1 November 2017
The Human Rights Committee this morning continued the second reading of the draft General Comment No. 36 on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right to life.
The Committee adopted introductory paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 on deprivation of life, States’ obligation to refrain from arbitrary deprivation of life, and enforced disappearances. The Committee also began discussion on paragraph 9 on termination of pregnancy.
The Committee Rapporteur for the draft General Comment, Yuval Shany, presented the previous discussion on paragraph 6 during which Experts proposed to replace “deliberate” with “intentional” deprivation of life, as well as to add a footnote referring to General Comment No. 35. The Committee then adopted paragraph 6 with those amendments.
Turning to paragraph 7 on States’ obligation to refrain from arbitrary deprivation of life, Mr. Shany said that various stakeholders had proposed changes with respect to “threats to life”, referring to the scope of such formulation. Experts also debated whether to widen the category of “States parties” to include actors under their control, and whether to stress the obligation of States to respect and ensure the right to life. The Committee then provisionally adopted paragraph 7 with amendments and a footnote referring to the Committee’s jurisprudence.
As for paragraph 8 on enforced disappearances, Mr. Shany explained that some States had expressed concern about the use of the term “full reparation,” and about the overlap with the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. There was also a call by civil society to deal with the issue of enforced disappearances as a standalone criminal offence in civil rather than military courts. Experts then debated whether to adopt Mr. Shany’s proposal to move the paragraph to the section on the relationship of article 6 with other articles of the Covenant and other legal regimes, and whether to insert a reference to the Committee’s jurisprudence with respect to enforced disappearances. The Committee then provisionally adopted paragraph 8 with amendments and decided to move it to the end of the text.
On paragraph 9 on termination of pregnancy, Mr. Shany said that many non-governmental organizations had submitted their comments, reminding that there was a diversity of moral convictions and legal positions on the issue. He proposed that the paragraph be moved to the section on the relationship of article 6 with other articles of the Covenant and other legal regimes. Some stakeholders flagged potentially prejudicial references, such as fatal impairment of the foetus. In general comments, Experts observed that the language of the draft paragraph was no longer consistent with the Committee’s positions on abortion, as well as with the position of some other committees. Some Experts stated that the Committee should bear in mind that it was a universal human rights body that could not go beyond what regional courts had ruled on the question of abortion. The Committee had not taken a position on whether the life of the foetus fell under article 6; that was for each State to decide. The paragraph should focus on the right of women and girls to life and health. The obligation of States to provide affordable access to safe abortion should be underlined in the paragraph, some Experts noted. Some of them also questioned the proposal to move the paragraph to the end of the text, since it dealt with a central aspect of the right to life.
Mr. Shany asked Committee Experts to present their proposals to paragraph 9 in a constructive manner in order to reach a compromise, as well as to address stakeholders’ submissions.
The Committee will continue the second reading of the draft General Comment No. 36 on Thursday, 2 November, at 10 a.m. This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Committee will meet with States.
For use of the information media; not an official record