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An extra-terrestrial, a vampire, a mythical or magical being, or maybe even a half-human being or a person who transforms into a monster or has somehow gained superpowers runs the risk of being found out. If the general public discovers their true nature, they could be dissected in a lab or suffer some equally unpleasant fate. Mind you, as sentient beings who look (and possibly are) quite human, they still should enjoy some basic civil rights (even if they aren't documented citizens; not even the most extreme Minuteman Militia member has suggested dissecting illegal aliens). However, this does not stop the government from wanting to imprison the being (without trial, naturally) and use them as subjects in endless (probably painful) experiments.
This means said being has to constantly run from the authorities as opposed to going to the nearest court and having a restraining order issued, or perhaps going to the media about it (this is especially jarring when the being can prove its claims), calling 911, or applying any of the myriad legal remedies that protect everyday people from what amounts to a metric buttload of civil rights violations and outright felonies committed against their person. Somehow, none of the "normal people" notice, and likely wouldn't care if they knew.
The pursuers, who have the power of the FBI, CIA, or even the Postal Service (hey... don't sneer at the Post Office-the Postal Inspector's office is the only law enforcement arm of any government in the US with a perfect 100% conviction rate) behind them, never seem to realize that they could be arrested for their treatment of the being, losing their careers, reputations, and freedom because of it.
This technicality does not cover humans who have gained powers, however. Having the ability to fly does not make you non-human. Neither does being in the wrong time or from an Alternate Universe. Those are all still human beings, and people in any court of law.
Likewise, humans who are legally dead still have rights, as nothing in the law restrict rights to only living people. In reality, dead humans still have property rights, that is to say, their estate, although someone else is needed to manage and dissolve it. The dead would presumably have other rights or protections under the law if they asked for them. And while death legally means cessation of brain activity, which vampires may not have, no doctor is going to declare someone dead when they're moving around and talking, so they probably aren't even 'legally dead' in the first place. Zombies and other non-sentient undead on the other hand, might indeed be brain dead, and a doctor might be willing to declare them so. Either way, it's not like a zombie is going to be demanding their rights be recognized. (Or demanding much more than "Braaains!!!").
It is worth noticing that 'people' have rights, not 'humans' (not that this isn't rocky territory). So if a writer wished to ignore the issue, they can mention that courts declared them 'people', no need to rewrite any laws or constitutions at all. This isn't all that great a stretch, as Real Life courts have ruled that such bodies as governments, civic organizations and corporations can be recognized as 'persons' so that they can be legally represented and/or sued in criminal/civil cases.
Note that this trope is only valid for places in which there are civil rights for humans to begin with. A perfectly ordinary human would have to escape a tyrannical government that was persecuting him as much as any mermaid or vampire.
Of course, as recent RealLifeevents have demonstrated to the world, even places with great (though rarely unassailable) reputations for upholding human rights for their own citizens, can and have blatantly ignored said rights when it suits. So maybe the writers really are on to something.
A subtrope of What Measure Is a Non-Human? and usuallynote Obviously, legal problems are easily fixed, but often no one ever bothers or sometimes even wants to do it.Artistic License - Law. Overlaps with They Would Cut You Up. See also Zombie Advocate, when a character advocates for the rights of non-humans.
The Civil War crossover between Young Avengers and Runaways mined this a lot: SHIELD "cape killers" feel okay with firing on Victor because he's "just a robot," and Hulkling, Karolina, and Xavin are all lined up by a Mad Scientist for dissection because they don't have any legal rights as aliens.
Bar Sinister from Shaman's Tears where a group of genetically uplifted animals. The evil corporation that created them felt justified in treating them as possessions as they had a court ruling stating that they weren't human.
The G1 Transformers comic practically takes this to Humans Are the Real Monsters level: The government organisation Triple I and the RAAT military group they sponsor treat all giant robots as a menace, resulting in them firing on any Autobot they see without provocation, capturing and dissecting them, and ultimately trying to execute a group of captured Autobots in retribution for a Decepticon attack. (Their bodies are crushed but the one man in the organisation who's twigged they're on different sides saves their brain modules.)
Inverted in Article 2. Equestrian law was not written with humans in mind, and therefore it does not apply to them. Luna even makes a joke that, legally, Shane, the human, would be considered a pet rather than a prisoner.
