The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its first Optional Protocol allowing individuals to submit complaints to the Human Rights Committee were adopted by the General Assembly on December 16, 1966 and entered into force on March 23, 1976. The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted on December 15, 1989 and entered into force on July 11, 1991. Israel is one of 140 states party to the covenant, having ratified it on October 3, 1991. It has not yet joined the ninety-two states party to the First Optional Protocol, nor the thirty-one states party to the Second Optional Protocol. Israel’s initial report on its implementation of the covenant , which was submitted on April 9, 1998, was due in January 1993. Its second periodic report is due June 2000.
The Human Rights Committee was established to monitor the implementation of the covenant and the protocols to the covenant by the states parties. It is composed of eighteen independent experts who are, in the words of the covenant, “persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.” Committee members serve in their personal capacity, and are elected for a four year term by a secret ballot of the states party to the covenant. Elections for half the membership are held every two years, during the annual session of the General Assembly. During the sixty-third session, the committee members were Nisuke Ando (Japan); Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati (India); Thomas Buergenthal (United States of America); Christine Chanet (France); Omran El Shafei (Egypt); Elizabeth Evatt (Australia); Pilar Gaitan de Pombo (Colombia); Eckart Klein (Germany); David Kretzmer (Israel); Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius); John Mark Alexander Lord Colville (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland); Cecilia Medina Quiroga (Chile); Fausto Pocar (Italy); Julio Prado Vallejo (Ecuador); Martin Scheinin (Finland); Danilo Türk (Slovenia); Maxwell Yalden (Canada); and Abdallah Zakhia (Lebanon).
The committee convenes three times a year for sessions of three weeks' duration, normally in March at United Nations headquarters in New York and in July and November at the United Nations Office in Geneva. During these sessions the committee receives and examines reports by states parties to the covenant, issues General Comments on the scope and meaning of provisions of the covenant, and under certain conditions, receives communications from individuals and from States parties alleging violations of the covenant.
States parties must submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized in the covenant and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights. The first report is due within one year of entry into force of the covenant, and subsequent reports are due every five years. The committee examines the reports in public meetings, through a dialogue with representatives of each state party whose report is under consideration. On the final day of the session, the committee adopts concluding observations summarizing its main concerns and making appropriate suggestions and recommendations to the state party. Although only members of the committee and representatives of the relevant state party may take part in the dialogue, nongovernmental organizations are encouraged to submit written information or reports to the committee. The Committee also submits to the general assembly an annual report on its activities.
Copies of state party reports to the Human Rights Committee, as well as the committee’s Concluding Observations, Summary Records of reviews of state party reports, and General Comments on the covenant, can be obtained on the Internet at:
or by writing to:
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