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Human Rights Committee discusses Draft General Comment on the Right of Everyone to Liberty and Security of Person

Human Rights Committee 

18 July 2013

Also Discusses its Methods of Work

The Human Rights Committee today continued its first reading, paragraph by paragraph, of a draft General Comment on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right of everyone to liberty and security of person.  The Committee then continued to discuss its methods of work in relation to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures.

The Committee adopted the first ten paragraphs of a draft General Comment on Article 9 of the Covenant.  The discussion focused on the alternative wording proposed by Gerald L. Neuman, Committee Rapporteur, on paragraph 3, which underlines, among others, that Article 9 recognizes and protects both liberty of person, which concerns freedom from confinement of the body, and security of person, which concerns freedom from injury to the body.  Committee Experts decided to add a reference to mental integrity to the definition of bodily integrity and reiterated that the right to security of person was independent from the right to liberty of person. 

The Committee then turned to paragraphs 11 to 13 of the draft General Comment, which concern arbitrary and unlawful detention.  Several Experts noted that a legal detention could be arbitrary and the notion of “arbitrariness” had to be interpreted broadly to include elements such as inappropriateness, injustice and lack of predictability.  Remand in custody had to be reasonable and necessary in all circumstances.  It was agreed that a decision to keep a person in detention should be open to periodic review, and should not continue beyond the period for which a State party could provide appropriate justification. 

The Human Rights Committee publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the form of General Comments on thematic issues. To date, it has issued 34 General Comments. The draft General Comment on the right of everyone to liberty and security of person was presented by Committee Rapporteur Gerald L. Neuman on 21 March (see press release CT/13/10). 

The Committee will resume its discussion on the draft General Comment on Tuesday 23 July, at 10 a.m.

This afternoon the Committee discussed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures.  The mandate encompassed three main functions: taking decisions on the registration of communications; dealing with requests from authors on interim and protection measures; and responding to any procedural matters that could arise after registration.  The scope of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate extended from the moment a new communication was received until the communication was scheduled to be examined by the Committee’s working group on communications. 

Committee Experts discussed various suggestions regarding interim and protection measures for people submitting communications to the Committee.  Experts indicated that the Committee’s rules of procedure should be amended in order to allow the Committee to grant additional protective measures.  Ordinary protection measures were available for alleged victims but measures attending to other involved parties, such as the family of the victim, were lacking.  The Special Rapporteur should keep on file the reasons for giving or refusing provisional measures; and an anonymised summary could be included in the Committee’s annual report. 

Committee Experts also addressed the registration of communications.  A distinction had to be made between non-registration and declaration of inadmissibility.  Communications that were manifestly inadmissible were registered and this led to a considerable loss of time.  Finally, Committee Experts discussed the conditions under which the proceedings should be confidential. 

The Committee continued its afternoon meeting in private to consider communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of the provisions of the Covenant.

The Human Rights Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 22 July, at 10 a.m., to hear the presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur for follow-up on concluding observations and to continue the discussion on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures.

For use of the information media; not an official record