In All-American Girl though the pony DJ is raised as a human, she's not seen as one and has to endure being treated more than once as a pet (much to the anger of her adoptive human parents) until the Supreme Court rules on her tenth birthday that all sapient creatures are legally persons.
And interesting variation occurs in The Conversion Bureau: Not Alone. Equestria is acknowledged by pretty much the rest of the world as a sovereign country, and most ponies that travel to other countries not only have human rights, but diplomatic privileges as well. But once the world declares war on Equestria, countries like South Africa and Brazil revoke all the ponies' rights but the most basic ones, and begin rounding them up - regardless of their diplomatic status - and placing them in prison camps as menaces to public safety (which may or may not be justified). Pony scientists stationed the Arctic are given the chance to prove their loyalty to their human colleagues, and thus a few of them evade getting detained by the British Army, which makes this principle of 'preventive detention' seemingly more subjective than it generally should be.
Splash: Semi-justified in that Madison didn't know her rights in the first place. The scientist who was after her could well be arrested for stalking, among other things.
Explored hardcore in District 9. In theory, the aliens are legal residents of South Africa, with all the standard rights to life, liberty and property that entails. In practice, they're confined to an uninhabitable trash-heap, exploited as sub-minimum wage labor, forced to subsist off offal and cat food (though they love the cat food), left to fend for themselves against crime syndicates that the police have no interest in dealing with, and are generally treated little better than animals. When an "unlicensed" nest of alien eggs is discovered by the military, they proceed to "abort" the unborn aliens. With a flamethrower.
The perfectly human Wikus provides a straighter example when a splash of Applied Phlebotinum triggers a gradual transformation into an alien, at first just his arm, at which point he is whisked away to a research facility where no one treats him as even remotely human, instead electrocuting him into operating alien weapons for them and discussing how they're going to harvest his organs right in front of him while he begs for mercy.
The cover story used to detain Wikus is that he contracted an alien disease that jumped species and needs to be quarantined. The end of the movie states that when the truth of what actually happened was revealed to the public there was hell to pay.
Avatar: The only problem the humans (or at least the company and security leaders) had with killing the Na'vi was public relations. The Na'vi had no issues with killing humans either. It should be noted though that the humans were on the Na'vi planet, far away from any government controlled land so the law wouldn't touch them. And the Na'vi aren't united enough to need a standing government or strict legal system.
Cleverly subverted in the Coneheads movie, in which INS Deputy Commissioner Gorman Seedling is pursuing the Coneheads not because they are extraterrestrials, but because they lack green cards or any other immigration papers, and thus are illegal aliens in the legal sense of the word.
Turnbull: "Excuse me sir, but should they be in fact, creatures from another planet, isn't that the Air Force's responsibility?"
Seedling: "If they're just visiting, sure... but the minute they try to work here, they're mine!"
In the film version of I Robot, the head of U.S. Robotics outright states (and does so accurately, as a matter of fact) that the death of a human being at the hands of a robot isn't a murder, because legally, murder is defined as one human unjustly, intentionally killing another. A robot killing a human is "an industrial accident". On the other hand, if somebody reprogrammed the robot to kill a person, then that would be murder. Later on it turns out that Sonny did kill him (for good reasons), but can't be charged by that same definition.
Technically, this was suicide, as Sonny's creator made him promise to kill him.
Blade Runner. They don't call killing a replicant murder, they call it "retirement".
This is taken to the extreme when Rachael asks Deckard if he has ever "retired" a human. In this case, of course, this would be murder not "retirement".
Reversed in Planet 51, where the native military wants to dissect the human astronaut.
Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer: When the Silver Surfer is captured, an interrogator specifically brings up this trope. He's forbidden to use his favorite tactics since they're violations of human rights. But the silver surfer is not human, so it's implied he's free to use whatever torture methods he can think of.
In The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), the government let's Klaatu know that he doesn't have any rights they are under obligation to respect specifically because he (Klaatu) is not a human being regardless of what body he's wearing currently.
