21 March 2013
The Human Rights Committee this morning held a discussion on a draft General Comment on States parties' obligations under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, concerning the right to liberty and security of the person.
Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the Committee, stressed the importance of the subject and said that it could become one of the most important General Comments ever adopted by the Committee.
Presenting the draft, Gerald L. Neuman, Committee Rapporteur for a General Comment on Article 9, recalled that the drafting process had benefited from submissions and contributions from non-governmental organizations and States Parties during the half-day of general discussion held in October 2012. There were many views and, in some areas, the output of other treaty bodies had helped clarify patterns in practice.
A summary of the Committee’s public discussion on Article 9 of the Covenant, held on 25 October 2012, can be read here.
Mr. Neuman indicated that draft General Comment had seven parts: an introduction and general remarks; a section on arbitrary detention and unlawful detention; one on notification of reasons for arrest and criminal charges; on judicial control of detention in connection with criminal charges; on proceedings for release from unlawful or arbitrary detention; on the right to compensation for unlawful or arbitrary arrest or detention; and on the relationship between Article 9 and other articles of the Covenant.
Mr. Rodley noted that the Committee’s practice with regards to General Comments involved consultations with all stakeholders, in particular State parties, concerning the draft text.
During the discussion on the draft General Comment on Article 9, one of the Experts noted that the consideration of this draft provided an opportunity for the Committee to express its views amidst restrictive interpretations of Article 9. It was also noted that this General Comment could be used in all countries. The current draft provided guidance to States Parties concerning the preparation of their reports and for victims, regarding individual communications to the Committee. This was an important subject and concerned the extent to which the Covenant was actually applied by national courts.
General Comment No.8 on the right to liberty and security of persons had been adopted in 1982 and one of the Experts said that a revision was long overdue. Another Expert indicated that the current draft provided an opportunity to address gender issues. During the discussion, Experts also reflected on the Committee’s objectives regarding the adoption of General Comments. They were useful for the Committee to elaborate on its interpretation of the provisions of the Covenant and, in this context, Experts wondered if the current draft was perhaps too detailed and whether it should be condensed.
Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the Committee, stressed that General Comments allowed the Committee to provide its interpretation of the scope and nature of the Covenant and to provide guidance to States Parties on the basis of the Committee’s own understanding of the Covenant. Mr. Rodley reiterated that the Committee could not be dealing with a more important subject.
The Committee publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions, known as General Comments, on thematic issues or its methods of work. To date, the Human Rights Committee has issued 34 General Comments and their latest version can be found here.
This morning the Committee carried out a first reading of the first two paragraphs of the draft General Comment on Article 9. The Committee will continue with its discussion on the draft in a public meeting on Tuesday 26 March, at 11 a.m.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be held on Monday 25 March, at 10 a.m., when it will discuss the progress reports of the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations and of the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Individual Communications.
For use of the information media; not an official record