5 Limitations to Fundamental Human Rights

You must have heard about how the absoluteness of a law or principle is non-existent. Limitations to fundamental human rights are proof of this. Why is this so? These limitations exist because certain conditions must be in place for fundamental human rights to be exercised.

In this article, we will delve into the actual meaning of fundamental human rights. Of course, while mentioning some of them, we will outline some limitations to fundamental human rights. 

You need to understand that while rights are privileges that shouldn’t be infringed, there are limitations to fundamental human rights which must be observed if we must have a sane human community.

Meaning of Fundamental Human Rights

Fundamental Human Rights are as simple as those rights or privileges every human has. They are to be enjoyed because you are a human regardless of how old you are, how dark your skin colour is, what religious beliefs you have, or even where you were born. All of these don’t matter because the law guarantees them.

The provision of these fundamental human rights, according to the United Nations, is universal, meaning that in any country, whether they are operating under a federal or confederal system of government, insofar there are humans, it is expected that these rights are respected irrespective of sex, nationality, race, language, religion, or any other social status.

Some of these fundamental human rights are the right to live, right to freedom of speech, right to freedom of religion, right to freedom of movement, and many more.

Limitations to Fundamental Human Rights

Limitations to Fundamental Human Rights

If these rights are entitlements to every human worldwide, why should there still be limitations? Why are these fundamental human rights true in one context and appear untrue in another? 

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We will explain why in the subsequent paragraphs, but before we do so, we will list out some of the limitations to fundamental human rights.

Right to Life

The first fundamental human right that jumps right at you has to be your right to life. The logic here is that you have the right to live, and at the same time, your life shouldn’t be taken by any individual. While this is true, we know that law courts often sentence people who have been found guilty of a punishable offense to death. 

You might say that is an apparent infringement on your right to life. However, the provisions found in section 33(1) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution deem that possible. This is one of the limitations to fundamental human rights that the law backs up. 

In section 33(2) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, the law enables anyone who, in the event of defense of self or property, uses reasonable force to breach the life of another human. A similar situation can be the police, in a bid to contain a riot, shooting tear gas into the crowd, and some lives are lost in the process. The police, in this case, are absolved of infringement on the right to life.

Right to Freedom of Movement

As a human, you are entitled to go wherever you please; however, there is a but, or in legal terms, a limitation to this fundamental human right. For example, you can’t claim your right to freedom to move and, at the same time, encroach on another person’s property. This is trespass, and it is punishable under the law.

Another limitation to fundamental human rights under this has to be a curfew. It is within the powers of a ruling government to restrict your movement for a specific timeframe because of a temporary breakdown of law and order in a state. This would mean you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere you desire. Or if the situation is critical, a state of emergency would be declared and the Armed Forces in Nigeria would have to oversee the security affairs in the part affected.

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Right to Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech entitles you as a human to air your opinions freely without being suppressed, threatened, or gagged. Nonetheless, as part one of the limitations to the right to freedom of speech, you shouldn’t make false claims or slanderous remarks about another person capable of causing harm to that individual.

Under the law, this is called libel or defamation, and as such, the court retains the right to mete out punishment to the person found guilty. The implication of this is: that you shouldn’t make hate speeches against anyone or even any country because such words spoken can wreak havoc.

Right to Fair Hearing

Before any person can be convicted in any civil or criminal matter by a law court, the individual has the right to be heard by the court or any adjudicatory body. Such a person must be allowed to speak in defense of what they are being accused of, including with the help of legal representation.

However, like the other limitations to fundamental human rights we have already mentioned, you are entitled to get a lawyer, but the lawyer must have a registered license to practice in Nigeria; if not, such legal representation would be null and void.

Right to Privacy

It is your right as an individual to go on with your daily activities without any interference from another person. This fundamental human right is more evident in workplaces where your employer is mandated not to divulge your personal information.

We know that is not always true because certain court matters would arise, and your employer would be left with no option but to share this information to clear their name. Perhaps, even more directly, you could find yourself in a messy situation where the court orders your employers to present your personal information.

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Right to Freedom of Religion

The Right to Freedom of Religion is not only one of the fundamental human rights, but also, it confers upon every person the entitlement to worship any deity they believe in and honour. You would be surprised to find out that there are limitations to this right too. 

Rationality is believed to be at odds with faith. Nonetheless, the law prescribes that faith in whichever deity is put aside when it goes against acceptable reasoning. A beautiful example would be a blood transfusion. Some religious beliefs don’t subscribe to transferring blood even when there is a need; the law disallows such, especially when the patient, in this case, who is a human being, is in dire need of blood.


There would be chaos if there were no limitations to fundamental human rights. Imagine if everyone could talk just how it suits them, even to the detriment of another. The limitations to fundamental human rights are important if humans must richly enjoy their privileges. Nonetheless, we must draw the line between what is an infringement and lawful limitations to fundamental human rights.

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