In the Star Wars universe, Imperial doctrine is that humans (and, when the era allowed for it, the Sith species) are considered full citizens and have the marginal protection of Imperial law and social position of citizens (for all that's worth in a theocracy ruled by batshit insane Darths and their military lackeys where the only real laws are Might Makes Right and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder), along with access to military service (the only real way for someone who isn't Force Sensitive to earn any respect or social position). Any one of the thousands of other species in the galaxy are considered inferiors at best (though tolerated if they are Force Sensitive and nasty enough to join the Sith Order or just Badasses capable of shooting the fellow making the specisist remark and anyone who might take issue with the shooting), but are usually relegated to slave labor. This in contrast with the Republic which welcomes talent from all species, but has a tendency to get mired in debate over competing interests.
In The Man Who Fell to Earth, Newton is captured and held captive by the government, slowly studied and examined against his will. He's finally let go when they've found everything they need from him, and it's too late for him to return home, leaving him on Earth.
Newton: We'd have probably done the same to you, if you'd come 'round our place.
Mike Carey's Felix Castor series has a version of this for the undead - who are human, just postmortem, and have no clear legal status. And for demons, too. (And the resident evil scientist would definitely cut up anyone in either category as long as she could get away with it.)
Subverted in Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant, in which the conscientious Sam Vimes insists on going through proper police procedure, including asking the creature whether it is resisting arrest, before shooting a crazy werewolf. The ethics of killing "monsters" that are also sentient creatures in the Discworld is dealt with in several of its books. For instance, Granny Weatherwax insists on having an anthropomorphic wolf given a proper burial after it is killed at its own request.
The Big Bad was bringing Fairy Tales to life. In the fairy tale, the Big Bad Wolf behaves like a human, but it's okay to kill him like a wolf. By burying him as if he were human, Granny was fighting the story. So Pratchett was playing with how the story of Little Red Riding Hood is an example of this trope.
And of course there's Carrot, whose freeing of Dorfl started the golems' own peaceful self-liberation, and who once arrested a dragon.
The golems are an interesting subversion in how the police behave. Vimes at one point is asked to arrest Dorfl for committing a murder which the golem was confessing to, but he knew was innocent. To get out of this, he deliberately invokes this trope, pointing out that, legally, golems aren't people and thus can't murder anyone, and if anything it's the golem's owner who's the murderer. The owner attempts to abandon his ownership of the golem, at which point Carrot points out he can't do that because it's littering. Carrot then buys Dorfl for a dollar and gives him to himself.
Besides, if he owns the golem, which has no personhood, he should be liable for any crimes it commits. However, this exact predicament was avoided in Real Life by the law treating slaves or indentured servants as freemen if they did anything wrong. Of course, Golems have no choice but to obey their masters, whereas human slaves can choose to do otherwise, although this will often have painful consequences.
Let us not forget the various races attempts at ensuring their rights, such as Reg Shoe's tireless (literally) crusade for Zombie rights.
Several books mention "The Campaign for Equal Heights", which in a reference to the early NAACP has no dwarfs or gnomes on its board.
A large part of Snuff is about whether Goblins should have rights and be protected by law. Regardless of prejudice against them by pretty much every other race on Discworld, when a crime is committed against them Vimes takes their side.
Robert A. Heinlein's short story Jerry Was A Man is about an attempt by a genetically modified chimpanzee to achieve human rights. A very rich human woman adopts Jerry. Worried that the company that owns Jerry might decide to have him killed when he is no longer useful, she hires a law firm to have Jerry declared human. The law firm coaches Jerry on how to testify (it is technically illegal to coach witnesses, though almost impossible to prosecute). Jerry proves himself finally by singing a song to the judges in court. An episode of the short-lived Masters of Science Fiction TV series was based on this, but replaced the chimp a genetically engineered humanoid formerly used to clear mine fields.
In Heinlein's The Star Beast, in the back-history of The Federation we have the Cygnus Decision which established that: Beings possessed of speech and manipulation must be presumed to be sentient and therefore to have innate human rights, unless conclusively proved otherwise. Lummox's problem was the lack of manipulative organs, until she grew two arms and hands partway through the novel.
Charles Stross plays with this a fair amount. In The Jennifer Morgue, it's a reasonably major plot point that the CIA doesn't consider anyone with demonic ancestry to be legally human. Early in Accelerando, the main character delivers an impassioned (and eventually mostly successful) plea for the rights of digitally uploaded personalities.
Michael Crichton's final published book, Next, has quite a lot to say about this issue as it has a few transgenic animal/humans in its cast of characters (and indeed, Dave's backstory is very sad). That said, it eventually gets to the point where even the rights of individual cells are questioned.
