1 Human Rights law in force in Belgium
Why are human rights relevant?
Although states are the only parties responsible for complying with human rights law at the international level, organisations and persons must comply with the human rights law in force in the territory where they carry out their activities. They must know and comply with their legal obligations, evaluate the risks that their activities imply for human rights, and implement mechanisms to avoid, reduce or mitigate adverse impacts. When they violate human rights law, they must redress or compensate the damage caused.
An “adverse human rights impact” can occur when an action or omission of the state, an organisation and/or a person obstruct, limit or eliminate the ability of people to enjoy their human rights. Therefore, organisations must also avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts, and must redress the damage caused if they occur. Organisations must prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts directly or indirectly linked to their activities even when they were not involved in the impact. They should also take care that the impact is not caused by a partner - that is, by an entity linked to their own operations, such as commercial or professional partners. When organisations have the possibility, they are also expected to support human rights initiatives in the communities where they operate.
Human rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. However, some rights are more relevant than others, depending on the activities carried out, the context and the particular circumstances. In addition, the legal framework that protects human rights is not necessarily framed in human rights terms, such as the rules protecting the environment. Therefore, organisations and persons must know their legal duties.
Human rights should always be respected, although in exceptional circumstances, the state can limit them or progressively fulfil those rights that have budgetary implications. This means that a human rights adverse impact caused in a specific area or by a specific activity, cannot be compensated by a benefit or a redress provided in another. Human rights legal compliance helps organisations to identify their specific obligations. For instance, when they operate public utilities - considered to be of general interest - they must also guarantee universal access to essential services such as drinking water or sanitation. When organisations and persons conduct activities in areas affected by armed conflict, they must respect human rights law and international humanitarian law.