Fact Sheet No.2 (Rev.1), The International Bill of Human Rights

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and
conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (art. 1),
adopted by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948.Contents:
• Background
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights
• International Covenants on Human Rights
• Worldwide influence of the International Bill of Human Rights

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• Annex: The International Bill of Human Rights
– Universal Declaration of Human Rights
– International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
– International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
– Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
– Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at
the abolition of the death penalty
Background
The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols.

Human rights had already found expression in the Covenant of the League of Nations, which led,
inter alia, to the creation of the International Labour Organisation. At the 1945 San Francisco
Conference, held to draft the Charter of the United Nations, a proposal to embody a “Declaration on
the Essential Rights of Man” was put forward but was not examined because it required more detailed
consideration than was possible at the time. The Charter clearly speaks of “promoting and
encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to
race, sex, language or religion” (Art. 1, para. 3). The idea of promulgating an “international bill
of rights” was also considered by many as basically implicit in the Charter.

The Preparatory Commission of the United Nations, which met immediately after the closing session
of the San Francisco Conference, recommended that the Economic and Social Council should, at its
first session, establish a commission for the promotion of human rights as envisaged in Article 68
of the Charter.
Accordingly, the Council established the Commission on Human Rights early in 1946.

At its first session, in 1946, the General Assembly considered a draft Declaration on Fundamental
Human Rights and Freedoms and transmitted it to the Economic and Social Council “for reference to
the Commission on Human Rights for consideration . . . in its preparation of an international bill
of rights” (resolution 43 (I)). The Commission, at its first session early in 1947, authorized its
officers to formulate what it termed “a preliminary draft International Bill of Human Rights”.
Later the work was taken over by a formal drafting committee, consisting of members of the
Commission from eight States, selected with due regard for geographical distribution.

Towards the Universal Declaration

In the beginning, different views were expressed about the form the bill of rights should take. The
Drafting Committee decided to prepare two documents: one in the form of a declaration, which would
set forth general principles or standards of human rights; the other in the form of a convention,
which would define

specific rights and their limitations. Accordingly, the Committee transmitted to the Commission on
Human Rights draft articles of an international declaration and an international convention on
human rights. At its second session, in December 1947, the Commission decided to apply the term
“International Bill of Human Rights” to the series of documents in preparation and established
three working groups: one on the declaration, one on the convention (which it renamed “covenant”)
and one on implementation. The Commission revised the draft declaration at its third session, in
May/June 1948, taking into consideration comments received from Governments. It did not have time,
however, to consider the covenant or the question of implementation. The declaration was therefore
submitted through the Economic and Social Council to the General Assembly, meeting in Paris.

By its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly adopted the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights as the first of these projected instruments.

Towards the International Covenants

On the same day that it adopted the Universal Declaration, the General Assembly requested the
Commission on Human Rights to prepare, as a matter of priority, a draft covenant on human rights
and draft measures of implementation. The Commission examined the text of the draft covenant in
1949 and the following year it revised the first 18 articles, on the basis of comments received
from Governments. In 1950, the General Assembly declared that “the enjoyment of civic and political
freedoms and of economic, social and cultural rights are interconnected and interdependent”
(resolution 421 (V), sect. E). The Assembly thus decided to include in the covenant on human rights
economic, social and cultural rights and an explicit recognition of the equality of men and women
in related rights, as set forth in the Charter. In 1951, the Commission drafted 14 articles on
economic, social and cultural rights on the basis of proposals made by Governments and suggestions
by specialized agencies. It also formulated 10 articles on measures for implementation of those
rights under which States parties to the covenant would submit periodic reports. After a long
debate at its sixth session, in 1951/1952, the General Assembly requested the Commission “to draft
two Covenants on Human Rights, . . . one to contain civil and political rights and the other to
contain economic, social and cultural rights” (resolution 543 (VI), para. 1). The Assembly
specified that the two covenants should contain as many similar provisions as possible. It also
decided to include an article providing that “all peoples shall have the right of
self-determination” (resolution 545 (VI)).

