International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Civil and political rights include:

  • freedom of speech and assembly
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • equal treatment before the law
  • due process of law and presumption of innocence during legal proceedings
  • the right to vote and participate in public life.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) differs in two primary ways from its counterpart on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

First, it contains a list of ‘non-derogable’ rights (rights that no government can curtail for any reason, even in times of public emergency). These non-derogable rights are:

  • the right to life
  • freedom from torture
  • freedom from slavery or servitude
  • protection from being imprisoned solely because of failure to meet a contractual obligation
  • protection from punishment under retroactive laws
  • the right to recognition as a person before the law
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Second, it also has two ‘Optional Protocols’ that states may ratify separately. Because they are optional, only states that ratify them are held accountable for implementing them.

The first Optional Protocol (OP) allows for individuals to make direct appeals to the ICCPR monitoring committee, provided that they have used all legal procedures available in their own country before bringing a complaint to the committee. This is unusual, because usually only governments are able to raise complaints in discussions of the implementation of international treaties.

The second Optional Protocol is aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.