We’ve previously discussed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and socio-economic and cultural rights (ICESCR) – now we’ll discuss the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ( ).

Many human rights that are on the UDHR are also in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The function of the ICCPR is to protect our freedoms and rights that allow us to fully participate in civil society and politics. Civil and political rights are categorised as negative rights which are rights that duty-bearers should not restrict or act against, which is different from positive rights which require action from duty-bearers to be realised.

Many civil and political rights are derogable – in certain situations, such as a state of emergency, an invasion or a civil war, these rights may be suspended or restricted. However, the suspension of rights may only be made when absolutely necessary and it has to be proportional to the situation.

There are exceptions to derogable rights which are non-derogable rights. These rights cannot be restricted under any circumstances and duty-bearers have an obligation to take steps to ensure these rights are always protected.

Non-derogable rights:

  • Right to life
  • Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Freedom from slavery and servitude
  • No imprisonment for breach of contract
  • Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
  • No retrospective operation of criminal laws
  • Right to recognition before the law

The following are the other rights under ICCPR. Be sure to read our article on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights where we have explained a number of the following civil and political rights:

  • Enjoyment of civil and political rights without distinction of any kind
    • All civil and political rights are to be equal, without discrimination in any manner.
  • Equality between men and women
    • Although the previous article has already listed non-discrimination and equal entitlement to civil and political rights by everyone, this article specifically protects women’s rights under the ICCPR.
  • Right to life
  • Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Freedom from slavery and servitude
  • Freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • Freedom from imprisonment due to breach of contract
  • Right to liberty and freedom of movement
  • Right to privacy
  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • Freedom of expression
  • Prohibition on propaganda advocating war, national, racial or religious hatred
    • Any form of information or message that is promoting war, violence or hatred against any group of people is prohibited.
  • Right of peaceful assembly
  • Freedom of association
    • Every person is free to participate or form groups.
  • Right to marriage, equal rights in marriage
  • Protection and rights for children
  • Right to take part in the government
  • Right to culture

This covenant also ensures that we are all entitled to the following legal principles which are central to justice in judiciary systems.

These are legal principles which are our rights entitled by the ICCPR:

  • Right to legal recourse
    • When our rights have been violated, we have the right to pursue legal action.
  • Innocent until proven guilty
  • Right to a fair and public hearing
  • Right to recognition before the law
  • Equal before the law
  • No retrospective operation of criminal laws

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