- Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 3: Interaction between human rights: Are all human rights equal?
The aim of this chapter is to explore the complex issue of equality of human rights. This question is indeed complicated, as the debate on whether human rights are equal necessarily leads us to the difficult and controversial issue of a hierarchy of human rights. However, this is also a fundamental debate since finding whether such a hierarchy exists, and how human rights may be ranked, may provide some guidance in the search for a method to solve conflicts arising from interaction between human rights. The category of human rights is founded upon the basic idea that human rights are superior to other rights, to other legal goods and claims. However, when it comes to the issue of equality within the category of human rights, the official thesis is that there is no hierarchy. The doctrine propounded by international organizations dedicated to the protection of human rights is based on the principles of universality, indivisibility and interdependence of these rights. Numerous international declarations, such as the 1968 Proclamation of Teheran or the 1993 Declaration of Vienna, proclaim their commitment to these principles, therefore denying the very idea of a possible inequality, and thus a hierarchy, of human rights. What is more precisely rejected is the assertion that first-generation rights, i.e. civil and political rights, are superior to second-generation rights, i.e. social, economic and cultural rights. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) enshrines this claim by recognizing both first- and second-generation rights as worthy of protection.
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