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Security of Person

Human Rights

  • “Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right— (a) not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause; (b) not to be detained without trial; (c) to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources; (d) not to be tortured in any way; and (e) not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.” Constitution of South Africa, Bill of Rights, 12:1

  • “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment IV

Ensuring security of person of its citizens has often been cited as perhaps the most fundamental duty of governments . It includes protection from assaults on the integrity of the human person, including slavery, human trafficking, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and cruel or inhumane punishment. It also includes a right of safety, to be free from both public and private violence.  Acting reasonably to ensure public safety from violence and through prudent and sound public health measures are core responsibilities of all governments.

Security of  person is a fundamental human right that encompasses various aspects of individual safety and protection in society. It's recognized and upheld in many international human rights documents and legal frameworks.

  1. Definition and Scope: Security of person typically refers to the protection of individuals from physical harm, violence, or threats. It extends to ensuring safety from arbitrary or unlawful interference with one's body or home, such as torture, illegal detention, enforced disappearances, and domestic violence.

  2. International Human Rights Law: The right to security of person is enshrined in various international human rights instruments. For example, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." Similar protections are found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties.

  3. Legal Protections: This concept requires states to enact and enforce laws that protect individuals from assaults, domestic violence, sexual violence, kidnapping, human trafficking, and other threats to personal security. It also involves prohibitions against torture and inhumane treatment.

  4. Connection with Other Rights: Security of person is closely linked with other fundamental rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and freedom from torture. Without personal security, these other rights cannot be fully realized.

  5. Importance for Societal Stability: Personal security is essential for the stability and health of societies. When people feel safe, they are more likely to engage in social, economic, and political activities, contributing to the overall development and prosperity of their communities.

  6. Challenges and Threats: In many parts of the world, security of person is threatened by factors like conflict, crime, political repression, and social unrest. Marginalized or vulnerable groups, such as women, children, refugees, and minorities, often face greater risks.

  7. Impact on Mental Health: Security of person also has a psychological aspect. Constant exposure to violence or the threat of violence can lead to long-term mental health issues, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Security of person is a foundational element of human rights and a necessary condition for the exercise of other freedoms. It requires a comprehensive approach involving legal frameworks, law enforcement, social policies, and international collaboration to ensure that all individuals can live free from fear and violence.

Governments' Obligation to Ensure Security of Person

Governments are obligated to take positive measures to ensure the security of individuals within their jurisdiction as a core principle of governance and a fundamental responsibility under both national and international law.  This includes effective law enforcement, a fair and just legal system, and measures to prevent crimes and abuses.  Key aspects of this duty include:

  1. Legal Frameworks: Governments are responsible for establishing and maintaining legal frameworks that protect individuals from violence, abuse, and arbitrary actions. This includes laws against physical violence, sexual assault, domestic abuse, human trafficking, and other threats to personal security.

  2. Law Enforcement: Governments must ensure effective and responsible law enforcement. Police and security forces should be well-trained, equipped, and held accountable to enforce the law while respecting human rights and the rule of law.

  3. Judicial Systems: Fair and impartial judicial systems are essential for the protection of personal security. Governments should provide systems where victims can seek redress and where the accused are guaranteed a fair trial.

  4. Preventive Measures: Apart from reacting to violations, governments should also take preventive measures against threats to personal security. This includes community policing initiatives, public awareness campaigns, and social programs aimed at reducing crime and violence.

  5. Protection of Vulnerable Groups: Special measures may be necessary to protect vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as children, women, minorities, refugees, and the elderly, who might be more susceptible to violations of personal security.

  6. Responding to Emergencies: Governments are responsible for ensuring safety and security in emergencies, whether they are natural disasters, health pandemics, or human-made crises. This includes providing timely and effective response and aid.

  7. Upholding Human Rights: In all actions, governments must uphold human rights standards. This means ensuring that measures taken to ensure security do not infringe on other rights, such as freedom of expression, privacy, and liberty.

  8. Accountability and Transparency: Governments should be transparent and accountable in their actions to ensure personal security. Misuse of power or failure to protect individuals should be subject to oversight and remedies.

  9. International Cooperation: Addressing issues like transnational crime, human trafficking, and global terrorism often requires international cooperation to effectively protect the security of individuals across borders.

  10. International Obligations: In the global context, governments are also bound by international laws and treaties related to human rights and personal security, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

  11. Balancing Security with Freedom: A critical aspect of ensuring security of person is balancing this with the preservation of civil liberties. Overreaching measures in the name of security can lead to the erosion of freedoms and rights.

Thee duty of government to ensure security of person is a comprehensive responsibility that encompasses legal, administrative, and social measures. It requires a balanced approach that protects individuals from harm while respecting and upholding their fundamental rights and freedoms.

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