A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the UN Human Rights System: Reference Materials

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Reference Materials

Glossary


1503 Procedure

A confidential Procedure of the Sub-Commission and Commission on Human Rights, aimed at identifying patterns of gross violations of human rights. If such a pattern is detected in a country, that country ultimately comes under the scrutiny of the Commission on Human Rights in a closed, Members-only session.

Accede

Essentially the same as to ratify (to a treaty).

Article

Articles are the clauses which make up treaties.

Commission on Human Rights

The Commission on Human Rights is a political body made up of 53 Member States of the UN, elected by ECOSOC to a three-year term to be regionally representative. It meets annually for a period of six weeks in March and April. It considers a long agenda covering both economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights. At the end of its session, the Commission adopts resolutions on countries and issues of concern to its Members.

Consultative Status

Non-governmental organisations with consultative status have certain rights at the United Nations. Their representatives can gain access to UN buildings without special permission and at certain meetings, such as the Commission on Human Rights, they can circulate written documents, make oral interventions and observe proceedings.

Consultative status was established in the UN Charter under article 71 which says that the Economic and Social Council can make arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organisations which are concerned with matters within its competence. A committee of Member States considers applications.

Conscientious Objection

For the purposes of this handbook, conscientious objection refers to conscientious objection to military service, not to, for example, a doctor's conscientious objection to performing abortions.

In a State where there is conscription into the military, some conscripts refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience. They are conscientious objectors (COs).

Covenant

A covenant is another word for a treaty. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights are two examples of covenants.

Country-Specific Rapporteurs

The Commission on Human Rights appoints rapporteurs, independent experts and representatives to find out information and report annually and publicly on country situations of concern to the Commission. On request, they also report to the General Assembly. They usually make recommendations to the government of the country they are studying and often try and visit to talk with officials and NGOs and gather information.

Customary International Law

This is law based on the actual practice of states and their 'opinio juris sive necessitatis' (or the legal obligations states believe themselves to be under when acting). For something to be considered to be customary law, it is understood that the practice must be widespread. Customary law is sometimes codified into treaties.

Declaration

A resolution of the General Assembly of a declaratory nature, often clarifying points of international law.

ECOSOC or the UN Economic and Social Council

The UN Economic and Social Council consists of 53 Member States elected by the General Assembly. It studies international economic, social, cultural, educational health and related matters and may make recommendations to any such matters to the General Assembly. It is the body to which the Commission on Human Rights reports.

Enter into Force

When a treaty, charter or covenant becomes legally binding on states who have ratified or acceded to it. Usually the instrument will have a clause stating when this will happen. E.g. 'This Covenant shall come into force on the thirtieth day following the date of deposit of the twenty-second instrument of ratification or accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations'.

Expert

For the purposes of this handbook, 'experts' are people of excellent reputation in their field who have been elected or appointed by a UN body to give independent opinions or reporting on human rights. Experts are not part of a government, although they are nominated by their own governments. Examples of experts are members of the treaty bodies, special Rapporteurs, and members of the Sub-Commission.

General Assembly

The General Assembly consists of representatives of all members of the United Nations and is able to discuss any aspect of the Charter of the United Nations except peace and security matters, which are considered by the Security Council. The General Assembly's resolutions are recommendatory rather than binding on the UN. ECOSOC reports to the General Assembly.

General Comment

Treaty bodies issue statements from time to time on how an aspect of the treaty they oversee should be interpreted. This is called a General Comment. The General Comment will have been agreed on by all experts on the Committee. States are expected to follow the provisions of the General Comment when implementing the treaty.

A General Comment allows the treaty body to go into more detail over the interpretation of one article and provides an authoritative interpretation.

The General Comment referred to in this handbook is General Comment 22 of the Human Rights Committee (the relevant text of which is in the Reference Materials section). This describes how the right to conscientious objection to military service is implicit in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Human Rights Committee

The Human Rights Committee is a quasi-judicial body of 18 members who oversee the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The members are 'of high moral character and recognised competence in the field of human rights' and they meet three times a year to hear periodic reports from States who are parties to the Covenant. The Committee questions the State on its human rights record and makes suggestions for improving legislation and practice. It also adopts 'General Comments' guiding the interpretation of particular articles of the Covenant, and gives 'views' on complaints from individuals claiming their human rights have been violated by a state Party to the Optional Protocol of the Covenant.

Independent Expert

See Expert.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

This covenant outlines rights relating to imprisonment, trials and tribunals, elections and freedom of religion and expression. The covenant was agreed in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. The full text of the covenant can be found in the Reference Materials section.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

This covenant outlines rights relating to work, social security, education, health, language and culture. The covenant was agreed in 1966 and entered into force in 1976.

Mechanism

Any process of the UN human rights system which receives and considers information about State practice. Mechanisms referred to in this handbook are rapporteurs, working groups, the 1503 procedure and treaty bodies.

Member State

The United Nations has 188 Member States. These are States that have ratified or acceded to the Charter of the UN and therefore have voting rights in the General Assembly.

Operative Paragraph

See 'resolution'.

Optional Protocol

The Optional Protocol referred to in this book is the first protocol to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. If a state ratifies this Covenant it can choose to ratify the Optional Protocol as well.

By ratifying this Optional Protocol, the State Party recognises the competence of the Human Rights Committee to consider and decide on individual complaints. The Committee looks at cases submitted by individuals or their representatives and decides if the Covenant has been breached by the State party. If the Committee decides that it has, it will often recommend actions that the State should take for reparation. A list of States Parties to the Optional Protocol is in the 'Reference Materials' section of this handbook..

