Throughout history, many states have ignored basic human rights. The universal declaration of human rights made an attempt to formalise these basic human rights. – “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” (UN Declaration of Human Rights, 1948).
It's surprising to learn how recent this idea is. Before the 18th century, few political theorists considered there to be any universal duties owed by the state to its citizens. The two events that changed all this were the French and American revolutions. The U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776 stated that all men had certain 'unalienable rights' and 'among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'.