Monday, 14 May 2012

The Right to Life

 Do we have a right to life?

The short answer is yes and no...

Human rights are simply the rights we have because we are human. It does not matter who we are or what we are, where we were born, where we live, our colour, race, religion, whether we are rich or poor or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. However despite the fact they have been ours from birth most of us could not list those rights nor are we fully aware of when they are been violated and what we can do it they have been. As a result we are also often unaware that we have violated the rights of others.

That said you would think that our most basic right – the right to life would be protected without question or qualification. Our Constitution (Clause 5) says

“...every person in St Helena is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, has the right, without distinction of any kind, such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, age, disability, birth or status, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest, to each and all of the following-

(a)  life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law.” 

So yes we clearly have a right to life protected by the law. However there is a qualification to that right and it is explained by the phrase in bold above subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.

Therefore we can put our right to life at risk if we commit a violent act which puts others lives at risk, resist lawful arrest, or take part in a riot, insurrection or mutiny. This is because by our actions we are potentially violating the right to life of other people.

We also have the right to chose to put our life on the line if we chose to join the armed forces.

Do we have a right to life – yes but only so long as we respect the rights of our fellow human beings to their life.

This is the first in a series of articles which aim to explain our rights, our responsibilities to protect the rights of others and what we can do if we believe our rights have been violated.

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