Preambular Paragraph

See resolution.

Procedure

A type of mechanism which has a very rigid and rules-based process for considering information, with a fixed range of outcomes. In this handbook, the procedures referred to are the 1503 procedure, the first Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, and other individual complaints procedures of other treaty bodies.

Rapporteur

An expert appointed by the Commission on Human Rights to report regularly on a chosen subject. Rapporteurs of the Commission are either thematic, with a world-wide mandate, or country-focused with a rights-wide mandate. For example, a thematic rapporteur might consider the question of torture around the world. A country rapporteur might consider the situation of all human rights in Sudan.

Ratify

When a State officially informs the United Nations that it accepts the legal obligations contained in an international treaty. The State does this by depositing its instruments of ratification in the place specified by the treaty, for example with the Secretary-General of the UN. Once the treaty has entered into force, states who have ratified the treaty are bound by it. At the time of ratification, states will often record their reservations to certain parts of the treaty.

Refugee

The UN definition of a refugee can be found in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Essentially a refugee is someone who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country.

Regional Representation

When a body of the UN (such as ECOSOC, treaty bodies or the Commission on Human Rights) is smaller than the General Assembly, its appointees must be regionally representative.

Resolution

For the purposes of this handbook, a resolution is a text drafted and voted on by member states in the General Assembly or the Commission on Human Rights. A resolution usually has two parts: a more retrospective preamble (made up of preambular paragraphs) reiterating agreed concepts or reminding readers of previous studies or resolutions, and an 'operative' section (made up of operative paragraphs). The operative paragraphs list decisions, recommendations or requests of the body. Each body will have its own rules about the size of the majority required for a resolution to be passed by a vote.

Resolutions, for example of the Commission on Human Rights or of the General Assembly, though not binding, can have normative value. They can provide evidence for establishing the existence of a rule or customary practice and are politically persuasive.

Security Council

The Security Council consists of 15 Members of the UN. The United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, China and the Russian Federation make up five permanent members and the General Assembly elects the remaining 10 Members for a term of two years. It was established to carry primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It reports annually to the General Assembly and its decisions are binding on member states of the UN.

Sub-Commission

The Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities is made up of 26 independent experts who are elected by the Commission on Human Rights. It meets for four weeks every August. It can be thought of as the Commission's 'think tank'. It also has a standing agenda considering country-specific situations, reports from its experts preparing studies and from its working groups. NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC can also make oral and written statements to it.

Submission

The written material sent by you as an NGO or individual to the Rapporteur, treaty body or Working Group you think will be most likely to act on your information.

State Party

A state which has ratified or acceded to a treaty, covenant or protocol.

Thematic Rapporteur

An independent expert appointed to the Commission on Human Rights to consider a human rights theme. Thematic Rapporteurs collect information on their theme, communicate directly with governments in light of the information received and report annually and publicly to the Commission.

Treaty

Multilateral Treaties are international agreements agreed and adopted by States. They are legally binding on a State if the State has expressly agreed to be a party to (or 'ratified') them, and once the treaty has entered into force -- usually when a certain number of States have ratified the treaty. Examples of treaties include the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Treaty Body


There are six bodies created to oversee the implementation of six human rights treaties. The most prestigious of these is the Human Rights Committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The committees are composed of independent experts and meet two or three times a year to consider State reports. The other five treaty bodies are:

  • the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, overseeing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
  • the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, overseeing the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination;
  • the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, overseeing the Convention bearing the same name;
  • the Committee against Torture, overseeing the implementation of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
  • the Committee on the Rights of the Child, overseeing the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • There is also a treaty body on migrant workers but this treaty has yet to enter into force.


United Nations

The UN was founded in 1945 to end 'the scourge of war' with the UN Charter. It is currently made up of 188 Member States. The UN has various bodies and agencies charged with overseeing particular aspects of its work. It also has an assembly where all Member States vote and a Security Council.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This Declaration was passed in 1948 as a General Assembly resolution by the member states of the UN. It is a list of the rights which should be enjoyed by all people, everywhere. It is not a treaty to be voluntarily ratified by member States but a set of minimum standards. The full text can be found on the worldwide web at http://www.unhchr.ch.

Working Group

For the purposes of this handbook, working groups are mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights which act to all intents and purposes like a thematic Rapporteur. They are usually made up of five independent experts.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Source: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm

It is recommended that you check this information against an up-to-date source.

Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966

Entry into force 23 March 1976, in accordance with Article 49

States parties:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, São Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Preamble

The States Parties to the present Covenant,

Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,

Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights,

Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms,

Realizing that the individual, having duties to other individuals and to the community to which he belongs, is under a responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the present Covenant,

Agree upon the following articles:

PART I

Article 1

1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.

3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

PART II

Article 2

1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

2. Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.

3. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:

(a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity;

(b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy;

(c) To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.

Article 3

The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant.

Article 4

1. In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.

2. No derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs 1 and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision.

3. Any State Party to the present Covenant availing itself of the right of derogation shall immediately inform the other States Parties to the present Covenant, through the intermediary of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, of the provisions from which it has derogated and of the reasons by which it was actuated. A further communication shall be made, through the same intermediary, on the date on which it terminates such derogation.

Article 5

1. Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.

2. There shall be no restriction upon or derogation from any of the fundamental human rights recognized or existing in any State Party to the present Covenant pursuant to law, conventions, regulations or custom on the pretext that the present Covenant does not recognize such rights or that it recognizes them to a lesser extent.

PART III

Article 6

1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.

3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.

5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.

6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.

Article 7

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.

