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International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1966. It is one of the two treaties that give legal force to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the other being the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR).

ICCPR commits the states signed up to it to protect and respect the civil and political rights of individuals. The UK ratified ICCPR in 1976.

ICCPR rights are fundamental to enabling people to enjoy a broad range of human rights, including those relating to:

  • freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • freedom from slavery and forced labour
  • arrest, detention and imprisonment
  • movement into, within and out of a state
  • treatment by the judicial process
  • privacy, home and family life
  • freedom of thought, religion and expression
  • peaceful assembly
  • freedom of association, including through trade unions
  • marriage and the rights of children
  • political participation, and
  • equality and non-discrimination.

The full text of ICCPR can be found here.

How the ICCPR treaty cycle works

Each treaty operates on its own unique timetable. We are now in a period of follow-up activity for the ICCPR where we will be working the government and civil society organisations to try and implement the committee's concluding observations. 

An image displaying the treaty cycle for the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

ICCPR work by the Commission

We have produced the following reports as part of our ICCPR treaty monitoring activity:

  • The Commission’s follow-up report (Welsh language version) regarding the concluding observations adopted by the Human Rights Committee on the seventh periodic report of the UK (July 2016). 
  • The Commission’s report on the UK’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (May 2015).
  • Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee Pre-Sessional Working Group on the United Kingdom’s Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (July 2014).

We have produced the following work related to this treaty:

Next steps

  • Publication of the UK Government’s follow-up report, date of publication yet to be announced.

In July 2015, the Human Rights Committee recommended that the UK needs to:

  • ensure that any legislation passed to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 strengthens protections for human rights in the UK
  • maintain an adequate balance between national security and accountability for human rights violations allegedly committed by British Forces overseas
  • strengthen efforts to prevent racism and xenophobia
  • strengthen measures to prevent violence against women and girls
  • take action to prevent self-inflicted deaths and self-harm of adults and young people in the custody of the state
  • establish a time limit on immigration detention, and ensure reforms to the detained fast track system comply fully with international human rights law, and
  • review the surveillance laws so that any interference with the right to privacy is legal, proportionate and necessary.

The Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations on the UK can be found on the UN website.

The ICCPR is monitored by the UN’s Human Rights Committee, a body made up of 18 independent experts from around the world. When a State party has first ratified ICCPR, it must provide information on the legal and practical measures it has taken to implement all the substantial articles in the Covenant. The State party will then submit periodic reports approximately every four years. After ratifying ICCPR, the UK must report on the legal and practical measures taken to implement its core obligations. It then submits progress reports approximately every four years (known as ‘State Reports’).

At least one year before the State Report is due, the Human Rights Committee provides the UK Government with a list of issues that must be covered within it. Find out more about this procedure on the UN website.

The Human Rights Committee examines the UK’s State Report and produces its own report with recommendations for action. These are called the ‘Concluding Observations’. States are required to publish these recommendations, act on them and report on progress. More information about this procedure can be found here.Human Rights Committee has trialled an optional reporting procedure known as the ‘list of issues prior to reporting.’  At least one year prior to the submission date of the State Report, the Human Rights Committee provides the State party with a list of issues it wants the State party to cover in its State Report. This approach aims to help the State party produce a more focussed State report and submit it to the Human Rights Committee on time, prior to the examination of the State Report, the Human Rights Committee draws up a list of questions that they want the State to provide further written information on. This is known as the ‘list of issues.’ 

Read the UK’s most recent State Report.

Read the UK’s reply to the Human Rights Committee’s list of issues.

Read more about the ICCPR monitoring process.

The Human Rights Committee sometimes issues general comments which explain the application of the ICCPR in particular situations. This includes guidance on:

  • liberty and security of the person
  • states of emergency, and
  • right to equality before courts and tribunals and the right to a fair trial.

See an example of general comment.

Last updated: 11 Dec 2017