Kitty Norville is kidnapped so that the kidnappers can televise themselves forcing her to turn into a werewolf on live television. They even allow her to do a piece for the camera first. They think they'll get away with it because they'll be revealing her true demonic nature. The sight of a terrified wolf cowering away from the silver-painted walls of her cell doesn't do them any PR favors.
On the opposite end of the scale, we have Robert J. Sawyer's novel Illegal Alien, in which one of the first aliens to visit the Earth is arrested and put on trial on suspicion of murdering a human. The aliens are quite obviously more technologically advanced than humanity, and could very well wipe out the entire planet if they decided to, so only the most radical humans oppose giving the suspect a fair trial. That said, there is some argument over whether an alien can be considered "sane" by human standards, and several times it's brought up that most people think of the aliens as interchangeable and identical rather than varied individuals.
Subverted in Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series: as technology reaches the point where it's starting to expose supernatural beings to possible exposure and/or experimentation, the fae, and later werewolves, voluntarily 'expose' themselves to the public. The respective leaders of these supernatural cultures enacted very precise public-relations plans for revealing themselves in a manner designed to maximally protect their rights and safety.
Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free has the project which created the quaddies operating in a system where they could be classified as "Post-fetal experimental tissue cultures" and therefore have no rights.
Becomes a bone of contention in Moon Over Soho where new guy PC Grant quotes the sections of the Human Rights Act that in theory deals with not summarily executing sentient beings (pointing out that it only says "Human" rights in the title-the actual text says "persons" a rather more vaguely defined word), old hand DCI Nightingale points out that this would blow the Masquerade wide open. Then the suspects in question kill themselves and resolve the issue neatly.
Becomes a further bone of contention in Broken Homes, with Peter and especially Lesley getting rather impatient with magical beings who think they should get the rights that come with modern civilization and policing, while at the same time being left alone to do whatever they like (but Efra points out the Human Rights Act does say that; your rights aren't contingent on obeying the Act yourself).
Terry England's Rewind (Terry England) revolves around seventeen adults who get deaged to nine-year-old children. They suddenly find themselves with a whole lot less rights as a result. For instance, Aaron's wife wanted a divorce; after he's rewound, she gleefully seizes all of his assets and sells him to an interested buyer.
Alf was in part hiding out over concerns that he'd be dissected-explicitly stated in the pilot and the Made-for-TV MovieReunion Show (in which he was the only returning character-so can it be said that it was a reunion??).
And in the canon Series Finale, which was before the reunion and was the intended ending, he's caught. WTF?
It was written as a season cliffhanger, and then the series got canceled.
The finale, "Consider Me Gone" which aired March 24, 1990, was resolved later in the TV movie "Project ALF" that aired February 17, 1996. It reveals that he did eventually escape from the government agents that captured him.
Stargate SG-1 explored this in "Enigma" when the NID tried to take the Tollans away with them to get their technology, resulting in this exchange:
Jack: These people do have rights, you know. Col. Maybourne: Do they? Under what nation's jurisdiction? Daniel: How about basic human rights?
In Stargate Atlantis, the Atlantis Expedition has allowed itself to perform war-crime experiments on some captured Wraith, because "if they were there when the Third Geneva Convention was signed, they would have eaten the attendees instead". This comes back to bite them, in the form of Michael.
Star Trek: The Next Generation explored this question, primarily with the android Data. In "Measure Of A Man," he is the subject of a hearing by the Judge Advocate General of Starfleet to determine his legal status: is he property or a person? The judge mentioned that they were "dancing around the basic issue-does Data have a soul?", which she concluded could not be proven or disproven, just as it could not proven or disproven for humans and other organic sentients. Later episodes on the topic featured Data defending the right of other artificial sentients to life and liberty, and the question of Data's rights as a "parent" when he creates his "daughter," Lal.
This was done again with polymorphic tools called Exocomps that were proven to have gained low-level intelligence and were excellent problem-solvers.
Star Trek: Voyager explored the rights of the holographic doctor, including his right to have a say in his treatment. In one episode, rather than delete months of his memory (and personality), Janeway eventually allowed him to work through psychological problems that could have kept him out of Sickbay for weeks or even months-despite the risk this might pose to the crew. Janeway had initially decided to just reboot the Doc, but changed her mind upon talking to Seven of Nine. When Janeway pointed out that the Doc was more like a replicator than a human, Seven pointed out that she, too, being Borg, was composed of parts not unlike the replicator, and wondered whether Janeway would eventually override her free will as well.