Article 8

1. No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.

2. No one shall be held in servitude.

3.

(a) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour;

(b) Paragraph 3 (a) shall not be held to preclude, in countries where imprisonment with hard labour may be imposed as a punishment for a crime, the performance of hard labour in pursuance of a sentence to such punishment by a competent court;

(c) For the purpose of this paragraph the term "forced or compulsory labour" shall not include:

(i) Any work or service, not referred to in subparagraph (b), normally required of a person who is under detention in consequence of a lawful order of a court, or of a person during conditional release from such detention;

(ii) Any service of a military character and, in countries where conscientious objection is recognized, any national service required by law of conscientious objectors;

(iii) Any service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;

(iv) Any work or service which forms part of normal civil obligations.

Article 9

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.

2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.

3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.

4. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.

5. Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

Article 10

1. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

2.

(a) Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated from convicted persons and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons;

(b) Accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults and brought as speedily as possible for adjudication.

3. The penitentiary system shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation. Juvenile offenders shall be segregated from adults and be accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status.

Article 11

No one shall be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.

Article 12

1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.

2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.

3. The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.

4. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

Article 13

An alien lawfully in the territory of a State Party to the present Covenant may be expelled therefrom only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with law and shall, except where compelling reasons of national security otherwise require, be allowed to submit the reasons against his expulsion and to have his case reviewed by, and be represented for the purpose before, the competent authority or a person or persons especially designated by the competent authority.

Article 14

1. All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.

2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:

(a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him;

(b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing;

(c) To be tried without undue delay;

(d) To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it;

(e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court;

(g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.

4. In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.

5. Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.

6. When a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according to law, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the unknown fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to him.

7. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.

Article 15

1. No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time when the criminal offence was committed. If, subsequent to the commission of the offence, provision is made by law for the imposition of the lighter penalty, the offender shall benefit thereby.

2. Nothing in this article shall prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations.

Article 16

Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.Article 17

1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 18

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

Article 20

1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

Article 21

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 22

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on members of the armed forces and of the police in their exercise of this right.

3. Nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the law in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention.

Article 23

1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

2. The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.

3. No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

4. States Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.

Article 24

1. Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State.

2. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name.

3. Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.

Article 25

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:

(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;

(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;

(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

Article 26

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 27

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.

PART IV

Article 28

1. There shall be established a Human Rights Committee (hereafter referred to in the present Covenant as the Committee). It shall consist of eighteen members and shall carry out the functions hereinafter provided.

2. The Committee shall be composed of nationals of the States Parties to the present Covenant who shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights, consideration being given to the usefulness of the participation of some persons having legal experience.

3. The members of the Committee shall be elected and shall serve in their personal capacity.

Article 29

1 . The members of the Committee shall be elected by secret ballot from a list of persons possessing the qualifications prescribed in article 28 and nominated for the purpose by the States Parties to the present Covenant.

2. Each State Party to the present Covenant may nominate not more than two persons. These persons shall be nationals of the nominating State.

3. A person shall be eligible for renomination.

Article 30

1. The initial election shall be held no later than six months after the date of the entry into force of the present Covenant.

2. At least four months before the date of each election to the Committee, other than an election to fill a vacancy declared in accordance with article 34, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall address a written invitation to the States Parties to the present Covenant to submit their nominations for membership of the Committee within three months.

3. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall prepare a list in alphabetical order of all the persons thus nominated, with an indication of the States Parties which have nominated them, and shall submit it to the States Parties to the present Covenant no later than one month before the date of each election.

4. Elections of the members of the Committee shall be held at a meeting of the States Parties to the present Covenant convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the Headquarters of the United Nations. At that meeting, for which two thirds of the States Parties to the present Covenant shall constitute a quorum, the persons elected to the Committee shall be those nominees who obtain the largest number of votes and an absolute majority of the votes of the representatives of States Parties present and voting.

Article 31

1. The Committee may not include more than one national of the same State.

2. In the election of the Committee, consideration shall be given to equitable geographical distribution of membership and to the representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems.

Article 32

1. The members of the Committee shall be elected for a term of four years. They shall be eligible for re-election if renominated. However, the terms of nine of the members elected at the first election shall expire at the end of two years; immediately after the first election, the names of these nine members shall be chosen by lot by the Chairman of the meeting referred to in article 30, paragraph 4.

2. Elections at the expiry of office shall be held in accordance with the preceding articles of this part of the present Covenant.

Article 33

1. If, in the unanimous opinion of the other members, a member of the Committee has ceased to carry out his functions for any cause other than absence of a temporary character, the Chairman of the Committee shall notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall then declare the seat of that member to be vacant.

2. In the event of the death or the resignation of a member of the Committee, the Chairman shall immediately notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall declare the seat vacant from the date of death or the date on which the resignation takes effect.

Article 34

1. When a vacancy is declared in accordance with article 33 and if the term of office of the member to be replaced does not expire within six months of the declaration of the vacancy, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall notify each of the States Parties to the present Covenant, which may within two months submit nominations in accordance with article 29 for the purpose of filling the vacancy.

2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall prepare a list in alphabetical order of the persons thus nominated and shall submit it to the States Parties to the present Covenant. The election to fill the vacancy shall then take place in accordance with the relevant provisions of this part of the present Covenant.

3. A member of the Committee elected to fill a vacancy declared in accordance with article 33 shall hold office for the remainder of the term of the member who vacated the seat on the Committee under the provisions of that article.

Article 35

The members of the Committee shall, with the approval of the General Assembly of the United Nations, receive emoluments from United Nations resources on such terms and conditions as the General Assembly may decide, having regard to the importance of the Committee's responsibilities.

