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General comment No. 36 on article 6: right to life

Issued by



Issued by Treaty bodies


Civil and political rights

Symbol Number


Topic Article 6: right to life
Date adopted 30 October 2018
General discussion 14 July 2015

The Committee commenced the process of drafting the general comment with a half day of general discussion during the 114th session, on 14 July 2015. For that event, the Committee invited interested members of the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), civil society, and academia to participate and focused its discussions on the views provided (submissions provided for the purposes of that discussion can be found below).

During its 115th session, the Committee commenced its first reading of the draft and completed its review at the 120th session. In July 2017, during its 120th session, the Human Rights Committee invited all interested stakeholders to comment on the Committee’s draft.

Various stakeholders, including member States, other UN and regional human rights mechanisms, UN organizations or specialized agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), research institutions, and academics have submitted comments.


This general comment replaces general comments No. 6, adopted by the Committee at its sixteenth session (1982), and No. 14, adopted by the Committee at its twenty-third session (1984).

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes and protects the right to life of all human beings. The right to life is the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted, even in situations of armed conflict and other public emergencies that threaten the life of the nation. The right to life has crucial importance both for individuals and for society as a whole. It is most precious for its own sake as a right that inheres in every human being, but it also constitutes a fundamental right, the effective protection of which is the prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other human rights and the content of which can be informed by other human rights.

The right to life is a right that should not be interpreted narrowly. It concerns the entitlement of individuals to be free from acts and omissions that are intended or may be expected to cause their unnatural or premature death, as well as to enjoy a life with dignity. Article 6 of the Covenant guarantees this right for all human beings, without distinction of any kind, including for persons suspected or convicted of even the most serious crimes.

Paragraph 1 of article 6 of the Covenant provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life and that this right shall be protected by law. It lays the foundation for the obligation of States parties to respect and ensure the right to life, to give effect to it through legislative and other measures, and to provide effective remedies and reparation to all victims of violations of the right to life.

Paragraphs 2, 4, 5 and 6 of article 6 of the Covenant set out specific safeguards to ensure that in States parties that have not yet abolished the death penalty, death sentences are not applied except for the most serious crimes, and then only in the most exceptional cases and under the strictest limits (see part IV below). The prohibition on arbitrary deprivation of life contained in article 6 (1) further limits the ability of States parties to apply the death penalty. The provisions in paragraph 3 regulate specifically the relationship between article 6 of the Covenant and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The general comment goes on to cover the following topics:

II. Prohibition against arbitrary deprivation of life;

III. Duty to protect life;

IV. Imposition of the death penalty; and

V. Relationship of article 6 with other articles of the Covenant and other legal regimes.

Inputs Received
Inputs Received
UN organizations, specialized agencies, and experts
Academia and other professionals
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other national institutions

Comments submitted after the adoption of the General Comment

Written contributions for the half day of discussion