In one episode of Voyager, the Doctor had written a novel and submitted a draft, pre-editing, that the publisher thought was delightfully salacious in the way it seemed to impugn the Voyager crew, and promptly started distributing. The Doctor sued to have it stopped; the publisher argued he couldn't sue because he wasn't a person. You have to wonder why someone didn't look through Starfleet's records and discover that an artificial being that has intelligence that can improve itself, have sex, and express itself artistically is a person, because Data was found to be so in the second season of The Next Generation.
Admittedly, ruling that the Doctor was a person would open the door to ruling the same for Mark I EMHs all over the Federation, who had by then been consigned to manual labor; meanwhile, there was only one Data. It gets even less justifiable when you consider that the Doctor is essentially a Projected Android.
Also, all other holograms. If the world recognizes the fact that the Doctor achieved full sentience after being left running for long enough, suddenly using a Projected Man the way all the TNG-era Treks do becomes the stem cell debate times a thousand. Using them as novel characters (let alone combat practice) would be right out. As such, Starfleet recognizing the Doctor as a person is never going to happen. Ever.
Interestingly, it does seem that your average Trek hologram can become sentient if you leave it running long enough and provide it with constant interpersonal stimuli. Just ask not only the Doctor, but the hologram Hirogen prey from "Flesh and Blood", the woman we thought was Dr. Zimmerman's daughter until Deanna found she couldn't read her, Vic Fontaine, Professor Moriarty, and on and on. Trek hologram use is serious Moral Dissonance. And, since A.I. Is a Crapshoot, it bites them in the hindparts enough that such use goes beyond Genre Blindness and into What an Idiot territory.
Although, each of these holograms were special. There is a significant difference between a deliberately intelligent AI (in the case of Data, Fontaine, and some others), and a series of if-then statements for a combat training program that doesn't learn. That aside, the holodeck need not create a separate 'person' for each holo-character, and instead have a master AI controlling each character like puppets. Who knows, maybe the intelligent future ship AIs will enjoy playing on the holodeck as much as the organics.
Carried even further, the right to vote was mentioned inside the episode. The Federation quite sensibly has no desire to extend suffrage to an easily-replicated computer program that can be given whatever personality, desires and values the programmer wants it to have (not to mention have it's Ethics directory deleted with a push of a button). For what it's worth, the final decision is a bit of a subversion of the usual outcome: the court decides that the Doctor is not legally a "person". However, in an instance of a Meaningless Villain Victory, the court decides that while he does not qualify as a "person", he does qualify as an "artist", and therefore is granted ownership rights to his holonovel anyway.
The arbiter doesn't actually say categorically that the Doctor is not a person, he says that he is not prepared to declare the Doctor a person at this time. He also says that he knows very well that this issue is going to warrant a lot of further investigation.
There have been instances of respecting non-Doctor holograms, though, such as Janeway putting the ship at risk to save the holographic town of Fair Haven. Except that the town's achievement of self-awareness was treated as a malfunction to be fixed-a malfunction specifically caused by running too long, the usual cause of sentient holograms.
Touched on in Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with the Initiative's treatment of Oz the werewolf. They wanted to experiment on him despite the fact that he, unlike most of the demons and monsters they dealt with, had a legal existence as a person and a student.
The same topic arose on Angel with an organization that meets once a month to dine on werewolves— who are human 90% of the time and return to human form on death (which means they must be eaten alive)
The robot thing comes up, weirdly, in Buffy, as well-there are three apparently-sentient androids in the series. The first is a serial killer they get rid of, but April-the-sexbot is treated as a mentally-disabled person unfairly created and discarded. The Buffybot has a long and storied career, and never achieves enough self-awareness to worry about her rights, but is definitely treated as capable of suffering.
Subverted in True Blood where vampires have been legally declared citizens, more or less, in a not-even-remotely-veiled analog to the real-life homosexual rights movement ("God hates fangs").
True Blood also demonstrates the flip-side of this trope; namely, vampires do not consider themselves as equal to humans, but rather superior. In addition, the human justice system is nowhere near equipped to deal with them, and vampires in the show kill with relative impunity.