Article 36

The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall provide the necessary staff and facilities for the effective performance of the functions of the Committee under the present Covenant.

Article 37

1. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall convene the initial meeting of the Committee at the Headquarters of the United Nations.

2. After its initial meeting, the Committee shall meet at such times as shall be provided in its rules of procedure.

3. The Committee shall normally meet at the Headquarters of the United Nations or at the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Article 38

Every member of the Committee shall, before taking up his duties, make a solemn declaration in open committee that he will perform his functions impartially and conscientiously.

Article 39

1. The Committee shall elect its officers for a term of two years. They may be re-elected.

2. The Committee shall establish its own rules of procedure, but these rules shall provide, inter alia, that:

(a) Twelve members shall constitute a quorum;

(b) Decisions of the Committee shall be made by a majority vote of the members present.

Article 40

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights:

(a) Within one year of the entry into force of the present Covenant for the States Parties concerned;

(b) Thereafter whenever the Committee so requests.

2. All reports shall be submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall transmit them to the Committee for consideration. Reports shall indicate the factors and difficulties, if any, affecting the implementation of the present Covenant.

3. The Secretary-General of the United Nations may, after consultation with the Committee, transmit to the specialized agencies concerned copies of such parts of the reports as may fall within their field of competence.

4. The Committee shall study the reports submitted by the States Parties to the present Covenant. It shall transmit its reports, and such general comments as it may consider appropriate, to the States Parties. The Committee may also transmit to the Economic and Social Council these comments along with the copies of the reports it has received from States Parties to the present Covenant.

5. The States Parties to the present Covenant may submit to the Committee observations on any comments that may be made in accordance with paragraph 4 of this article.

Article 41

1. A State Party to the present Covenant may at any time declare under this article that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State Party claims that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the present Covenant. Communications under this article may be received and considered only if submitted by a State Party which has made a declaration recognizing in regard to itself the competence of the Committee. No communication shall be received by the Committee if it concerns a State Party which has not made such a declaration. Communications received under this article shall be dealt with in accordance with the following procedure:

(a) If a State Party to the present Covenant considers that another State Party is not giving effect to the provisions of the present Covenant, it may, by written communication, bring the matter to the attention of that State Party. Within three months after the receipt of the communication the receiving State shall afford the State which sent the communication an explanation, or any other statement in writing clarifying the matter which should include, to the extent possible and pertinent, reference to domestic procedures and remedies taken, pending, or available in the matter;

(b) If the matter is not adjusted to the satisfaction of both States Parties concerned within six months after the receipt by the receiving State of the initial communication, either State shall have the right to refer the matter to the Committee, by notice given to the Committee and to the other State;

(c) The Committee shall deal with a matter referred to it only after it has ascertained that all available domestic remedies have been invoked and exhausted in the matter, in conformity with the generally recognized principles of international law. This shall not be the rule where the application of the remedies is unreasonably prolonged;

(d) The Committee shall hold closed meetings when examining communications under this article;

(e) Subject to the provisions of subparagraph (c), the Committee shall make available its good offices to the States Parties concerned with a view to a friendly solution of the matter on the basis of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the present Covenant;

(f) In any matter referred to it, the Committee may call upon the States Parties concerned, referred to in subparagraph (b), to supply any relevant information;

(g) The States Parties concerned, referred to in subparagraph (b), shall have the right to be represented when the matter is being considered in the Committee and to make submissions orally and/or in writing;

(h) The Committee shall, within twelve months after the date of receipt of notice under subparagraph (b), submit a report:

(i) If a solution within the terms of subparagraph (e) is reached, the Committee shall confine its report to a brief statement of the facts and of the solution reached;

(ii) If a solution within the terms of subparagraph (e) is not reached, the Committee shall confine its report to a brief statement of the facts; the written submissions and record of the oral submissions made by the States Parties concerned shall be attached to the report. In every matter, the report shall be communicated to the States Parties concerned.

2. The provisions of this article shall come into force when ten States Parties to the present Covenant have made declarations under paragraph I of this article. Such declarations shall be deposited by the States Parties with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall transmit copies thereof to the other States Parties. A declaration may be withdrawn at any time by notification to the Secretary-General. Such a withdrawal shall not prejudice the consideration of any matter which is the subject of a communication already transmitted under this article; no further communication by any State Party shall be received after the notification of withdrawal of the declaration has been received by the Secretary-General, unless the State Party concerned has made a new declaration.Article 42

1.

(a) If a matter referred to the Committee in accordance with article 41 is not resolved to the satisfaction of the States Parties concerned, the Committee may, with the prior consent of the States Parties concerned, appoint an ad hoc Conciliation Commission (hereinafter referred to as the Commission). The good offices of the Commission shall be made available to the States Parties concerned with a view to an amicable solution of the matter on the basis of respect for the present Covenant;

(b) The Commission shall consist of five persons acceptable to the States Parties concerned. If the States Parties concerned fail to reach agreement within three months on all or part of the composition of the Commission, the members of the Commission concerning whom no agreement has been reached shall be elected by secret ballot by a two-thirds majority vote of the Committee from among its members.

2. The members of the Commission shall serve in their personal capacity. They shall not be nationals of the States Parties concerned, or of a State not Party to the present Covenant, or of a State Party which has not made a declaration under article 41.

3. The Commission shall elect its own Chairman and adopt its own rules of procedure.

4. The meetings of the Commission shall normally be held at the Headquarters of the United Nations or at the United Nations Office at Geneva. However, they may be held at such other convenient places as the Commission may determine in consultation with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the States Parties concerned.

