Civil rights

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The civil rights are the rights that relate to the relationship between citizens and government relate. In the European Union (EU) these are defined as a small part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in Articles 39-46 : Right to vote at EU and municipal level, right to good administration, right to access to documentation, ombudsman , Right of petition , freedom of movement and diplomatic protection.


Civil rights are generally understood to mean only those rights that relate to the relationship between the citizen and the state, and less to the relationship between the residents of the state.

The status of a citizen and the associated civil rights were not always available to all residents of a country or city. In medieval city ​​constitutions, city citizenship was a privilege that was only granted to certain residents of the city.

Today, civil rights are usually linked to citizenship . The exercise of certain civil rights, in particular the right to vote and stand as a candidate, is also tied to certain age limits. In addition to children and adolescents , adults are also excluded from exercising their civil rights if their civil rights are denied .

Definition of terms

Civil law must be distinguished from civil law : civil law is another name for private law (or civil law ), while civil rights are assigned to public law .

Furthermore, civil rights are to be distinguished from the human rights to which all people everywhere (should) be entitled, regardless of which state they belong to or in which state they are currently staying. The starting point of civil rights is citizenship and the commitment to a community in order to participate in its shaping (for example elections at local or state level, or freedom of expression ). The starting point of human rights is being human itself - by virtue of being human, every human being has rights that do not depend on citizenship (for example the right to life or the right to freedom).

However, the term civil rights is often not defined in more detail by so-called civil rights movements as the rights of citizens to defend themselves against the state. In most cases, however, the basic rights or human rights are meant, so that the use of the term civil rights is controversial.


A Roman citizen had political, legal, and human rights throughout the Roman Empire .

The origins of civil rights are closely related to medieval city ​​rights . City citizenship rights were granted in many European cities in the period between the Middle Ages and the beginning of the 20th century through acceptance into the role of citizens and the issuing of the citizenship letter . The basis for this an application for entry and proof were mostly (proof of income, real estate, certain acquired or inherited conditions guild membership , reputation , civic oath u. A.).

The citizens differed in their legal status in particular from the non-local residents . Citizens could only be who

  • had reached a certain age;
  • Proof of home ownership and property in the city (inheritance) or newly invested;
  • was accepted by the existing citizenship;
  • Paid taxes and duties;
  • Did military service in defense of the city.

Only citizens had the right to vote in the city government, which was a census suffrage in many regions of Europe until the 20th century. The civil rights of the free and imperial cities in particular were comparable to those of the (lower) nobility. During the imperial era, the proportion of citizens in the population of many German cities barely reached 10%.

In parts of Germany, city citizenship rights continued to exist until the 1870s, for example in Bavaria and in Hessen-Nassau . In Prussia , however, the de facto residence and not the granted citizenship determined the community membership since 1831 . Since the amendment to the trade regulations in 1849, the class privileges have been partially repealed, i.e. criteria of birth class have been replaced more by performance. The guilds were deprived of their privileges, and trade and civil rights were decoupled. Since 1872 the manor owners in Prussia also lost their personal voting rights at the district assemblies ; According to this, their rights were defined economically within the framework of the Prussian three-class voting system.

Situation in Germany

In Germany, civil rights together with human rights form the basic rights according to the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany , in particular Art. 8 , Art. 9 , Art. 12 and Art. 16 GG. Citizens' rights (every German…; no German…) belong exclusively to Germans , human rights (every…; nobody…) all people. The designation “foreign fellow citizens” is in this respect a euphemism that conceals their true legal status as people without civil rights. On various civil rights, e.g. According to EU treaties, e.g. the right to free movement, citizens of other EU countries can also invoke this.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Citizenship  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: Chapter V: Citizens' Rights
  2. There are no civil rights at all: They mostly mean basic or human rights. ( Memento from June 21, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  3. See German Basic Rights .
  4. See everyone's basic rights .