By Season 5, the governor of the state of Louisiana has essentially invalidated the citizenship and rights of all vampires within the state: vampires seen outside their homes at night are breaking a curfew set for them, and subject to being shot on sight by SWAT teams and arrested really sent to a special lab where experiments are done on them. So far the show has neglected to mention how massively unconstitutional such actions would be.
Inverted and subverted on Babylon 5, where a gray alien gets sued for damages by a human because its ancestor had abducted and experimented on the plaintiff's ancestor. Thus, it's the human whose Inhumanable Alien Rights were disregarded, and the offender (or at least its grandchild) does get called out for it in court. The scene ends before the Ombudsman makes the final decision, the process being somewhat hindered by the fact that the alien in question does notspeak English and there was no interpreter available.
The Ombudsman is clearly exasperated at having to deal with the case, but there's no indication that he cares one way or the other about which species are involved (except insofar as it causes the aforementioned language problem).
There's also no indication that the Vree have actually abducted any humans. The more likely candidates are Vorlons (who can look like whatever they damn well please), the Shadow Surgeons, or the Streib (who are known for abducting members of various races and experimenting on them, possibly for the Shadows). Just because the Vree look like your typical Greys and fly around in saucer-shaped ships doesn't mean they are automatically guilty. Some fluff indicates that they may be responsible for accidentally starting the UFO craze of the late 20th century with a survey mission.
Comes up in Farscape, unsurprisingly. "A Human Reaction" reveals that John thinks his alien shipmates would suffer from this sort of treatment if they ever made it back to Earth. Subverted when they do get back in "Terra Firma"; the aliens are treated like celebrities, put up in a beautiful mansion, provided with all the material goods they want...though they are still prisoners. Things may have gone differently if John's dad hadn't been part of the team that discovered Moya. It couldn't have hurt that the humanish-looking Sikozu made first contact and could speak English (and the terrifying Scorpius was not onboard.)
In Merlin "practicing sorcery" is a capital crime. However since people are born with sorcerous abilities and can use them instinctively without contemplated intent, it is tantamount to outlawing sneezing or having a patellar reflex, so humans with sorcerous abilities are treated pretty much like a criminal subspecies.
An episode of Earth: Final Conflict revolves around a murder trial in which the defendant is a Taelon who kills a former soldier in what appears to be self-defense. The Taelons are determined to keep the trial as human as possible in order to show that they're willing to abide by human rules and even request that Zo'or be put on the jury as a "peer". In fact, Zo'or does everything he can to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty of murder, even though the hospital video is clearly showing the soldier pulling a gun on him. Technically, this is not allowed, as new evidence (e.g. that Taelons are Energy Beings and cannot be harmed by bullets) cannot be introduced while the jury is deliberating. Zo'or wants to get the other Taelon convicted and punished (preferably by execution) to further his political goals. Then Boone manages to convince the judge to overturn the verdict and let the defendant go. The Taelon ends up killing himself at Zo'or's orders.
In Forgotten Realms Netheril was a very human-centric culture, respecting only dwarves and conceding that elves are, more or less, equal, even if somehow backward. They enslaved or slaughtered most others and when their spelljamming exploration began they started to vivisect anything they ran across. Naturally, soon the Netherese were treated much the same way as Illithids, and attempts of more sane mages to fix this reputation mostly failed. The net result was that with their ships attacked on sight Netheril has no trade partners and the defence grew so expensive that in a hundred years from the first lift-off they were forced to abandon space travel altogether, uber-wizards or not.
Comes up often in Hunter: The Vigil, especially when dealing with government entities like Task Force VALKYRIE and the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit. While VALKYRIE engages in network, they usually do so only after assessing that the supernatural population in question is a threat. Likewise, VASCU, as a subset of the FBI, makes sure that slashers get processed through the system - though they have a Gauntanamo-like facility on US soil for those who are maximum risks (you try getting a Mask to face its day in court without a hideous body count).
In Eberron, it is mentioned that monster races rarely receive the full rights of the more humanoid races. This causes trouble in parts of Breland (especially Sharn), where if a gnoll kills someone, it's murder—but the opposite is not true.