5. The secretariat provided in accordance with article 36 shall also service the commissions appointed under this article.

6. The information received and collated by the Committee shall be made available to the Commission and the Commission may call upon the States Parties concerned to supply any other relevant information.

7. When the Commission has fully considered the matter, but in any event not later than twelve months after having been seized of the matter, it shall submit to the Chairman of the Committee a report for communication to the States Parties concerned:

(a) If the Commission is unable to complete its consideration of the matter within twelve months, it shall confine its report to a brief statement of the status of its consideration of the matter;

(b) If an amicable solution to the matter on tie basis of respect for human rights as recognized in the present Covenant is reached, the Commission shall confine its report to a brief statement of the facts and of the solution reached;

(c) If a solution within the terms of subparagraph (b) is not reached, the Commission's report shall embody its findings on all questions of fact relevant to the issues between the States Parties concerned, and its views on the possibilities of an amicable solution of the matter. This report shall also contain the written submissions and a record of the oral submissions made by the States Parties concerned;

(d) If the Commission's report is submitted under subparagraph (c), the States Parties concerned shall, within three months of the receipt of the report, notify the Chairman of the Committee whether or not they accept the contents of the report of the Commission.

8. The provisions of this article are without prejudice to the responsibilities of the Committee under article 41.

9. The States Parties concerned shall share equally all the expenses of the members of the Commission in accordance with estimates to be provided by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

10. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall be empowered to pay the expenses of the members of the Commission, if necessary, before reimbursement by the States Parties concerned, in accordance with paragraph 9 of this article.

Article 43

The members of the Committee, and of the ad hoc conciliation commissions which may be appointed under article 42, shall be entitled to the facilities, privileges and immunities of experts on mission for the United Nations as laid down in the relevant sections of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

Article 44

The provisions for the implementation of the present Covenant shall apply without prejudice to the procedures prescribed in the field of human rights by or under the constituent instruments and the conventions of the United Nations and of the specialized agencies and shall not prevent the States Parties to the present Covenant from having recourse to other procedures for settling a dispute in accordance with general or special international agreements in force between them.

Article 45

The Committee shall submit to the General Assembly of the United Nations, through the Economic and Social Council, an annual report on its activities.

PART V

Article 46

Nothing in the present Covenant shall be interpreted as impairing the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and of the constitutions of the specialized agencies which define the respective responsibilities of the various organs of the United Nations and of the specialized agencies in regard to the matters dealt with in the present Covenant.

Article 47

Nothing in the present Covenant shall be interpreted as impairing the inherent right of all peoples to enjoy and utilize fully and freely their natural wealth and resources.

PART VI

Article 48

1. The present Covenant is open for signature by any State Member of the United Nations or member of any of its specialized agencies, by any State Party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and by any other State which has been invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to become a Party to the present Covenant.

2. The present Covenant is subject to ratification. Instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

3. The present Covenant shall be open to accession by any State referred to in paragraph 1 of this article.

4. Accession shall be effected by the deposit of an instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

5. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall inform all States which have signed this Covenant or acceded to it of the deposit of each instrument of ratification or accession.

Article 49

1. The present Covenant shall enter into force three months after the date of the deposit with the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the thirty-fifth instrument of ratification or instrument of accession.

2. For each State ratifying the present Covenant or acceding to it after the deposit of the thirty-fifth instrument of ratification or instrument of accession, the present Covenant shall enter into force three months after the date of the deposit of its own instrument of ratification or instrument of accession.

Article 50

The provisions of the present Covenant shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.

Article 51

1. Any State Party to the present Covenant may propose an amendment and file it with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall thereupon communicate any proposed amendments to the States Parties to the present Covenant with a request that they notify him whether they favour a conference of States Parties for the purpose of considering and voting upon the proposals. In the event that at least one third of the States Parties favours such a conference, the Secretary-General shall convene the conference under the auspices of the United Nations. Any amendment adopted by a majority of the States Parties present and voting at the conference shall be submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations for approval.

2. Amendments shall come into force when they have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations and accepted by a two-thirds majority of the States Parties to the present Covenant in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.

3. When amendments come into force, they shall be binding on those States Parties which have accepted them, other States Parties still being bound by the provisions of the present Covenant and any earlier amendment which they have accepted.

Article 52

Irrespective of the notifications made under article 48, paragraph 5, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall inform all States referred to in paragraph 1 of the same article of the following particulars:

(a) Signatures, ratifications and accessions under article 48;

(b) The date of the entry into force of the present Covenant under article 49 and the date of the entry into force of any amendments under article 51.

Article 53

1. The present Covenant, of which the Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations.

2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit certified copies of the present Covenant to all States referred to in article 48.

Source: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_opt.htm. It is recommended that you check this information against an up-to-date source.

Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966

Entry into force 23 March 1976, in accordance with Article 9

States parties:

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden,Tajikistan, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zambia.

The States Parties to the present Protocol,

Considering that in order further to achieve the purposes of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter referred to as the Covenant) and the implemenation of its provisions it would be appropriate to enable the Human Rights Committee set up in part IV of the Covenant (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) to receive and consider, as provided in the present Protocol, communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant.

Have agreed as follows:

Article I

A State Party to the Covenant that becomes a Party to the present Protocol recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by that State Party of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant. No communication shall be received by the Committee if it concerns a State Party to the Covenant which is not a Party to the present Protocol.

Article 2

Subject to the provisions of article 1, individuals who claim that any of their rights enumerated in the Covenant have been violated and who have exhausted all available domestic remedies may submit a written communication to the Committee for consideration.

