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ICCPR and the Human Rights Committee Helen Keller Professor, University of Zurich Oslo, August 18 th 2009. Content. I. Historical Development II. Work of the Human Rights Committee III. Main Problems IV. Conclusion and Personal Experience. Historical Development.

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ICCPR andtheHuman RightsCommitteeHelen KellerProfessor, University ofZurichOslo, August 18th 2009


I. Historical Development

II. Work of the Human Rights Committee

III. Main Problems

IV. Conclusion and Personal Experience

historical development
Historical Development
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights

1966 Adoption of the ICCPR and the First Optional Protocol

(individual complaints)

  • ICCPR entered into force

1989 Adoption of the Second Optional Protocol

(entered into force in 1991)


ICCPR: 164 States

First Protocol: 112 States

Second Protocol: 71 States

composition of the hrc
Composition of the HRC
  • 18 experts not representing their States (5 women, 13 men)
  • regional distribution

Western Europe and North America 7

African 5

Latin American and Caribbean Countries 3

Asia 2

Eastern Europe 1

workload of the hrc
Workload of the HRC
  • Examining State Reports

2. Considering Individual Communications

3. Adopting General Comments

examining reports
Examining Reports
  • first report due one year after ratification of the ICCPR
  • periodic reports every 4-6 years
  • Report  List of issues  Constructive dialogue before the Committee
  • shadow reports by NGOs
  • concluding observations
considering individual complaints
Considering Individual Complaints
  • no formal procedure, a simple letter to the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is enough
  • no fees, no legal representation required
  • since the institution of the complaints procedure, some 8,000 communications have been received
  • no personal appearance, no fact-finding missions
  • follow-up monitoring
adopting general comments
Adopting General Comments
  • summary of frequent problems either in the process of examining State Reports or Communications
  • since 1981, 33 General Comments have been adopted
  • legal character very disputed
main problems
Main Problems
  • Filibustering
  • Delay, Non-Reporting
  • Cooperation with NGOs
  • Standardization (Common Core Document)
  • Compliance and Follow-up
  • Backlog of over 400 Communications
  • Evolutive Interpretation of the ICCPR and the Legitimacy Problem
  • Human Rights Council
conclusion and personal experience
Conclusion and Personal Experience
  • HRC is not a quasi-supranational institution (like the European Court of Human Rights); in the context of the U.N., it is one of the most successful treaty bodies.
  • HRC is in a deep crisis (institutionally, personally and financially)
  • Personally, the membership is equally challenging and inspiring
  • The U.N. administration is a Moloch.