The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) commits all State parties (currently 167) to protect the civil and political rights of all individuals. There are currently 35 General Comments which clarify the scope and content of ICCPR’s provisions, which can be accessed here.

ICCPR includes protection of the right to: life; liberty; fair trial; freedom of expression, religion and association and freedom from slavery and torture. ICCPR, when combined with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), makes up what is referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights.

ICCPR was adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. The UK ratified ICCPR on in May 1976.

State parties are obliged to produce reports to the Committee which outline progress and legislative, judicial and policy measures taken to fulfil their obligations under the Convention. Each State is expected to submit a report one year after consenting to the Convention and then after, at the request of the Committee (usually every four years).

The most recent review of the UK took place in August 2015, accompanying Concluding Observations can be accessed here.

The latest UK State report (7th periodic report) was submitted in December 2012. The List of Issues was published in October 2014 with a reply to the List of Issues submitted by the UK in March 2015. The date for the next UK review is set for June 2016, with the subsequent review currently tabled for 2020.

More information on the reporting status and access to all relevant documentation including: State reports, Civil society & NHRI submissions; Concluding Observations and follow-up State reports can be accessed here.

Scottish Human Rights Commission Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee: NHRI report on the United Kingdom’s 7th periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (May 2015).

NHRI Engagement

In order to support the UK review of ICCPR, the Commission has undertaken a number of activities, including:

  1. Capacity building and consultation ‎with with Civil Society to prepare a List of Issues and Parallel report.
  2. Submitted a joint letter from the Chairs of the three UK NHRIs to the Chair of the Human Rights Committee to raise awareness and concern regarding the current UK Government’s intention to repeal the UK Human Rights Act.
  3. Submission of parallel report.
  4. Provide oral evidence and attend the UK State Review
  5. Meet with the Committee members‎ and/or country rapporteur 
  6. Meet the UK Government representative before and after the review in Geneva.

As part of each review the Commission produces a list of recommendations for the Committee to ask of the UK State. For the 2015 review the Commission made the following recommendations for the Committee ask the United Kingdom:

  1. What measures it will take to ensure the non-regression and the protection of all Covenant rights of all people across UK jurisdictions.
  2. What steps are being taken to ensure protection of Article 15 of the Covenant for refugees, with accompanying appropriate guidance in Scotland, and which steps have been taken to ensure that asylum-seekers have full access to early and free legal representation so that their rights under the Covenant are protected.

In relation to Scotland:

  1. To explain the measures taken to consider whether the use of stop and search powers, particularly non-statutory searches and on such a large scale, by Police Scotland is within the framework of the Covenant.
  2. To identify what measures it will take to ensure greater reporting of hate crimes in Scotland.
  3. To outline what measures are being taken to reduce suicide rates in Scotland and what impact is being made by any such measures.
  4. To explain how compliance with the Covenant is assured with regard to the assessment, diagnosis or admission of mental health prisoners in Scotland.
  5. To clarify how it intends to ensure that institutional learning regarding deaths in custody is being utilised to prevent deaths in custody and following police contact.
  6. To describe how it plans to ensure that Police Scotland’s “rousing” policy is necessary and proportionate when applied to all detainees regardless of risk.
  7. To outline how its plans to reduce the risk of suicide and self-harm amongst prisoners with mental health conditions.
  8. To explain how it plans to provide for effective and independent investigation of deaths in mental health settings in Scotland.
  9. To specify how it plans to ensure that any changes on arming police officers are effectively consulted and publicly communicated. In addition, the Committee could ask the United Kingdom what process are in place to increase transparency and improve the scrutiny of armed policing in Scotland, particularly in relation to monitoring, collating and reporting processes.
  10. To enquire what the current view and position is in relation to repealing all legal defences to corporal punishment currently in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.
  11. To provide information about what measures it will take to ensure that legislation brought forward provides adequate and robust procedural safeguards for individuals who are unable to consent to their treatment in psychiatric hospitals and other care settings. The Committee should also ask the United Kingdom how it will ensure that current legislation in Scotland is observed and that patients are receiving adequate levels of care and social stimulation.
  12. To outline what concrete steps have been taken to reduce the prison population and move away from a culture of retribution to one that promotes offender reformation and social rehabilitation.
  13. To explain what interim, medium and long-term measures are being taken to remedy the prison conditions in Young Offenders Institutions, particularly access to open air and physical activities.
  14. To describe what concrete steps have been taken to ensure the use of custody for women is only used when the possibility of community alternatives have been fully addressed. Furthermore, to outline what concrete steps have been taken to ensure the full implementation of the Report of the Commission on Women Offenders since 2012.
  15. To outline what steps it has taken to ensure the availability and accessibility of appropriate mental health services for those deprived of liberty in Scotland.
  16. To describe what plans are in place to ensure that sufficient additional safeguards are available before any decision is taken to remove the requirement for corroboration in Scotland.
  17. To explain how it is planning to maintain a sustainable and high quality legal assistance system across Scotland, as well as ensuring that current and proposed changes to legal aid do not limit access to justice, particularly children and women's access to legal advice and services in areas of civil law in Scotland.
  18. To indicate whether, and to what extent, the laws on public procession and static assemblies in Scotland respect the provisions of the Covenant with regard to freedom of association and freedom of expression, and what steps have been taken to implement the UN Special Rapporteur recommendations in Scotland.
  19. To indicate its plans to tackle barriers to a career in the Judiciary for women.
  20. To explain what steps it is taken to realise the Covenant rights of the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland.

Civil Society Engagement

Civil society has the potential to engage with this treaty in a number of ways:

  1. Submitting written information to the Committee
  2. Submitting an alternative report
  3. Providing information for the list of issues
  4. Attending Sessions and Making Oral Submissions to the Committee


Guidelines for State reporting for ICCPR (civil society reports should resemble the structure of State reports) can be found here.