Article 3

The Committee shall consider inadmissible any communciation under the present Protocol which is anonymous, or which it considers to be an abuse of the right of submission of such communications or to be incompatible with the provisions of the Covenant.

Article 4

1. Subject to the provisions of article 3, the Committee shall bring any communications submitted to it under the present Protocol to the attention of the State Party to the present Protocol alleged to be violating any provision of the Covenant.

2. Within six months, the receiving State shall submit to the Committee written explanations or statements clarifying the matter and the remedy, if any, that may have been taken by that State.

Article 5

1. The Committee shall consider communications received under the present Protocol in the light of all written information made available to it by the individual and by the State Party concerned.

2. The Committee shall not consider any communication from an individual unless it has ascertained that:

(a) The same matter is not being examined under another procedure of international investigation or settlement;

(b) The individual has exhausted all available domestic remedies. This shall not be the rule where the application of the remedies is unreasonably prolonged.

3. The Committee shall hold closed meetings when examining communications under the present Protocol.

4. The Committee shall forward its views to the State Party concerned and to the individual.

Article 6

The Committee shall include in its annual report under article 45 of the Covenant a summary of its activities under the present Protocol.

Article 7

Pending the achievement of the objectives of resolution 1514(XV) adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 14 December 1960 concerning the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the provisions of the present Protocol shall in no way limit the right of petition granted to these peoples by the Charter of the United Nations and other international conventions and instruments under the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

Article 8

1. The present Protocol is open for signature by any State which has signed the Covenant.

2. The present Protocol is subject to ratification by any State which has ratified or acceded to the Covenant. Instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

3. The present Protocol shall be open to accession by any State which has ratified or acceded to the Covenant.

4. Accession shall be effected by the deposit of an instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

5. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall inform all States which have signed the present Protocol or acceded to it of the deposit of each instrument of ratification or accession.

Article 9

1. Subject to the entry into force of the Covenant, the present Protocol shall enter into force three months after the date of the deposit with the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the tenth instrument of ratification or instrument of accession.

2. For each State ratifying the present Protocol or acceding to it after the deposit of the tenth instrument of ratification or instrument of accession, the present Protocol shall enter into force three months after the date of the deposit of its own instrument of ratification or instrument of accession.

Article 10

The provisions of the present Protocol shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.

Article 11

1. A Any State Party to the present Protocol may propose an amendment and file it with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Secretary-General shall thereupon communicate any proposed amendments to the States Parties to the present Protocol with a request that they notify him whether they favour a conference of States Parties for the purpose of considering and voting upon the proposal. In the event that at least one third of the States Parties favours such a conference, the Secretary-General shall convene the conference under the auspices of the United Nations. Any amendment adopted by a majority of the States Parties present and voting at the conference shall be submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations for approval.

2. Amendments shall come into force when they have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations and accepted by a two-thirds majority of the States Parties to the present Protocol in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.

3. When amendments come into force, they shall be binding on those States Parties which have accepted them, other States Parties still being bound by the provisions of the present Protocol and any earlier amendment which they have accepted.

Article 12

1. Any State Party may denounce the present Protocol at any time by written notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Denunciation shall take effect three months after the date of receipt of the notification by the Secretary-General.

2. Denunciation shall be without prejudice to the continued application of the provisions of the present Protocol to any communication submitted under article 2 before the effective date of denunciation.

Article 13

Irrespective of the notifications made under article 8, paragraph 5, of the present Protocol, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall inform all States referred to in article 48, paragraph 1, of the Covenant of the following particulars:

(a) Signatures, ratifications and accessions under article 8;

(b) The date of the entry into force of the present Protocol under article 9 and the date of the entry into force of any amendments under article 11;

(c) Denunciations under article 12.

Article 14

1. The present Protocol, of which the Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations.

2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit certified copies of the present Protocol to all States referred to in article 48 of the Covenant.The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit certified copies of the present Covenant to all States referred to in article 48.

Optional Protocol I to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

UNHCR Handbook Chapter 5 Section B

167. In countries where military service is compulsory, failure to perform this duty is frequently punishable by law. Moreover, whether military service is compulsory or not, desertion is invariably considered a criminal offence. The penalties may vary from country to country and are not normally regarded as persecution. Fear of prosectuion and punishment for desertion or draft-evasion does not in itself constitute well-founded fear of persecution under the definition. Desertion or draft-evasion does not, on the other hand, exclude a person from being a refugee, and a person may be a refugee in addition to being a deserter or draft-evader.

168. A person is clearly not a refugee if his only reason for desertion or draft-evasion is his dislike of military service of fear of combat. He may, however, be a refugee if his desertion or evasion of military service is concomitant with other relevant motives for leaving or remaining outside his country, or if he otherwise has reasons, within the meaning of the definition, to fear persecution.

169. A deserter or draft-evader may also be considered a refugee if it can be shown that he would suffer disproportionately severe punishment for the military offence on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The same would apply if it can be shown that he has well-founded fear of persecution on these grounds above and beyond the punishment for desertion.

170. There are, however, also cases where the necessity to perform military service may be the sole ground for a claim to refugee status, i.e. when a person can show that the performance of military service would have required his participation in military action contrary to his genuine political, religious or moral convictions, or to valid reasons of conscince.

171. Not every conviction, genuine though it may be, will constitute a sufficient reason for claiming refugee status after desertion or draft-evasion. It is not enough for a person to be in disagreement with his government regarding the political justification for a particular military action. Where, however, the type of military action, with which an individual does not wish to be associated, is condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct, punishment for desertion or draft-evasion could, in the light of all other requirements of the definition, in itself be regarded as persecution.