The Commission completed preparation of the two drafts at its ninth and tenth sessions, in 1953 and
1954. The General Assembly reviewed those texts at its ninth session, in 1954, and decided to give
the drafts the widest possible publicity in order that Governments might study them thoroughly and
that public opinion might express itself freely. It recommended that its Third Committee start an
article-by-article discussion of the texts at its tenth session, in 1955. Although the
article-by-article discussion began as scheduled, it was not until 1966 that the preparation of the
two covenants was completed.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights were adopted by the General Assembly by its resolution 2200 A (XXI)
of 16 December 1966. The first Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, adopted by the same resolution, provided international machinery for dealing with
communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth
in the Covenant.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly

as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every
individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by
teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive
measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and
observance, both among, the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of
territories under their jurisdiction.

Forty-eight States voted in favour of the Declaration, none against, with eight abstentions. In a
statement following the voting, the President of the General Assembly pointed out that adoption of
the Declaration was “a remarkable achievement, a step forward in the great evolutionary process. It
was the first occasion on

which the organized community of nations had made a Declaration of human rights and fundamental
freedoms. The instrument was backed by the authority of the body of opinion of the United Nations
as a whole, and millions of people -men, women and children all over the world- would turn to it
for help, guidance and inspiration.

The Declaration consists of a preamble and 30 articles, setting forth the human rights and
fundamental freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any
discrimination.

Article 1, which lays down the philosophy on which the Declaration is based, reads:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and
conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The article thus defines the basic assumptions of the Declaration: that the right to liberty and
equality is man’s birthright and cannot be alienated: and that, because man is a rational and moral
being, he is different from other creatures on earth and therefore entitled to certain rights and
freedoms which other creatures do not enjoy.

Article 2, which sets out the basic principle of equality and non discrimination as regards the
enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, forbids “distinction of any kind, such as race,
colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property,
birth or other status”.

Article 3, the first cornerstone of the Declaration, proclaims the right to life, liberty and
security of person -a right essential to the enjoyment of all other rights. This article introduces
articles 4 to 21, in which other civil and political rights are set out, including: freedom from
slavery and servitude; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment; the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law; the right to an
effective judicial remedy; freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; the right to a fair
trial and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal; the right to be presumed
innocent until proved guilty; freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or
correspondence; freedom of movement and residence; the right of asylum; the right to a nationality;
the right to marry and to found a family; the right to own property; freedom of thought, conscience
and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; the right to peaceful assembly and association;
and the right to take part in the government of one’s country and to equal access to public service
in one’s country.

Article 22, the second cornerstone of the Declaration, introduces articles 23 to 27, in which
economic, social and cultural rights -the rights to which everyone is entitled “as a member of
society” -are set out. The article characterizes these rights as indispensable for human dignity
and the free development of personality, and indicates that they are to be realized “through
national effort and international cooperation”. At the same time, it points out the limitations of
realization, the extent of which depends on the resources of each State.

The economic, social and cultural rights recognized in articles 22 to 27 include the right to
social security; the right to work; the right to equal pay for equal work; the right to rest and
leisure; the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being; the right to
education; and the right to participate in the cultural life of the community.

The concluding articles, articles 28 to 30, recognize that everyone is entitled to a social and
international order in which the human rights and fundamental freedoms set forth in the Declaration
may be fully realized, and stress the duties and responsibilities which each individual owes to his
community. Article 29 states that “in the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be
subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of
securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just
requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society”. It adds
that in no case may human rights and fundamental freedoms be exercised contrary to the purposes and
principles of the United Nations. Article 30 emphasizes that no State, group or person may claim
any right, under the Declaration, “to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the
destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth” in the Declaration.

Importance and influence of the Declaration

Conceived as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights has become just that: a yardstick by which to measure the degree of
respect for, and compliance with, international human rights standards.

Since 1948 it has been and rightly continues to be the most important and far-reaching of all
United Nations declarations, and a fundamental source of inspiration for national and international
efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. It has set the direction for
all subsequent work in the field of human rights and has provided the basic philosophy for many
legally binding international instruments designed to protect the rights and freedoms which it
proclaims.

In the Proclamation of Teheran, adopted by the International Conference on Human Rights held in
Iran in 1968, the Conference agreed that “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states a common
understanding of the peoples of the world concerning the inalienable and inviolable rights of all
members of the human family and constitutes an obligation for the members of the international
community”. The Conference affirmed its faith in the principles set forth in the Declaration, and
urged all peoples and Governments “to dedicate themselves to [those] principles . . . and to
redouble their efforts to provide for all human beings a life consonant with freedom and dignity
and conducive to physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare”.

In recent years, there has been a growing tendency for United Nations organs, in preparing
international instruments in the filed of human rights, to refer not only to the Universal
Declaration, but also to other parts of the International Bill of Human Rights.

