International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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As part of General Assembly resolution 220A, adopted on 16th December 1996 and ratified on 23rd March 1976 in accordance with Article 49[1] of Chapter VIII — Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)[2] stands as a testament of the member nations of the United Nations Organisation to protect the civil and political rights of the free world.  It has a total of 173 signatory nations who have ratified this covenant. The draft was presented in the UN General Assembly in 1954 and formally adopted in 1966.

 The covenant protects the following rights: –

  • Right to life
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Freedom of religion
  • Electoral rights
  • Right to free trial

The ICCPR along with International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights alongwith the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are collectively known as the International Bill of Rights.  

Other such treaties in place are as follows: –

  • Charter of the United Nations.
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.
  • Option protocol to the ICCPR.

Purpose of ICCPR – Through the articles of its covenant the ICCPR aims to create conditions within its members states which support the judicious use of the civil and political rights of the people. The ratifying and signatory nations are bound to protect the civil and political rights of the people and are under the obligation to take measures by way of judiciary, administration and legislation and any other measures that may be needed to protect and enforce the civil and political rights of the people. The various articles of the ICCPR enumerates the various duties and obligations that the State has towards its people and the ICCPR makes said duties and obligations enforceable.

Few of the most important articles of the ICCPR are as follows: –


Article – 1 

  • All races of people possess the right to self-determination and by virtue of said right may also determine their political, civil, and social rights.
  • All peoples may freely dispose of their naturally acquired wealth and use them on their own accord, and in no case any person shall be denied the right to a dignified means of livelihood.
  • All member States in control of non-governing areas shall in conformity to the UN charter, promote the right of self-determination of the people of said region.

Article – 2

  • Each ratifying member of the ICCPR shall strive to provide its citizens equality across all spectrums, and no distinction shall be made based on caste, creed, color gender, religion etc.
  • Each ratifying member shall take measures whether administrative, legislative, or judicial measures to ensure that rights in ICCPR are given effect to and said rights are recognized in the constitution of the Ratifying nation.
  • In case a particular right is violated, a remedy must be available, the right to such remedy by a competent court or tribunal, and the remedy if granted must be enforced by competent authorities.

Rights regarding physical integrity: –

Article 6 – Right to life

Article 7 – Protection against derogatory forms of punishment

Article 8 = Prohibition of slavery and forced labor.

Rights relating to security and liberty: –

Article 9 – Securing security and liberty of the people including but not limited to providing protection from arbitrary arrest and detention and securing to arrested persons the right to legal recourse and fair trial.

Article 10 – Provides for arrested individuals to provided with humane conditions while in detention along with psychiatric care and the separation of juvenile prisoners from adult ones.

Article 11 – No provision for awarding punishment for breach of contract.

Rights relating to legal procedure and accused: –

Article 14 – Provides rights to accused including but not limited to: –

  • Right to speedy and fair trial
  • Right against self-incrimination
  • Protection against double jeopardy
  • Right to appeal
  • Presumption of innocence

Article 15 – Prevention of prosecution in accordance with ex post fact law and imposition of retrospective criminal penalties.

Article 16 – Recognition of everyone as a person in the eyes of the law.

Rights relating to individual liberties

Article 12 – Freedom of movement within their respective nations, take up residence, to leave or return to their home country.

Article 13 – Prohibits arbitrary expulsion of foreign nationals.

Article 17 – Right to privacy.

Article 18 – Right to freely practice and propagate one’s religion and beliefs.

Article 19 – Right to freedom of expression

Article 20 – Propaganda for war is prohibited.

Article 21 – Provides the right to peaceful assembly. (Subject to restrictions)

Article 22 – Provides the right to form associations and groups. (Subject to restrictions)

Article 23 – Freedom of marriage to men and women and every right associated with consent to marriage and dissolution of marriage.

Article 24 – Right of a child to acquire nationality right after birth.

Article 26 – No person shall be discriminated against based on caste, creed, color, race, religion, gender etc.

Article 27 – Minority communities established because of their religion or language shall be allowed to practice their religion and make use of their language freely.

Opinion protocols

  • A complaints mechanism developed for reporting human rights violations
  • Abolition of the death penalty as a form of punishment.

Amalgamation of ICCPR with Indian Law.

Several principles of the ICCPR have been adopted into the Indian Legal System. The NHRC National Human Rights Commission has incorporated various principles of the ICCPR into its day to day working, this body has been established under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993. For example, Article 22 of the Indian Constitution which contains both punitive and preventive detention laws work in congruency to Article 9 of the ICCPR.


The ICCPR stresses on promoting universal brotherhood and harmony among all nations of the world and requires its ratifying members to follow its guidelines and ensure the rights of the people of their nation are not infringed upon. Member nations must by way of legislation, administration or judicial actions strive to protect and enforce the civil and political rights of the people. Many member nations have used the ICCPR as a source to make relevant amendments to their own constitutions similarly the ICCPR has also picked up the notable features from the constitutions of its ratifying members and has attempted to become a legal document which holds sway over world governments and implore them into providing their citizens with certain rights and means to exercise and enjoy said rights.


[1] the Members of the United Nations shall join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out the measures decided upon by the Security Council.

[2] United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171

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