172. Refusal to perform military service may also be based on religious convictions. If an applicant is able to show that his religious convictions are genuine, and that such convictions are not taken into account by the authorities of his country in requiring him to perform military service, he may be able to establish a claim to refugee status. Such a claim would, of course, be supported by any additional indications that the applicant or his family may have encountered difficulties due to their religious convictions.

173. The question as to whether objection to performing military service for reasons of conscience can give rise to a valid claim to refugee status should also be considered in the light of more recent developments in this field. An increasing number of States have introduced legislation or administrative regulations whereby persons who can invoke genuine reasons of conscience are exempted from military service, either entirely or subject to their performing alternative (i.e. civilian) service. The introduction of such legislation or administrative regulations has also been the subject of recommendations by international agencies. In the light of these developments, it would be open to Contracting States, to grant refugee status to persons who object to performing military service for genuine reasons of conscience.

174. The genuineness of a person's political, religious or moral convictions, or of his reasons of conscience for objecting to performing military service, will of course need to be established by a thorough investigations of his personality and background. The fact that he may have manifested his views prior to being called to arms, or that he may already have encountered difficulties with the authorities because of his convictions, are relevant considerations. Whether he has been drafted into compulsory service or joined the army as a volunteer may also be indicative of the genuineness of his convictions.

General Comment 22 of the Human Rights Committee on ICCPR article 18 (Extract)

11. Many individuals have claimed the right to refuse to perform military service (conscientious objection) on the basis that such a right derives from their freedoms under article 18. In response to such claims, a growing number of States have in their laws exempted from compulsory military service citizens who genuinely hold religious or other beliefs that forbid the performance of military service and replaced it with alternative national service. The Covenant does not explicitly refer to a right to conscientious objection but the Committee believes that such a right can be derived from article 18, inasmuch as the obligation to use lethal force may seriously conflict with the freedom of conscience and the right to manifest one's religious or belief. When this right is recognized by law or practice, there shall be no differentiation among conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs; likewise, there shall be no discrimination against conscientious objectors because they have failed to perform military service. The Committee invites States parties to report on the conditions under which persons can be exempted from military service on the basis of their rights under article 18 and on the nature and length of alternative service.

Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1998/77

The Commission on Human Rights

Bearing in mind that it is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, as well as the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right not to be discriminated against,

Recalling its previous resolutions on the subject, most recently 1995/83 of 8 March 1995, in which it recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and General Comment No. 22(48) of the Human Rights Committee,

Having considered the report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/1997/99),

Recognizing that conscientious objection to military service derives from principles and reasons of conscience, including profound convictions, arising from religious, moral, ethical, humanitarian or similar motives,

Aware that persons performing military service may develop conscientious objections,

Recalling article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes the right of everyone to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,

1. Draws attention to the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as laid down in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

2. Welcomes the fact that some States accept claims of conscientious objection as valid without inquiry;

3. Calls upon States that do not have such a system to establish independent and impartial decision-making bodies with the task of determining whether a conscientious objection is genuinely held in a specific case, taking account of the requirement not to discriminate between conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs;

4. Reminds States with a system of compulsory military service, where such provision has not already been made, of its recommendation that they provide for conscientious objectors various forms of alternative service which are compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection, of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the public interest and not of a punitive nature;

5. Emphasizes that States should take the necessary measures to refrain from subjecting conscientious objectors to imprisonment and to repeated punishment for failure to perform military service, and recalls that no one shall be liable or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country;

6. Reiterates that States, in their law and practice, must not discriminate against conscientious objectors in relation to their terms or conditions of service, or any economic, social, cultural, civil or political rights;

7. Encourages States, subject to the circumstances of the individual case meeting the other requirements of the refugee definition as set out in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to consider granting asylum to those conscientious objectors compelled to leave their country of origin because they fear persecution owing to their refusal to perform military service and there is no, or no adequate, provision for conscientious objection to military service;

8. Affirms the importance of the availability of information about the right to conscientious objection to military service, and the means of acquiring conscientious objector status, to all persons affected by military service;

9. Requests the Secretary-General to transmit the present resolution to Governments, the specialized agencies and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and to include the right to conscientious objection to military service in the public information activities of the United Nations, including the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education;

10. Also requests the Secretary-General to collect information from Governments, the specialized agencies and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations on recent developments in this field and to submit a report, within existing resources, to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-sixth session;

11. Decides to consider this matter further at its fifty-sixth session under the agenda item "The question of conscientious objection to military service".

58th meeting

22 April 1998

[Adopted without a vote]

List of past and present thematic and country-specific mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights

Thematic Mechanisms


  • adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights (special rapporteur)
  • arbitrary detention (working group)
  • children in armed conflict (Special Representative of the Secretary-General )
  • contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (special rapporteur)
  • effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights (special rapporteur)
  • extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (special rapporteur)
  • enforced or involuntary disappearances (working group)
  • freedom of opinion and expression (special rapporteur)
  • human rights and extreme poverty (independent expert)
  • human rights and forensic science (Mandate entrusted to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
  • human rights and HIV/AIDS (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • human rights and mass exoduses (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • human rights of migrants (special rapporteur)
  • human rights and structural adjustment policies (independent expert)
  • independence of judges and lawyers (special rapporteur)
  • internally displaced persons (representative of the Secretary-General)
  • enforced or involuntary disappearances (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • religious intolerance (special rapporteur)
  • right to education (special rapporteur)
  • right to development (independent expert)
  • right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms (independent expert)
  • sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (special rapporteur)
  • torture (special rapporteur)
  • use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (special rapporteur)
  • violence against women, its causes and consequences (special rapporteur)

