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Bill of rights

A bill of rights is a statement of certain rights that citizens and/or residents of a free and democratic society have (or ought to have) under the laws of that society.

In some jurisdictions, the bill of rights is entrenched in the constitution or Basic Law of that nation-state. When embedded in the constitution, it can prescribe the limits of power the government has to intervene in the lives of its citizens. In other jurisdictions, the definition of rights may be statutory. (In other words, it may be repealed just like any other law and does not necessarily hold greater weight than other laws). Not all jurisdictions enforce the protection of the rights articulated in their bill of rights. The Soviet Union, in particular, was often criticized for failure to live up to its stated standards.

A 'bill of rights' may also be an aspirational statement of the rights that citizens ought to have even though the defining body does not have the ability to enforce the protection of those rights. The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is currently an example.

Diminishment of rights already granted in a bill of rights (such as by repeal of statutory rights or by statutory infringement of constitutionally granted rights) may cause civil unrest, civil disobedience or even revolution. A common concern of libertarians is the gradual erosion of rights, especially those articulated in their respective bills of rights. This is a particular concern during times of war or crisis when certain of the rights may be perceived as a luxury compared to security concerns.

See also

This may be perceived as a controversial example depending on one's opinion of the UN's current ability to effectively enforce its decision.

Disambiguation footnote: If the link which brought you here was intended to refer to the United States Bill of Rights, please consider returning to the prior page and updating the link.