JCHR Press Notice 03-04 No. 33

Session 2003-04                                        28 October 2004


Report on the Government's Review of International Human Rights Instruments

On 22 July 2004 the Government announced the outcome of the Interdepartmental Review of International Human Rights Instruments.  The review was announced on 7 March 2002 with the following terms of reference:

"To review the UK's position on international human rights instruments in the light of experience of the operation of the Human Rights Act, the availability of existing remedies within the UK, and law and practice in other EU Member States … "

A full copy of the Report on the outcome of the Review is available on the Department for Constitutional Affairs website.  The most significant outcomes are the Government's decisions:

•  To ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention for the       Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women ("CEDAW"), allowing individuals or groups of individuals to complain to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women;

•  Not to accept the optional right of individual petition to the relevant UN Committees under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR"), the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ("CERD") or the UN Convention Against Torture ("UNCAT"), but to review this decision two years after accepting the right of individual petition to the CEDAW Committee in the light of that experience;

•  To ratify, during the course of the review, Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights (abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances); the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (allowing for a system of inspection); and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child relating to Children in Armed Conflict;

•  To maintain the existing position in relation to a wide range of instruments, reservations and interpretative declarations.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), as part of its mandate to consider matters related to human rights in the United Kingdom, intends to report to Parliament on the outcome of the Review.  The purpose of the JCHR's report will be to ensure that Parliament is fully informed about the full range of human rights instruments which the Government has decided should continue to bind the UK, and about those human rights treaties by which it has decided the UK should not be bound or in respect of which it maintains reservations or interpretative declarations.  Its report will scrutinise the reasons given by the Government for its decision not to sign or ratify certain human rights instruments, and to maintain existing qualifications to the UK's obligations under certain instruments.

The Committee would welcome written submissions from any individual or organisation giving views on the outcome of the Government review.  Submissions should concentrate on whether there should be any further changes to the UK's position in relation to international human rights instruments, for example by signing or ratifying additional instruments, or by withdrawing from instruments by which the UK is currently bound, and should state concisely the reasons in support of that view. 

Submissions should be addressed to  Nick Walker, Commons Clerk of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA.  Electronic submission is acceptable to meet the closing date, but a signed hard copy should also be sent.  In any event, witnesses are asked wherever possible to accompany hard copy by an electronic version, preferably in Word  format. Submissions should arrive by Tuesday 30 November 2004.  The Committee may not be able to take into account evidence submitted later than this date.

Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed or circulated by the Committee at any stage.  You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee.  Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract Parliamentary privilege.