The question of warforged rights have been a knotty tangle in the Five Nations. Legally, all signatories to the treaties that ended the Last War have to recognize them as autonomous persons, but in practice Thrane is known for keeping warforged in indentured servitude and many people in other nations are strongly prejudiced against them. Karrnath, meanwhile, also keeps legions of intelligent undead in storage much like other nations packed away weapons and armor.
How non-humans are treated in Rifts by the Coalition States. Mages have no rights at all (even if it's involuntary like a Mystic), psychics' are limited (second-class citizens who must be implanted with trackers), and Dog Boys have barely more than pets.
In Witch Girls Adventures, witches (as well as otherkin such as the Fae, Immortals, and Nightlings such as Vampires or Shape Shifters) are a separate species from humans (although they can interbreed, the traits appear to be recessive at least with Witches, which muddies the waters) which probably leads to how organizations such as Malleus Maleficarum treat them with an 'execute on sight' policy or how the Arbus Society views them as aliens from outer space who lack privacy rights.
In Planescape, the ruling authorities of Sigil generally look down upon some human or demihuman adventurer treating the city like their own personal dungeon crawl, given all the "monstrous" citizens. After all, that goblin you just stabbed might be a respected member of a powerful faction, or at least pays his taxes. You're more likely to have your rights trampled for belonging to the wrong faction when the city guard passes on patrol. Outside Sigil, it all depends on the local climate.
Metahumans and the Awakened in Shadowrun have had an uphill battle for civil rights that would have been a non-issue if they hadn't expressed. Most civilized countries have decided that they share the same rights as their non-magical, non-metahuman peers. The newest group to suffer like this are technomancers, outwardly normal people who can interact with the Matrix without technology and do things with code that leave the most elite hackers scratching their heads.
In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, it is against the "rules of war" to use nerve gas on your enemies; doing so will earn you the ire of all the other factions. But in the Alien Crossfire expansion, nobody bats an eyelash if you use the nerve gas on the Progenitor (non-human) factions (still, the Progenitor factions feel the same way toward humans, so this may explain things).
The "rules of war" in SMAC are a mutually agreed upon set of regulations that can be disbanded by 67% majority vote. The Progenitors have never signed the treaty and therefore do not fall under its protection. Additionally, most CPU factions will push to remove the regulations if they ever think it will benefit them.
Additionally, you can vote to initiate global warming/cooling in order to raise/lower the sea levels. Nobody bothers to ask if the Progenitors are ok with this.
Furthermore, the progenitors state openly that their long-term goal is the extermination of mankind from Planet's surface. When they've flat-out told you beforehand that they're going to wipe you out anyway...
The rights of non-humans are an important theme in Freefall, with a squid-like alien protagonist, an anthropomorphic, intelligent, genetically engineered wolf who is technically still property, and a host of apparently sentient robots struggling with or ignoring the three robotics laws. In one story arc, robots have been dismantled against their will by other robots. As Sam asks: is this a crime or simply overly aggressive recycling? (cue the Ironic Echo two strips later)
In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , there are several races of people, some of which are about as tough as a normal human, and others which are extremely powerful and long-lived. When someone commits a crime against a member of another race, he's judged and sentenced by members of his own race, which may lead to a sentence of community service for a murder conviction in more extreme cases. This leads to a lot of vigilante justice in the form of "adventuring".
The Nai'ka in This Is the Worst Idea You've Ever Had! are given animal rights instead of human rights. One of the main plotlines of Chapter Two demonstrates that if you were to kill a Nai'ka (which is a common occurrence, as their blood can act as a Fantastic Drug that can allow humans to use magic for a brief time), it would be considered animal abuse instead of homicide, and the police really won't treat the matter with any kind of respect, nor is it a priority of theirs. Made even worse by the fact that many Nai'ka are quite naive, and therefore easy to exploit. The spin-off comic Sin Pararse shows an even darker side to this trope with Rei, who was found in a brothel and was implied to have been a Sex Slave for nearly a decade.
In The Return you can be as law abiding as you want, but a bunch of scary mercenaries will still kick your door in at midnight, force you into a stress position and presume you are guilty of people eating on no evidence. Of course the various world Governments are in on this. It is made worse by the fact that being turned into a demon is more akin to rape than anything else, so after you've been victimised once, your government will come and do it to you again (one "raid" has the gunning down of a Succubus in a french maid's outfit by the Private Military Contractors in question. Turns out that she was the legal owner of a property that had been mind raped and forced into servitude). It turns out as a succubus you can live out your life without any recourse to the courts, or be shot.
