While Americans should take pride in their country, they should also be aware that human rights violations are a regular occurrence. In late 2020, Amnesty International USA called on the U.S. government to review hundreds of violations and address documented abuses.
Human rights are not just for citizens of the U.S. These rights are for all individuals, regardless of their nationality. The United Nations is just one of the many organizations worldwide that define and enforce human rights, and federal and state laws also address human rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
One of the early proclamations of human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that nations should respect every individual’s rights to life, a basic standard of living, liberty, education and security. Freedom from enslavement and torture and the right to a trial are also a part of these rights.
The U.S. Constitution
While the U.S. is a party to the international agreements, the Constitution includes the country’s specific guarantees to those within its borders. For example, the Fourteenth Amendment says no state shall deprive individuals of their life, liberty or property without first going through due process in the legal system.
California’s human rights legislation
In California, the Code of Civil Procedure Section 354.8 defines crimes against humanity. These include:
- Persecution based on race, nationality, religion, gender, culture or politics
- Arbitrary detention
- The forcible transfer of population
As a sweeping inclusion statement in the event that an inhuman act does not fit within the specific list the law provides, it also covers similar intentional acts that cause an individual to suffer a serious bodily or mental injury.
California provides a longer statute of limitations than other state or federal laws, so individuals have 10 years to pursue an action against someone who violated their rights under this law.