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Pillay welcomes major breakthrough enabling individual complaints on economic, social and cultural rights

GENEVA (6 February 2013) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday applauded the upcoming entry into force of a key Protocol to an international treaty which will, for the first time, enable individual complaints on economic, social and cultural rights, thereby helping place all human rights on an equal footing.

After crossing the required threshold of state ratifications on Tuesday, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will enter into force on 5 May.

“The entry into force of the Optional Protocol is a major breakthrough, which will enable victims under the jurisdiction of the States parties to seek justice for violations of their economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said.

“The Protocol will provide an important platform to expose abuses linked to poverty, discrimination and neglect, which up until now victims have had to endure without any possible recourse at the international level. It will provide a way for individuals, who may otherwise be isolated and powerless, to make the international community aware of their situation,” the High Commissioner said.

“The entry into force of the Optional Protocol will also finally help place economic, social and cultural rights on an equal footing with all other human rights,” Pillay said. “The Protocol makes a strong and unequivocal statement about the equal value and importance of all human rights and the need for strengthened legal protection of economic, social and cultural rights in particular,” she added.

Uruguay triggered the coming into force of the Optional Protocol when, on 5 February, it became the tenth country to ratify, joining Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain.

The Optional Protocol was adopted four years ago, on 10 December 2008, by the UN General Assembly. It gives the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – the body which monitors the International Covenant to which the Protocol is attached – the competence to examine complaints from individuals or groups of individuals who claim a violation of rights protected under the Covenant. It also enables the Committee to conduct inquiries if it receives reliable information indicating grave or systematic violations by a State party of any of the economic, social and cultural rights covered by the Covenant.

“With the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, a jurisprudence will now be developed that will help define the scope of application of economic, social and cultural rights and outline adequate remedies for victims,” Pillay said.

The High Commissioner strongly encouraged other States among the 160 that are already party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible. The equivalent Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force 37 years ago (in March 1976), and has been ratified by 114 States.

ENDS
The full text of the Optional Protocol can be found at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/docs/A.RES.63.117_en.pdf
The full text of the provisional rules of procedure under the Optional Protocol can be found at:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/index.htm

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+ 41 22 917 9310 /cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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