In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, this issue has given rise to differing policies among earth's governments. Given the revelation that a city of civilized, urbane, sentient apes exists in Africa, and the fact that tens of thousands of extraterrestrials were stranded on earth after an invasion in 1985, most of the "First World" countries have declared such beings as "people", and thus grant them full "human" rights. Other governments (most notably the People's Republic of China, several of the more conservative Muslim countries, and (strangely) Finland) have adamantly refused to do the same. Sentient machines, meanwhile, do not legally enjoy any such rights anywhere in the world (though in practice, some countries, like the US and Great Britain, tend to grant such beings those rights anyway.)
In The Adventures of Fox Tayle (an online story/book), Fox Tayle is a government experiment running from the FBI. At one point, when confronting a lone agent, he cites part of the Declaration of Independence, but is told that it doesn't apply to him because he's an animal.
Some-what averted in The Salvation War, which mentions of the legal nightmare the "second life" humans pose on the issues of inheritance, payment, abortion, the death penalty, what one should do with dead criminals who were ordered to serve 100+ year sentences, and other such issues, but never are basic human rights questioned.
Agent Bishop, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is head of the EPF, Earth Protection Force. This trope is his job. Consequently, he clashes with the turtles quite frequently and has tried to dissect them numerous times.
Subverted in the rather maligned Fast Forward season. Bishop becomes the president, he makes Earth join an Alien UN-analogue and turns the earth into a tolerant place respectful of non-humans. Being saved by an alien he was experimenting on changed his views.
Optimus Prime has a very clear opinion on this, with his famous "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings." motto.
Porter C. Powell has his own opinion, namely when asking exactly what the Headmaster is being charged with, one of his statements being "Assault? Since when does an alien robot have rights?" Later this gets turned around on him when he can't get anything done to them after Optimus Prime and Grimlock end up taking a device they really need ASAP and returning it unusable, as well as abusing him a bit (harmlessly, except to his suit) in the attempt to get it.
The ghosts from Danny Phantom. Yes, they used to be human (some of them, anyway) but now they're dead, powerful and all obviously evil, so it's perfectly within human jurisdiction to experiment and destroy them without trial. No wonder Danny doesn't want his secret revealed.
The rights of aliens (and presumably other non-humans) are actually clearly defined in the world of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien as the governments of the world are bound by galactic treaties that not only guarantee the civil rights of aliens on Earth but also protect the Earth from outright alien invasion and abuses. Granted, alien criminals still operate on Earth and one of them once "legally" bought the planet to terraform it, but Ben and the Plumbers take care of these threats and have them detained by the proper authorities to await trial and sentencing. When an illegal prison for aliens with "inhuman" conditions is found in one episode it shocks and dismays the heroes (most of whom are part alien themselves) and it's implied by one character that the violation of galactic treaties is going to have big consequences for Earth.
This article discusses the issue of legal rights for aliens in some detail. Turns out it's really not that straightforward.
Though the last paragraph is of note and simplifies things:
"As a last resort (in my view the wiser course), Congress may decide to entirely junk the above anthropocentric pigeonholes [i.e. the bulk of the multi-page essay]. A new legal classification might be created – the “extraterrestrial person” or “pseudoperson” – which grants the ET a measure of rights and responsibilities in keeping with the basic principles of Metalaw. At long last, jus naturale, galactic conscience and universal equity may find a home in American jurisprudence."
In most common law countries (essentially countries where English is the first language, and other former British colonies) corporations are given the same rights as "natural persons." American corporations even have free speech rights. In Great Britain, they can be tried for negligent homicide. Should we meet aliens tomorrow, the Supreme Court is very likely going to interpret "person" as "sapient creature."
If Nix v. Hedden is any indication, the scientific designation means nothing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is also an emerging body of law concerning the legal rights of comparatively sapient animals, such as chimpanzees.
Some African nations, determined to protect their dwindling gorilla or chimp populations, have considered declaring the poaching of these animals to be homicide.
Some have tried to get this for dolphins, but until we manage to decode their language, this is probably unlikely to succeed.
India has recently declared dolphins as non-human persons; it's illegal to confine them of keep them in captivity, as well as other cetaceans.