International Covenants on Human Rights

The preambles and articles 1, 3 and 5 of the two International Covenants are almost identical. The
preambles recall the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote human
rights; remind the individual of his responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of
those rights; and recognize that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can
be achieved only if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political
rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.

Article 1of each Covenant states that the right to self-determination is universal and calls upon
States to promote the realization of that right and to respect it.

The article provides that “All peoples have the right of self-determination” and adds that “By
virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic,
social and cultural development”. Article 3, in both cases, reaffirms the equal right of men and
women to the enjoyment of all human rights, and enjoins States to make that principle a reality.
Article 5, in both cases, provides safeguards against the destruction or undue limitation of any
human right or fundamental freedom, and against misinterpretation of any provision of the Covenants
as a means of justifying infringement of a right or freedom or its restriction to a greater extent
than provided for in the Covenants. It also prevents States from limiting rights already enjoyed
within their territories on the ground that such rights are not recognized, or recognized to a
lesser extent, in the Covenants.

Articles 6 to 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognize
the rights to work (art. 6); to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work (art. 7);
to form and join trade unions (art. 8); to social security, including social insurance (art. 9); to
the widest possible protection and assistance for the family, especially mothers, children and
young persons (art. 10); to an adequate standard of living (art. I 1); to the enjoyment of the
highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (art.
12); to education (arts. 13 and 14); and to take part in cultural life (art. 15).

In its articles 6 to 27, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects the
right to life (art.
6) and lays down that no one is to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment (art. 7); that no one is to be held in slavery; that slavery and the
slave-trade are to be prohibited; and that no one is to be held in servitude or required to perform
forced or compulsory labour (art. 8); that no one is to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or
detention (art. 9); that all persons deprived of

their liberty are to be treated with humanity (art. 10); and that no one is to be imprisoned merely
on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation (art. 11).

The Covenant provides for freedom of movement and freedom to choose a residence (art. 12) and for
limitations to be placed on the expulsion of aliens lawfully in the territory of a State party
(art. 13). It makes provision for the equality of all persons before the courts and tribunals and
for guarantees in criminal and civil proceedings (art. 14). It prohibits retroactive criminal
legislation (art. 15); lays down the right of everyone to recognition everywhere as a person before
the law (art. 16); and calls for the prohibition of arbitrary or unlawful interference with an
individual’s privacy, family, home or correspondence, and of unlawful attacks on his honour and
reputation (art. 17).

The Covenant provides for protection of the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
(art. 18) and to freedom of opinion and expression (art. 19). It calls for the prohibition by law
of any propaganda for war and of any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that
constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (art. 20). It recognizes the right
of peaceful assembly (art. 21) and the right to freedom of association (art. 22). It also
recognizes the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family, and the
principle of equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and
at its dissolution (art. 23). It lays down measures to protect the rights of children (art. 24),
and recognizes the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs, to vote
and to be elected, and to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his
country (art. 25). It provides that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal
protection of the law (art. 26). It also calls for protection of the rights of ethnic, religious
and linguistic minorities in the territories of States parties (art. 27).

Finally, article 28 provides for the establishment of a Human Rights Committee responsible for
supervising implementation of the rights set out in the Covenant.

Conditions

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that the exercise of a person’s rights and
freedoms may be subject to certain limitations, which must be determined by law, solely for the
purpose of securing due recognition of the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just
requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. Rights may
not be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, or if they are
aimed at destroying any of the rights set forth in the Declaration (arts. 29 and 30).

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that the rights provided
for therein may be limited by law, but only in so far as it is compatible with the nature of the
rights and solely to promote the general welfare in a democratic society (art. 4).

Unlike the Universal Declaration and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights contains no general provision applicable to
all the rights provided for in the Covenant authorizing restrictions on their exercise. However,
several articles in the Covenant provide that the rights being dealt with shall not be subject to
any restrictions except those which are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect national
security, public order, or the rights and freedoms of others.

Certain rights, therefore, may never be suspended or limited, even in emergency situations. These
are the rights to life, to freedom from torture, to freedom from enslavement or servitude, to
protection from imprisonment for debt, to freedom from retroactive penal laws, to recognition as a
person before the law, and to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allows a State to limit or suspend the enjoyment of
certain rights in cases of officially proclaimed public emergencies which threaten the life of the
nation. Such limitations or suspensions are permitted only “to the extent strictly required by the
exigencies of the situation” and may never involve discrimination solely on the ground of race,
colour, sex, language, religion or social origin (art. 4). The limitations or suspensions must also
be reported to the United Nations.

