US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



USHRN ICCPR Taskforce Leads Successful Civil Society Engagement with ICCPR

Jan 22, 2019

The US Human Rights Network ICCPR Taskforce organized various initiatives, which helped to mobilize successful Civil Society engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Committee which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty that commits countries that have ratified it to protect and preserve basic human rights, such as: the right to life and human dignity; equality before the law; freedom of speech, assembly, and association; religious freedom and privacy; freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention; gender equality; the right to a fair trial; right family life and family unity; and minority rights. The ICCPR compels governments to take administrative, judicial, and legislative measures in order to protect the rights enshrined in the treaty and to provide an effective remedy.

The ICCPR was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. As of December 2018, 172 countries have ratified the ICCPR including the United States which ratified it in 1992. Every country that ratified the ICCPR is obligated to report, every 4 years, on progress made to implement the treaty.

The U.S. government has agreed to receive from the U.N. Human Rights Committee a "List of Issues Prior to Reporting" which will form the basis for the U.S. periodic report to the Committee. U.S. Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples' representatives were able to engage this process by submitting information on relevant ICCPR issues, including suggested questions and recommendations that will be considered by the Committee for inclusion within the List of Issues Prior to Reporting presented to the U.S.

Given the importance of the ICCPR, the USHRN ICCPR Taskforce took the lead in mobilizing human rights organizations in the US to make submissions to the UN Human Rights Committee. The USHRN ICCPR Taskforce focused on the dissemination of appropriate information on the submission process; hosted an educational webinar on how civil society could engage the process; facilitated a series of related strategy and mobilization calls; and developed a submission template, as well as a list of issues document that organizations could review online to take a lead on or co-sponsor submissions. In support of this process, the USHRN website was updated and all the pertinent information was posted for central access. USHRN staff also answered queries from and provide guidance to many organizations looking to make submissions by the 14th of January 2019. 

Over 50 civil society submissions were made to the ICCPR covering a broad range of subjects and raising important questions about the civil and political rights of people in the US.  View the list of submissions here (click and scroll down to 'United States').

The UN Human Rights Committee is scheduled to present the List of Issues to the US government regarding ICCPR compliance in March 2019 at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The USHRN will keep our members and the broader civil society informed of important developments.

Significant initiatives like these would not be possible without the support and participation of USHRN members. If you are not a member or have allowed your membership to lapse, please become a member today in order to advance this important work.

See also the FAQ on the ICCPR. Click here