International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976. It gives its parties to respect the civil and political rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, individuals, including the right to life, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial. As of April 2014, the Covenant has 168 parties and 74 signatories.

The ICCPR is monitored by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (a different body to the United Nations Human Rights Council), which reviews routine reports of States parties on how the rights are being executed. States must report initially one year after acceding to the Covenant and then whenever the Committee requests (generally every four years). The Committee generally meets in Geneva and normally holds three sessions per year.

The ICCPR has its origins in exactly the same procedure that resulted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A “Declaration on the Essential Rights of Man” have been proposed at the 1945 San Francisco Conference which resulted in the founding of the United Nations, as well as the Economic and Social Council was given the task of drafting it. Early on in the process, the document was split into a custom or covenant including binding commitments, plus a declaration setting forth general principles of human rights.

Drafting continued on the convention, but there remained essential differences between UN members on the relative importance of negative Civil and Political versus Economical, Social and Cultural rights that were positive. These eventually caused the convention to be split into two separate covenants, “one to comprise civil and political rights and the other to arrest economical, societal and cultural rights. Be opened for signature simultaneously, and the two covenants were to comprise as many similar provisions as possible. Each would likewise contain an article on the right of peoples to self-determination.

The very first file became the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the second the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The drafts embraced in 1966, and were presented for discussion in 1954 to the UN General Assembly. As an outcome of diplomatic negotiations the International Covenant on Social , Economic and Cultural Rights was adopted shortly ahead of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.