First Optional Protocol

The first Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights enables the
Human Rights Committee, set up under that Covenant, to receive and consider communications from
individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant.

Under article I of the Optional Protocol, a State party to the Covenant that becomes a party to the
Protocol recognizes the competence of the Human Rights Committee to receive and consider
communications from individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation
by that State of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant. Individuals who make such a claim,
and who have exhausted all available domestic remedies, are entitled to submit a written
communication to the Committee (art. 2).

Such communications as are determined to be admissible by the Committee (in addition to article 2,
articles 3 and 5 (2) lay down conditions for admissibility) are brought to the attention of the
State party alleged to be violating a provision of the Covenant. Within six months, that State must
submit to the Committee written explanations or statements clarifying the matter and indicating the
remedy, if any, that it may have applied (art. 4).

The Human Rights Committee considers the admissible communications, at closed meetings, in the
light of all written information made available to it by the individual and the State party
concerned. It then forwards its views to the State party and to the individual (art. 5).

A summary of the Committee’s activities under the Optional Protocol is included in the report which
it submits annually to the General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council (art. 6).

Second Optional Protocol

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at
the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted by the General Assembly by its resolution 44/128 of
15 December 1989. Under its article 1, no one within the jurisdiction of a State party to the
Protocol may be executed.

Under article 3 of the Protocol, States parties must include in the reports which they submit to
the Human Rights Committee information on measures taken to give effect to the Protocol.

Article 5 of the Second Optional Protocol provides that, with respect to any State party to the
first Optional Protocol, the competence of the Human Rights Committee to receive and consider
communications from individuals subject to that State’s jurisdiction shall extend to the provisions
of the Second Optional Protocol, unless the State party concerned has made a statement to the
contrary at the moment of ratification or accession.

Under article 6, the provisions of the Second Optional Protocol apply as additional provisions to
the Covenant.

Entry into force of the Covenants and the Optional Protocols

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entered into force on 3 January
1976, three months after the date of deposit with the Secretary-General of the thirty-fifth
instrument of ratification or accession, as provided in article 27. As at 30 September 1995, the
Covenant had been ratified or acceded to by 132 States:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan,
Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi,
Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo,
Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,
Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia,
Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea,
Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland,
Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libyan Arab
Jamahiriya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia,
Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua,

Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea,
Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San
Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname,
Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo,
Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States
of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entered into force on 23 March 1976, three
months after the date of deposit with the Secretary-General of the thirty-fifth instrument of
ratification or accession, as provided in article 49. As at 30 September 1995, the Covenant had
been ratified or acceded to by 132 States:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan,
Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi,
Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo,
Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,
Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia,
Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana,
Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica,
Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique,
Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay,
Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian
Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovakia,
Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic,
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine,
United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan,
Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

As at the same date, 44 States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
had made the declaration under its article 41, recognizing the competence of the Human Rights
Committee “to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State Party claims that
another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations” under the Covenant. The provisions of
article 41 entered into force on 28 March 1979 in accordance with paragraph 2 of that article.

The first Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entered
into force simultaneously with the Covenant, having received the minimum 10 ratifications or
accessions required. As at 30 September 1995, 85 States parties to the Covenant had also become
parties to the first Optional Protocol:

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin,
Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile,
Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El
Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, Guyana,
Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mauritius, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand,
Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea,
Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles,
Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zaire and Zambia.

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at
the abolition of the death penalty, entered into force on 11 July 1991, having received the minimum
10 ratifications or accessions required. As at 30 September 1995, the Protocol had been ratified or
acceded to by 28 States:

Australia, Austria, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy,
Luxembourg, Malta, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Portugal,
Romania, Seychelles, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Worldwide influence of the International Bill of Human Rights

From 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed, until 1976,
when the International Covenants on Human Rights entered into force, the Declaration was the only
completed portion of the International Bill of Human Rights. The Declaration, and at a later stage
the Covenants, exercised a profound influence on the thoughts and actions of individuals and their
Governments in all parts of the world.

