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UN Human Rights Committee publishes new general comment on the ‘right to life’

GENEVA (1 November 2018) — The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, today published a new general comment: a comprehensive text providing legal guidance on article 6, the right to life. 

“The right to life is the prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other human rights,” explained Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee. “The general comment provides a rich and authoritative statement of the obligations deriving from the right to life, which the Committee defines as ‘the supreme right.’” 

The Human Rights Committee, made up of 18 independent experts, is charged with watching over the Covenant by examining the human rights situation in each of the 172 countries that ratified it. Those countries are also referred to as States parties. In addition to reviewing the human rights situation in the States parties, the Committee also examines, discusses and writes guidance on how States parties ought to interpret and apply the Covenant on a practical level. The Human Rights Committee speaks for itself, not for the United Nations. 

The general comment the Committee just issued on the right to life has been in the works for more than three years, said Shany, adding that it touches on extremely complicated issues such as the relationship between the right to life and other human rights, as well as other international law norms. The Comment then identifies the obligations of states to protect life against a variety of challenges, including environmental degradation, war and extreme poverty. The general comment also addresses the duties of states to individuals located outside their territory, but affected nonetheless by their activities or activities of corporations based in their territory. The document also declares that states that have not yet abolished the death penalty should gradually move toward abolition. 

The Committee is next set to write guidance on article 21 on the right to peaceful assembly, work which will begin at the Committee’s next session starting March 4, 2019.

ENDS

The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which to date has been ratified by 172 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. 

For more information and media requests, please contact Julia Grønnevet jgronnevet@ohchr.org / (+41) 22 917 93 10 

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