A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important rights to the citizens of a country. The purpose is to protect those rights against infringement from public officials and private citizens.
Bills of rights may be entrenched or unentrenched. An entrenched bill of rights cannot be amended or repealed by a country's legislature through regular procedure, instead requiring a supermajority or referendum; often it is part of a country's constitution, and therefore subject to special procedures applicable to constitutional amendments. A bill of rights that is not entrenched is a normal statute law and as such can be modified or repealed by the legislature at will.
In practice, not every jurisdiction enforces the protection of the rights articulated in its bill of rights.
The history of legal charters asserting certain rights for particular groups goes back to the Middle Ages and earlier. An example is Magna Carta, an English legal charter agreed between the King and his barons in 1215. In the early modern period, there was renewed interest in Magna Carta.English common law judge Sir Edward Coke revived the idea of rights based on citizenship by arguing that Englishmen had historically enjoyed such rights. The Petition of Right 1628, the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the Bill of Rights 1689 established certain rights in statute.
In America, the English Bill of Rights was one of the influences on the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, which in turn influenced the United States Declaration of Independence later that year. After the Constitution of the United States was adopted in 1789, the United States Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.
Inspired by the Age of Enlightenment, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen asserted the universality of rights. It was adopted in 1789 by France's National Constituent Assembly, during the period of the French Revolution.
The 20th century saw different groups draw on these earlier documents for influence when drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The constitution of the United Kingdom remains uncodified. However, the Bill of Rights of 1689 is part of UK law. The Human Rights Act 1998 also incorporates the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Recent infringements of liberty, democracy and the rule of law have led to demands for a new comprehensive British Bill of Rights upheld by a new independent Supreme Court with the power to nullify government laws and policies violating its terms.
Australia is the only common law country with neither a constitutional nor federal legislative bill of rights to protect its citizens, although there is ongoing debate in many of Australia's states. In 1973, Federal Attorney-General Lionel Murphy introduced a human rights Bill into parliament, although it was never passed. In 1984, Senator Gareth Evans drafted a Bill of Rights, but it was never introduced into parliament, and in 1985, Senator Lionel Bowen introduced a bill of rights, which was passed by the House of Representatives, but failed to pass the Senate. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has argued against a bill of rights for Australia on the grounds it would transfer power from elected politicians (populist politics) to unelected (constitutional) judges and bureaucrats.Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are the only states and territories to have a human rights Act. However, the principle of legality present in the Australian judicial system, seeks to ensure that legislation is interpreted so as not to interfere with basic human rights, unless legislation expressly intends to interfere.
|Charter of Liberties||1100||England||rights of inheritance and marriage, amnesty, and environmental protection (forest)|
|Magna Carta||1215||England||rights for barons|
|Great Charter of Ireland||1216||Ireland||rights for barons|
|Golden Bull of 1222||1222||Hungary||rights for nobles|
|Statute of Kalisz||1264||Poland: Kingdom of Poland||Jewish residents' rights|
|Charter of Kortenberg||1312||Belgium||rights for all citizens "rich and poor"|
|Petition of Right||1628||England|
|Bill of Rights 1689
Claim of Right Act 1689
|This applied to all British Colonies of the time, and was later entrenched in the laws of those colonies that became nations - for instance in Australia with the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 and reconfirmed by the Statute of Westminster 1931|
|Virginia Declaration of Rights||1776||USA: state of Virginia||June 1776, Preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence, July 1776|
|Chapter 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution||1776||USA: state of Pennsylvania||July 1776|
|Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen||1789||France|
|Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution||1791||USA||completed in 1789, ratified in 1791|
|Declaration of the Rights of the People||1811||Venezuela|
|Article I of the Constitution of Connecticut||1818||USA: state of Connecticut|
|Constitution of Greece||1822||Epidaurus|
|Hatt-? Hümayun||1856||Ottoman Empire|
|Article I of the Constitution of Texas||1875||USA: state of Texas|
|Basic rights and liberties in Finland||1919||Finland|
|Articles 13-28 of the Constitution of Italy||1947||Italy|
|Universal Declaration of Human Rights||1948||United Nations|
|Fundamental rights and duties of citizens in People's Republic of China||1949||China: People's Republic of China|
|European Convention on Human Rights||1953||Europe: 47 Council of Europe member states||drafted in 1950|
|Fundamental Rights of Indian citizens||1950||India|
|Implied Bill of Rights (a theory in Canadian constitutional law)||1982||Canada|| for the date|
|Canadian Bill of Rights||1960||Canada|
|International Bill of Human Rights||1976||United Nations|
|Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms||1976||Canada: province of Quebec|
|Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms||1982||Canada|
|Declaration of the Basic Duties of ASEAN Peoples and Governments||1983||Asia||Signed in Manila by the Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia, the first to draft a pan-Asian declaration of human rights|
|Article III and XIII of the Constitution of the Philippines||1987||Philippines||The Bill of Rights encapsulating Article III regulates duties and responsibilities of the government toward the rights of citizens, while Article XIII is specifically about human rights and social justice|
|Article 5 of the Constitution of Brazil||1988||Brazil|
|New Zealand Bill of Rights Act||1990||New Zealand|
|Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms of the Czech Republic||1991||Czech Republic|
|Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance||1991||China: Hong Kong|
|Chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa||1996||South Africa||entitled "Bill of Rights"|
|Human Rights Act 1998||1998||United Kingdom|
|Human Rights Act 2004||2004||Australia: Australian Capital Territory|
|Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union||2005||European Union|
|Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities||2006||Australia: state of Victoria|
|Chapter Four of the Constitution of Zimbabwe||2013||Zimbabwe|
|Queensland Human Rights Act 2018||2019||Australia: state of Queensland|
Britain in its history proposed many pioneering documents - not only Magna Carta, 1215 but those such as the Provisions of Oxford 1258, the Petition of Right 1628, the Bill of Rights 1689, and the Claim of Right 1689
The earliest, and perhaps greatest, victory for liberalism was achieved in England. The rising commercial class that had supported the Tudor monarchy in the 16th century led the revolutionary battle in the 17th and succeeded in establishing the supremacy of Parliament and, eventually, of the House of Commons. What emerged as the distinctive feature of modern constitutionalism was not the insistence on the idea that the king is subject to law (although this concept is an essential attribute of all constitutionalism). This notion was already well established in the Middle Ages. What was distinctive was the establishment of effective means of political control whereby the rule of law might be enforced. Modern constitutionalism was born with the political requirement that representative government depended upon the consent of citizen subjects... However, as can be seen through provisions in the 1689 Bill of Rights, the English Revolution was fought not just to protect the rights of property (in the narrow sense) but to establish those liberties which liberals believed essential to human dignity and moral worth. The "rights of man" enumerated in the English Bill of Rights gradually were proclaimed beyond the boundaries of England, notably in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789.