|Basic rights||Graphical version|
Basic rights mean the fundamental rights of the individual guaranteed under the Constitution of a country for its citizens or all people within its territory.
They set limits to government actions while also obliging the government to ensure the realisation of basic rights such as free basic education or sufficient social and health care services.
Basic rights are often grouped as follows:
Many of the freedom rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of association, are basically political rights. Protected by these rights, citizens can participate and influence the society in which they live.
In Finland basic rights have their strongest influence in legislation and in this way directly affect people's lives. They place obligations on the government.
People enjoy this ”basic rights protection” in contexts such as when legislation is drafted or administrative or court decisions are made. The government must take constitutional provisions about basic rights into consideration in all situations.
People can also refer to their basic rights when appearing in court or before public authorities. Courts and authorities must interpret laws in a manner maximising the realisation of the basic rights of the individual.
The counterpart of civic rights are civic duties, although the Finnish Constitution does not provide a comprehensive list of citizens' duties. It only covers duties such as the duty of national defence and tax liability. The Constitution also requires that the grounds for such duties are laid down by an act.
Constitutional basic rights underwent a reform in 1995. This is when their coverage was extended from Finnish citizens only to all those residing in Finland, including foreign nationals. The only exceptions apply to the right to vote, eligibility for office and cross-border mobility.
Basic rights belong to all – regardless of age or other factors, although minors and others who are legally incompetent may not be able to personally decide on all issues related to their basic rights. Instead, for example, decisions regarding children can to a certain extent made by their parents.
The government must ensure that these rights are realised and remain in force. On a global scale, however, governments are the most serious violators of people’s basic rights.
Generally it can be said that the rights of the individual are best realised in democratically governed countries. International instruments create common rules and affirm the human rights that states parties must respect.
In real life, however, there are many situations where a basic right clashes with another basic right, so choices have to be made where the restriction of a basic right cannot be avoided.
For example, the freedom of expression and the protection of privacy or the protection of property and environmental rights may in individual cases collide, whereby one of the rights may have to yield.
People can refer to their basic rights when appearing in court or before public authorities. The realisation of these rights in the activities of public authorities is overseen by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Chancellor of Justice and other overseers of legality.
Basic rights are primarily rights of the individual, not of groups. On the other hand, with some rights it is misleading to view them merely as the rights of the individual. For example the freedom of assembly can only be realised in a community, and language and cultural rights only gain significance through a community.
The Constitution of Finland [Finlex.fi]
Updated on September 28, 2006