Country-Specific Mechanisms


  • Afghanistan (special rapporteur)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (special rapporteur)
  • Burundi (special rapporteur)
  • Cambodia (Special Representative of the Secretary-General)
  • Cyprus (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (special rapporteur)
  • East Timor (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • Equatorial Guinea (Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights)
  • Haiti (independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General)
  • Iraq (special rapporteur)
  • Islamic Republic of Iran (Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights)
  • Kosovo (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • Myanmar (special rapporteur)
  • Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (special rapporteur)
  • Occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • Occupied Palestine (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • Occupied Syrian Golan (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • Southern Lebanon and western Bekaa (mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General)
  • Rwanda (Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights)
  • Somalia (independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General)
  • Sudan (special rapporteur)

Contact Addresses

International non-governmental organisations working with or for conscientious objectors

Quaker United Nations Office

Quaker House, 13 Ave du Mervelet, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland (Tel: +41 22 748 48 00; Fax: +41 22 748 48 19; Email: quno@mbox.unicc.org; Web: http://www.quaker.org/quno).

War Resisters' International


5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, UK (Tel: +44 20 7278 0444; Fax: +44 20 7278 4040; Email: office@wri-irg.org; Web: wri-irg.org/).

European Bureau of Conscientious Objection


Brussels Liaison Office: av. Jan Stobbaerts 81 A, B-1030 Brussels, Belgium (Tel: +32 2 2157908; Fax: +32 2 2456297; Email: ebcobrussels@ifias.net).

Amnesty International


International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ, UK (Tel: +44 20 7413 5500; Fax: +44 20 7956 1157; Email: amnestyis@amnesty.org; Web: http://www.amnesty.org).

International Service for Human Rights


1 Rue de Varembe, PO Box 16, CH-1211 Geneva CIC, Switzerland (Tel: +41 22 733 5123; Fax:+41 22 733 0826).

United Nations


Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office in Geneva, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland (Tel: +41 22 917 1234; Fax:+41 22 917 9003; Email: webadmin@hchr.unog.ch; Web: http://www.unhchr.ch).

Professional staff who assist thematic mechanisms and treaty bodies


For the contact details of staff who service thematic mechanisms and treaty bodies, see the relevant sub-sections of section 3.

Professional staff who assist country-specific rapporteurs

Afghanistan


Ms Darka Topali (dtopali.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9243; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Burundi


Ms Brigitte Lacroix (blacroix.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9133; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Cambodia


Ms Hannah Wu (hwu.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9295; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Cyprus


Mr Edward Flynn (eflynn.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9138; Fax: +41 22 917 9005).

Democratic Republic of Congo


Ms Fatou Houel (fhouel.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9107; Fax: +41 22 917 9303).

East Timor

Mr Mustafa Rajkhan Osama (orajkhan.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9156; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Equatorial Guinea


Ms Benedetta Odorisio (Tel: +41 22 917 9158; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Former Yugoslavia


Mr Edward Flynn (eflynn.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9138; Fax: +41 22 917 9005).

Haiti


Mr Norberto Frydman (nfrydman.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9248 Fax: +41 22 917 9005).

Kosovo


Mr Edward Flynn (eflynn.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9138; Fax: +41 22 917 9005).

Iran (Islamic Republic of)


Mr Ayush Bat-Erdene (abat-erdene.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9286; Fax: +41 22 917 9018).

Iraq


Mr Karim Gehzraoui Ramel (kghezraoui.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9147; Fax: +41 22 917 9018).

Myanmar

Mr Karim Gehzraoui Ramel (kghezraoui.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9147; Fax: +41 22 917 9018).

Occupied Territories including Palestine


Ms Darka Topali (dtopali.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9243; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Rwanda


Mr Ireneo Namboka (inamboka.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22

Somalia


Ms Giorgia Passarelli (gpassarelli.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9101; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Southern Lebanon and West Bekaa


Ms Darka Topali (dtopali.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9243; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Sudan


Mr Salem Mezhoud (smezhoud.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9341; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Syrian Golan


Ms Darka Topali (dtopali.hchr@unog.ch; Tel: +41 22 917 9243; Fax: +41 22 917 9003).

Recommended publications

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL The United Nations Thematic Mechanisms: An Overview of their Work and Mandates. AIindex: 10R 40/16/99.

Available from International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, London, WC1X 0DW, UK.

BRETT, Rachel and Jo Constable The Human Rights Committee and the Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service. Quaker United Nations Office, September 1997.

Available in English and German from Quaker United Nations Office, Ave du Mervelet 13, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland; tel: +41 22 748 48 00; fax +41 22 748 48 19; email: quno@mbox.unicc.org; website: http://www.quaker.org/quno.

HOREMAN, Bart and Marc Stolwijk Refusing to Bear Arms: a world survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service. September 1998, War Resisters' International.

Available from War Resisters' International, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, UK; tel +44 20 7278 4040; fax +44 20 7278 0444; email: office@wri-irg.org; website: wri-irg.org/.

WINTER, Jane Human Rights, Human Wrongs. A Guide to the Human Rights Machinery of the United Nations. To be published in late 1999, British Irish Rights Watch.

Available from British Irish Rights Watch, First Floor, 20-21 Took's Court, Cursitor Street, London, EC4A 1LB, UK; tel: +44 20 7270 3642; Fax: +41 22 917 9003.

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