Factsheet - 1
The ICCPR and the Human Rights Committee(HR Committee)

The ICCPR

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is one of nine UN Human Rights Treaties. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and entered into force on 23 March 1976. As of November 2021, 173 States parties have ratified the Covenant and are bound to protect and respect the rights included within (For the up-to-date list of States parties, signatories and non-party States, please see: https://treaties.un.org/ Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV- 12&chapter=4&clang=_en and https://indicators.ohchr.org/ )

There are still 6 UN Member States that have only signed but not yet become a party to it (China (signature in 1998), Comoros (signature in 2008), Cuba (signature in 2008), Nauru (signature in 2001), Palau (signature in 2011), and Saint Lucia (signature in 2011), and 18 UN Member States that have not taken any action (Buthan, Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, Holy See, Kiribati, Malaysia, Micronesia, Myanmar, Niue, Oman, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates). Each of these States are strongly encouraged to become parties to the ICCPR as soon as possible.

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR (ICCPR OP1)

The ICCPR First Operational Protocol (OP1) authorises the HR Committee to receive communications (complaints) from individuals alleging that their rights under the ICCPR have been violated (this process is commonly referred to as the Individual communication procedure). Communications may only be submitted to the HR Committee where they relate to a State that has ratified OP1, and all domestic remedies have been exhausted.

As of November 2021, 116 States 2 (among the 173 States parties to the ICCPR) are party to the ICCPR OP1.

In order to give full effect to the ICCPR, all States parties to the ICCPR that have not yet done so are strongly recommended to join the OP1 as soon as possible.

Details and overviews of the cases submitted to the HR Committee under its Individual communication procedure can be found in the database and overview of the jurisprudence developed by CCPR Centre.

Information on the Committee’s decisions and its follow-up activities are made public and included in the Committee’s Annual Report to the General Assembly.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR(ICCPR OP2)

The ICCPR OP2 aims for the abolition of the death penalty. No one within the jurisdiction of a State party to the ICCPR OP2 may be executed (art. 1), while States are permitted to enter a reservation allowing the application of the death penalty in time of war, for serious crimes of a military nature committed during wartime (art. 2).

As of November 2021, 89 States (among the 173 States parties to the ICCPR) are party to the ICCPR OP2. 3

The Human Rights Committee (HR Committee)

Main functions

State party review

All States parties to the ICCPR are obliged to regularly report to the Committee on how the ICCPR is implemented in the country. Based on this reporting, the Committee reviews the situation and issues recommendations on the actions to be taken by the State concerned. This process is referred to as “State review procedure”, or “State reporting procedure”. Details of this procedure, including how civil society actors can engage in the process, can be found in the sheets No.2-5.

Individual communications

If States have ratified the OP1 to the Covenant, the Committee can receive Individual communications from any individual in the jurisdiction of those States, who claims that their rights protected under the Covenant have been protected. Details of this procedure, including how civil society actors can engage in the process, can be found in the sheet No.6.

General comment

From time to time, The HR Committee issue General comments to clarify the scope and meaning of rights in the Covenant, as well as the obligations of States. The Comments have become increasingly detailed over time, and have become a useful guide to States in preparing their report, and to other stakeholders engaging with the Committee. Details of this procedure, including how civil society actors can engage in the process, can be found in the sheet No.7.

Inter-State complaints

State parties to the Covenant may submit a communication to the Committee, alleging that another State party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Covenant. This is only possible if both States have specifically recognized this competence of the Committee. To date, this procedure has not been used.

Composition

The HR Committee consists of 18 independent experts, who are elected by the States parties for a four-year term. They can be re-elected. The members meet three times a year, usually in March, July and October, for three to four weeks in Geneva, Switzerland 4 . The Committee has four main functions, as explained below.