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Human Rights Committee adopts two additional paragraphs of a draft General Comment on the right to life

GENEVA (19 October 2018) - The Human Rights Committee today continued the second reading of its draft General Comment no. 36 on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right to life.  The Committee adopted paragraphs 65 and 66, and began discussing paragraph 67 of the fifth part of the draft General Comment on the relationship of article 6 with other articles of the Covenant and other legal regimes.

Yuval Shany, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur for the draft General Comment, introduced the revised paragraph 65 on environmental degradation, climate change and non-sustainable development, which now included, inter alia, the concepts of climate change, private and public actors, the requirements for States to develop and implement substantive environmental standards, and the principle of a precautionary approach.  After the discussion in which the Experts addressed issues such as the duty to consult, the transboundary nature of environmental and natural disasters and emergencies, and the duty of States to cooperate and assist, the Committee adopted draft paragraph 65.

Turning to paragraph 66 on the obligation of States to respect and to ensure the rights under article 6 of all persons who are found within its territory and all persons subject to its jurisdiction, the Rapporteur explained that the Committee had already discussed some of the issues that the paragraph referred to, for example in relation to the use of drones.  Having read some of the comments received from States and other stakeholders, which, inter alia, referred to jurisdiction at sea and the jurisdiction of registered ships and aircraft, Mr. Shany proposed to tie the rescue at sea with obligations of States under international law.  Commenting that the Committee’s approach went beyond that of the European Court for Human Rights, the Rapporteur introduced the revised text of paragraph 66.  Following a debate, and the introduction of an amended text, the Committee adopted draft paragraph 66.

As for draft paragraph 67 on armed conflict and the right to life, the Rapporteur noted that it laid down the principles of application of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, which the Committee considered to be complimentary.  In their comments, States were concerned that the Committee was dealing with international humanitarian law, which was a lex specialis, and that it was attempting to superimpose international human rights law over international humanitarian law.  Concerns had also been raised about the formulation of “collateral damage”, which did not adequately reflect the definition laid down in international humanitarian law; the notion of risk; and the issue of disclosure.  Other stakeholders suggested the inclusion of a reference to objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population and replace the phrase “persons hors de combat” with “other persons enjoying protection under international humanitarian law”, which offered a greater scope of protection.

The Committee will resume discussing paragraph 67 on Wednesday, 24 October at 10 a.m.

The drafting of General Comment no. 36 started on 14 July 2015 with a half day of general discussion on the right to life.  The first reading of the draft was completed at the Committee’s one hundred and twentieth session in July 2017, while the second reading started on 27 October 2017.  Further information about draft General Comment no. 36 can be obtained here.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.


The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 October, 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.

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For use of the information media; not an official record