The Human Rights Web

Regional Human Rights Legal and Political Documents

The Magna Carta

One of the earliest legal documents which specifically limited the power of government over its citizens was the Magna Carta, signed by King John of England in 1215. It is a contract between the King and his subjects, and between his descendents and their descendents "forever." Most of its articles applied to specific abuses of the time, but it guarantees the freedom of the English Church from royal interference, protected the property and inheritance rights of underage heirs and widows, limited taxes, established standing and roving courts to deal with criminal and civil issues, stated that punishment should fit the crime, and forbade officials to steal from citizens, noble or freeborn commoners. It also put on paper, for the first time, English concepts of due process and forbade bribery of judges and other legal authorities.

The British Bill of Rights

Created on July 14, 1994 / Last edited on January 27, 1997

Home Page | Administrative Info | Webmaster