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Civil liberties

Civil liberties are protections from the power of governments. Examples include the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These are usually guaranteed and protected by a constitution or by adherence to an international treaty.

See also: human rights, civil rights.

Most western democracies (as well as many other countries) have constitutions that protect civil liberties. The following sections of this article present a few examples.


European Countries

The European Convention on Human Rights, to which most European countries, including all of the European Union, belong, lists forth a number of civil liberties.

France's 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, listing many civil liberties, is of constitutional force.

United States

The United States Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights, protects many civil liberties.


The Constitution of Canada includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees many of the same rights as the US constitution, with the notable exception of protection against establishment of religion. (Such protection is not practical, since the Anglican Church of Canada is nominally the state religion.) But the Charter does protect freedom of religion.

United Kingdom

While the country has no formal written constitution, it is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which covers both human rights and civil liberties, and has passed the Human Rights Act, which forces compliance between the treaty and UK law. After the September 11, 2001 attacks the UK claimed a state of emergency (as permitted by Article 15 of the ECHR) and the derogation from Article Five in order to allow the indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals suspected of involvement with terrorism. The government would rather deport these individuals, but this is prohibited by Article Three of the ECHR, which can not be opted out from according to Article 15.

Despite the UK's liberal heritage, the Government's Information Commissioner stated in 2004 that the country is currently in danger of becoming a surveillance society. See also British national identity card.

See also

External links

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