I Book Review: Defining Civil and Political Rights: The Jurisprudence of the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Date01 March 2006
Published date01 March 2006
Subject MatterPart D: DocumentationI Book Review
Alex Conte, Scott Davidson, Richard Burchill,
Defining civil and political
rights: the jurisprudence of the United Nations Human Rights Committee,
Ashgate, Aldershot, 2004, xxi + 257 p., ISBN: 0-7546-2279-7*
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (hereafter: the Committee) draws
increasing attention from scholars. According to the preface, the authors apparently
hoped to complement Manfred Nowak’s ‘bible’ on the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (hereafter: the Covenant) published in 1993.
Shortly after
their publication, however, Nowak’s second, revised, edition was published.
Nowak’s book is approximately five times the size of Conte et al.’s book, so a proper
comparison is not possible. The present review will therefore discuss this book on its
own merits.
The three authors have each prepared a number of chapters. The book first
presents an overview of the Covenant and the Committee, dealing with general
issues such as the nature of the Covenant rights and the functions of the Committee.
The second chapter describes the procedure under the Optional Protocol. It deals
briefly with the various admissibility requirements, there is no presentation or
discussion of the Committee’s case-law on admissibility requirements. The
subsequent eight chapters deal with the rights guaranteed under the Covenant.
First, the right of self-determination (Article 1) is discussed, followed by
‘democratic and civil rights’. In the latter chapter, the authors discuss nine
provisions, including freedom of movement (Articles 12 and 13 – the latter deals
with aliens – IB), freedom of thought, conscience and religion, expression, and the
prohibition of war propaganda and incitement to hatred and violence (Articles 18,
19 and 20), freedom of assembly and association (Articles 21 and 21), the right to be
recognised as a person before the law (Article 16) and electoral rights (Article 25).
Then follows ‘security of the person’, covering the right to life, the prohibition of
torture and other ill-treatment, the prohibition of slavery and forced labour and the
right to liberty and security of person (Articles 6-10). Chapter 6 deals with the
judicial process (Articles 14 and 15) and includes also the prohibition of
imprisonment for failure to perform a contract (Article 11). Privacy, honour and
reputation (Article 17) is dealt with in Chapter 7, followed by equality and non-
discrimination (Articles 2(1), 3, 4(1), 14(1), 20, 23, 24, 25 and 26). The final two
chapters deal with minority rights (Article 27) and rights of the family and children
(Articles 23 and 24), respectively. The Appendices contain the text of the Covenant,
the Optional Protocol and the status of ratification of both instruments.
The substantive chapters are structured according to a pattern. First, there is a
brief introduction to the chapter’s subject, followed by the text of the article and a
subject-by-subject presentation of case-law, which also includes references to
relevant general comments. The authors have structured the case-law on the basis
of the sub-headings in the Covenant, and additional categories, where the
Committee’s case-law gave reason to do so. For example, there is a separate
heading for ‘medical treatment’ under Article 10(1), dealing with the right to
* Ineke Boerefijn is Senior Lecturer at the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, Utrecht
University, the Netherlands.
And not Convention, as stated in the preface.
Nowak, Manfred, U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: CCPR commentary, 2nd rev. ed., Engel,
Kehl am Rhein, 2005.

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