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Human Rights Committee discusses draft general comment on the right to liberty and security of person

21 March 2014

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its first reading of its draft General Comment on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right of everybody to liberty and security of person.

The Committee focused on a proposed paragraph on preventive or security detention. The initial wording proposed stated that such detention was, outside of the context of an armed conflict, “compatible with the Covenant only pursuant to a derogation from Article 9, paragraph 1, that accords with all the requirements of Article 4, including the requirements of strict necessity and proportionality”. The proposed paragraph further stated that even in the case of such a derogation, security detention would generally remain incompatible with the Covenant unless some additional conditions, enumerated in the text, were present. The Committee had in its previous General Comment on Article 9 already accepted that some forms of politically-motivated internment could be allowed as a derogation to Article 9 under specific conditions.

In the ensuing discussion several Committee Experts said they were very concerned that such paragraph would send the wrong message and give the impression that the Committee encouraged States to use preventive or security detention when those conditions were in place. In fact, instead of listing a series of conditions that would allow derogating to Article 9, it would be more appropriate for the Committee to list safeguards for detainees that had to be respected by the States Parties in all cases. A majority of Committee Members voted in favour of that approach.

The Human Rights Committee publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the form of General Comments on thematic issues. To date, it has issued 34 General Comments.

The Human Rights Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 24 March at 10 a.m. to discuss the progress report of the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations and the progress report of the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Views. The Human Rights Committee will begin the second reading of its draft General Comment at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 25 March.

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For use of the information media; not an official record