30 June 2016
The Human Rights Committee this afternoon continued its discussion and first reading on a draft General Comment on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to life. General comments adopted by the Committee are intended to help States parties fulfill their obligations under the Covenant. The Committee discussed a draft prepared by the two Committee Rapporteurs, Yuval Shany and Nigel Rodley. Whereas paragraphs 1 to 8 had been adopted at a first reading during the previous two sessions, today the Committee adopted a draft paragraph 9 on suicide.
The Committee had already adopted, in 1982, a General Comment (Number 6) on Article 6 on the right to life.
Exchanges between Experts focused on assisted suicide as an infringement of the right to life, which might, nonetheless, be allowed under certain circumstances. That paragraph would recommend that States take adequate measures to prevent suicide among persons in a vulnerable situation. At the same time, it reads that States parties may allow medical professionals to administer treatment to speed up the end of life of adults with irreversible effects.
The Committee also started a discussion on draft paragraphs 12, 13 and 14. Paragraph 12 is devoted to private actors with permission to use lethal force issued by a State party. Paragraph 13 is on new types of weapons, such as killer robots, and paragraph 14 highlights the incompatibility with the right to life of weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons.
Under Article 6 of the Covenant, no one may be arbitrarily deprived of life. In countries where the death penalty has not been abolished, the death sentence may be imposed only for the most serious crimes and under a final judgment rendered by a competent court . Moreover, anyone sentenced to death has the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence. Article 6 also provides that a death sentence cannot be imposed for crimes committed by persons under 18 years; pregnant women can also not be executed.
The Human Rights Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 4 July 2016 at 10 a.m. to discuss the Progress Report of the Special Rapporteur on Follow-Up to Concluding Observations, as well as the Report of the Rapporteur on Follow-up on Views adopted after the examination of individual communications under the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant.
For use of the information media; not an official record