International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty that commits states parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.[1] It was adopted by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI) on 16 December 1966 and entered into force 23 March 1976 after its thirty-fifth ratification or accession. (Article 49 allowed that the covenant would enter into force three months after the date of the deposit of the thirty-fifth instrument of ratification or accession.) As of September 2019, the Covenant has 173 parties and six more signatories without ratification, most notably the People's Republic of China and Cuba;[2] North Korea is the only state that has tried to withdraw.[3]

The ICCPR is considered a seminal document in the history of international law and human rights, forming part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).[4][3]

Compliance with the ICCPR is monitored by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (not to be confused with the United Nations Human Rights Council), which reviews regular reports of states parties on how the rights are being implemented. States must report one year after acceding to the Covenant and then whenever the Committee requests (usually every four years). The Committee normally meets at the UN Office at Geneva, Switzerland and typically holds three sessions per year.[3]

Application of the ICCPR to non-therapeutic circumcision of children

Articles 1, 2, 7, 9, and 24 are applicable to male and female non-therapeutic circumcision of children. Each nation that is a state-party under the ICCPR, which took effect in 1976, pledges to enforce those rights for its citizens.

Article one

Article one provides in part: 1. All peoples have the right of self-determination, "By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

IntactiWiki non-binding comment:

Self-determination is the right to decide for one's self. This provides for genital autonomy, which is the right to decide for one's self if one's genitals are to be surgically altered. Genital autonomy is provided by delaying a non-therapeutic surgical operation on a child until the child is of age at which he or she can decide for one's self.

Article two

  1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  2. Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.
  3. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:
    1. To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity;
    2. To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy;
    3. To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.

Article seven

Article 7 ("Degrading treatment") provides:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.

IntactiWiki non-binding comment:

Non-therapeutic circumcision of children is cruel because it permanently deprives the victim of the optimum sexual function and pleasure for all of his life. It is degrading because it amputates a portion of the penis and renders it less functional.

Article nine

Article 9 ("Security of person") provides:

Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.

IntactiWiki non-binding comment:

Security of person is the right to bodily integrity. Bodily integrity is compromised when part of the penis is amputated, so non-therapeutic circumcision of non-consenting children violates this provision of international law.

Article twenty-four

Article 24 provides:

Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State.

IntactiWiki non-binding comment:

When a child is denied protection from harmful, tissue-removing, non-therapeutic circumcision, this right is violated.

Superiority of international treaty law

The ICCPR is a multilateral international treaty and is a part of international law. Treaties are superior law to ordinary domestic law, because they contain various commitments made by each state-party. When there is a conflict between domestic law and international treaty law, the treaty law is supreme while the domestic law which is in conflict is without force or effect, or in other words, is nullified.[5] Most nations are a state-party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

External links


  1. REFweb (23 March 1976). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  2. REFweb UN Treaty Collection - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Status of ratification. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  3. a b c REFweb Wikipedia article: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  4. REFweb (June 1996). Fact Sheet No.2 (Rev.1), The International Bill of Human Rights (archive URL), UN OHCHR. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  5. REFdocument Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: Article 27 PDF. (1969). Retrieved 12 April 2022.