and association or the freedom to choose a career only apply to German citizens; they are civil rights. However, a distinction must always be made between the national and supranational (supranational) level. The freedom of assembly and association is a civil right according to the Basic Law. However, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 22, 23), it is a human right. Since the Federal Republic of Germany signed and ratified this pact, this also applies to them.

In the narrower sense, human rights are only those rights that the state can guarantee but cannot grant. These include human dignity, the right to life and physical integrity, freedom from arbitrary restriction of freedom, equality before the law, freedom of belief and conscience and the right to resist those who want to eradicate these fundamental rights.

All these freedom and protection rights have also been called negative rights because they arise from a liberal defensive stance against an overpowering state. Their guarantee in the democratic constitutional state generally does not raise any insurmountable problems today. The same applies to the active or participation rights that enable the citizen to participate in the formation of social and state will, in particular the right to vote. The situation is different with social rights, the so-called performance rights, the development of which can easily collide with the rights of freedom: This is where democratic systems face particular challenges. They must guarantee freedom and justice (procedural justice), but also strive for social equilibrium and security (including a minimum of economic), otherwise they will lose their democratic legitimacy (their voters).