Fundamental Rights

In Spain, human dignity, the inviolable and inherent rights of human beings, the free development of the personality, respect for the law and for the rights of others are considered fundamental to public order and social peace.

This is the basis on which the Constitution of 1978 creates the legal figure of the Defensor del Pueblo [Ombudsman], an institution devoted to safeguarding the human rights recognized under Part I of the Constitution.

Learn more about these inviolable rights and about the Ombudsman’s role in their safeguarding, spanish an other tab.

What are the Fundamental Rights?

On passing the Constitution, we citizens expressed our desire to establish justice, liberty and security and to promote the well-being of all by seeking to guarantee democratic coexistence within the Constitution and the laws in accordance with a fair economic and social order.

Article 1 of the Constitution proclaims Spain as being established as a social and democratic State, subject to the rule of law, which advocates freedom, justice, equality and political pluralism as the highest values of its legal system.

Spain being referred to as a “State subject to the rule of law” means assuring the rule of law, and the law having to be the expression of the will of the people. The law protects all Spaniards and peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights, their cultures, traditions, languages and institutions.

Spain being referred to as a “social State” means that Spain’s citizens seek, by way of our institutions, to promote the progress of culture and of the economy to ensure a dignified quality of life for all.
Spain being referred to as a “democratic State” means that sovereignty is vested in the Spanish people, from whom emanate the powers of the State.

The bases of this political order established under the Constitution include the rights inherent to the individual, which are inviolable rights and are construed as being the minimum indispensable for recognizing human dignity. The rights of individuals, human rights, assure an individual’s own environment of autonomy and self-determination, which is equivalent to recognizing a sphere inherent to each individual in which no instances outside thereof must interfere and upon which the powers of the State must refrain from encroaching.

Originally, some authors such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Thomas Paine upheld there being certain individual rights which do not depend upon being recognized in contracts or under rules of law, but which are inherent to human nature itself and are therefore universally attributable to all individuals.

These individual rights ultimately being included in the constitutional texts had an immediate consequence: the transformation of what were philosophical principles into legal mandates, in other words, converting human rights into fundamental rights.

Individuals and groups among themselves and with public powers must be abided by a set of basic limits that are comprised in the fundamental rights laid out in our Constitution. Dignified life cannot exist without basic rights, which we citizens consider inherent to our human condition.
But it must be pointed out that the proper notion of fundamental rights is employed in a twofold sense: in a broad and less technically-precise sense, referring to all those rights which are included under Part I of the Constitution; and then in a stricter, more legally precise sense, this term is reserved for some constitutional rights which the Fundamental Law considers the core of the individual’s legal status and which are included under a certain section of Part I titled “Fundamental Rights and Civil Liberties”.

Human rights or fundamental rights are universal, incompatible with the superiority of any individual, people, group or social class. The recognition thereof does not depend on factors such as race, gender, religion, opinion, nationality or any other personal or social condition or circumstance. As inherent to the individual, they are irrevocable, non-negotiable (cannot be “sold”) and unrelinquishable. These rights are recognized legally under Part I of the Constitution, but also under international treaties and under the constitutions of the other States.

For further information on this subject, please see the documentation now readily available online and at the Defensor’s library.