The State is the main guardian of human rights and has the authority to take all the necessary measures to protect your human rights. Therefore, it is the one which bears responsibility when something has happened to you.

A situation, which leads to a human rights violation can arise in the following cases:

Violation by the State

A human rights violation can be committed by people working for the State. Their behaviour is in that case considered to be the behaviour of the State itself. These agents could be of many kinds: employees of governmental and municipal institutions, policemen, prosecutors, judges etc.

example Your right to a fair trial has been violated if a judge has not allowed you to present your arguments in front of the Court, in a situation where the law provided that you should  have done so, while the other party was given such a possibility. In this situation the State has directly violated your human rights because the Court (and the judge) is part of the State system.

Failure by the State to protect

The State did not protect you when it was obliged to do so. In this case a problem may have arisen between you and another private individual, where the State had to intervene to protect you, but it neglected to do so.

example If you are attacked on the street, the State is responsible for investigating this crime and punishing the person responsible via the police and the prosecution. It is important to distinguish that the behaviour of the attacker is a criminal violation but not a human rights violation. If the police did not properly investigate this criminal violation and you were therefore left helpless, that would amount to a violation of your human rights.

important Any single negative exchange or incident involving another member of society will not necessarily lead to a situation resulting in a human rights violation. The State is not required to intervene in every such situation.

For example, you might be offended or hurt by a neighbour’s rudeness, or the neigbour won't comply with your request to behave more quietly. But the State will not usually intervene in such a situation and this will not lead to a human rights violation.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education