Civil rights are those legal protections granted to citizens under the jurisdiction of the civil law of a state. They are distinguished from human rights in that they may be violated or removed, and they may or may not apply to all individuals living within the borders of that state.

Civil rights may include the right to vote, right to property, right to bear arms, right to free speech, right to privacy, right to associate, etc.

Civil rights movements have existed in many countries.

United States

The United States Constitution and its amendments guarantee a number of rights to its citizens.

In 1964 civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. Their deaths shocked the United States' public and Congress and helped pass the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.


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 an establishment of religion as the Anglican Church of Canada is nominally the state religion. It should be pointed out that this nominal connection with an religious body in no way interferes with freedom of religion which is protected by the Charter.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland the Civil Rights movement developed in the 1960s among Northern Irish nationalists who demanded an end to what was seen as Unionist discrimination, in the form of the gerrymandering of local electoral districts to ensure the victory of unionist candidates in areas with nationalist majorities, and in discrimination in the awarding of local authority housing. One of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement was future Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, another, Austin Currie, a candidate for President of Ireland in 1990. Hume's co-Nobel Lauraute, David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in the 1990s and 2000s, called the Northern Ireland of the 1960s a "cold house for catholics".

United Kingdom

The UK has no formal written constitution, however it is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which covers both human rights and civil rights. In 2001 the UK derogated from Article Five of the ECHR in order to allow indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals suspected of involvement with terrorism.

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