International Covenant on Civil and Political RightsA United Nations treaty based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contained both first-generation civil and political rights and second-generation economic, social, and cultural rights, it could not garner the international consensus necessary to become a binding treaty. Particularly, a divide developed between capitalist nations such as the USA, which favored civil and political rights, and communist nations which favored economic, social and cultural rights. To solve this problem, two binding Covenants were created instead of one: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The former is monitored by the Human Rights Committee, a group of 18 experts who meet three times a year to consider periodic reports submitted by member States on their compliance with the treaty. Members of the Human Rights Committee are elected by member states, but do not represent any State. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights contains two Optional Protocols. The first optional protocol creates an individual complaints mechanism whereby individuals in member States can submit complaints, known as a communication, to be reviewed by the Human Rights Committee. Its rulings under the first optional protocol have created the most complex jurisprudence in the UN international human rights law system. The second optional protocol abolishes the death penalty. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights currently has 149 States Parties.
National implementation and effects
The United States Senate ratified the ICCPR in 1992, with a number of reservations, understandings, and declarations. In particular, the Senate declared that "the provisions of Article 1 through 26 of the Covenant are not self-executing." 138 Cong. Rec. S4781-84 (1992). The Senate stated that the declaration was meant to "clarify that the Covenant will not create a private cause of action in U.S. Courts." S. Exec. Rep., No. 102-23, at 15 (1992). Where a treaty or covenant is not self-executing, and where Congress has not acted to implement the agreement with legislation, no private right of action is created by ratification. Sei Fujii v. State 38 Cal.2d 718, 242 P.2d 617 (1952); also see Buell v. Mitchell 274 F.3d 337 (6th Cir., 2001) (discussing ICCPR's relationship to death penalty cases, citing to other ICCPR cases). Thus, the guarantees of the ICCPR are largely symbolic or aspirational within the United States.