The International Conference on Human Rights, which met at Teheran from 22 April to 13 May 1968 to
review the progress made in the 20 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration and to
formulate a programme for the future, solemnly declared in the Proclamation of Teheran:

1 . It is imperative that the members of the international community fulfil their solemn
obligations to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all
without distinctions of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other
opinions;

2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states a common understanding, of the peoples of the
world concerning the inalienable and inviolable rights of all members of the human family and
constitutes an obligation for the members of the international community;

3. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial
Countries and Peoples, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination as well as other conventions and declarations in the field of human rights adopted
under the auspices of the United Nations, the specialized agencies and the regional
intergovernmental organizations, have created new standards and obligations to which States should
conform;

. . .

Thus, for more than 25 years, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights stood alone as an
international “standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. It became known and was
accepted as authoritative both in States which became parties to one or both of the Covenants and
in those which did not ratify or accede to either. Its provisions were cited as the basis and
justification for many important decisions taken by United Nations bodies; they inspired the
preparation of a number of international human rights instruments, both within and outside the
United Nations system; they exercised a significant influence on a number of multilateral and
bilateral treaties; and they had a strong impact as the basis for the preparation of many new
national constitutions and national laws.

The Universal Declaration came to be recognized as a historic document articulating a common
definition of human dignity and values. The Declaration is a yardstick by which to measure the
degree of respect for, and compliance with, international human rights standards everywhere on
earth.

The coming into force of the Covenants, by which States parties accepted a legal as well as a moral
obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, did not in any way
diminish the widespread influence of the Universal Declaration. On the contrary, the very existence
of the Covenants, and the fact that they contain the measures of implementation required to ensure
the realization of the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration, gives greater strength to
the Declaration.

Moreover, the Universal Declaration is truly universal in scope, as it preserves its validity for
every member of the human family, everywhere, regardless of whether or not Governments have
formally accepted its principles or ratified the Covenants. On the other hand, the Covenants, by
their nature as multilateral conventions, are legally binding only on those States which have
accepted them by ratification or accession.

In many important resolutions and decisions adopted by United Nations bodies, including the General
Assembly and the Security Council, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and one or both
Covenants have been cited as the basis for action.

Nearly all the international human rights instruments adopted by United Nations bodies since 1948
elaborate principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The International
Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights states in its preamble that it developed out of recognition of the fact
that

in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings
enjoyin freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone
may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.

A similar statement is made in the preamble to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights.

The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly in 1975 (resolution
3452 (XXX)), spells out the meaning of article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that
no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This
prohibition was further reinforced by the adoption in 1984 of the Convention against Torture and
Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (General Assembly resolution 39/46).
Similarly, the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination
Based on Religion or Belief, proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1981 (resolution 36/55); clearly
defines the nature and scope of the principles of non discrimination and equality before the law
and the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief contained in the Universal
Declaration and the International Covenants.

A similar situation prevails as regards international human rights instruments adopted outside the
United Nations system. For example, the preamble to the Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the Council of Europe at Rome in 1950, concludes with
the following words:

Being resolved, as the Governments of European countries which are like-minded and have a common
heritage of political traditions, ideals, freedom and the rule of law, to take the first steps for
the collective enforcement of certain of the rights stated in the Universal Declaration;

Article II of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity, adopted at Addis Ababa in 1963,
provides that one of the purposes of the Organization is “to promote international cooperation,
having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights”. The American Convention on Human Rights, signed at San José, Costa Rica, in 1969, states
in its preamble that the principles to which it gives effect are those set forth in the Charter of
the Organization of American States, in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man,
and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Judges of the International Court of Justice have occasionally invoked principles contained in the
International Bill of Human Rights as a basis for their decisions.

National and local tribunals have frequently cited principles set out in the International Bill of
Human Rights in their decisions. Moreover, in recent years, national constitutional and legislative
texts have increasingly provided measures of legal protection for those principles; indeed, many
recent national and local laws are clearly modelled on provisions set forth in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants, which remain a beacon for all present
and future efforts in the field of human rights, both nationally and internationally.

Finally, the World Conference on Human Rights, held at Vienna in June 1993, adopted by acclamation
the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, in which it welcomed the progress made in the
codification of human rights instruments and urged the universal ratification of human rights
treaties. In addition, all States were encouraged to avoid, as far as possible, the resort to
reservations (part 1, para. 26).

Thus the International Bill of Human Rights represents a milestone in the history of human rights,
a veritable Magna Carta marking mankind’s arrival at a vitally important phase: the conscious
acquisition of human dignity and worth.

Printed at United Nations, Geneva June 1996