The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Kingdom Law

By David Harris; Sarah Joseph | Go to book overview

17
Obligations of Non-Discrimination

LORD LESTER OF HERNE HILL QC AND SARAH JOSEPH


INTRODUCTION

Discrimination, inequality, and prejudice occur throughout the world, including the United Kingdom. They can involve the most insidious human rights problems, especially if they are historically, and even unconsciously, rooted in a population's psyche. American slavery, the Holocaust, and South African apartheid are among the countless tragic episodes that show how discrimination can engender gross human rights abuses, affronting human dignity.

In recognition of the devastating consequences of discrimination, the international community has adopted important legal measures. General guarantees of non-discrimination are contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),1 as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),2 the American Convention on Human Rights 1969,3 and the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights.4 The UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are aimed at eliminating specific types of discrimination. Of these international measures, the ICCPR contains the most comprehensive non-discrimination guarantees.

None of these international instruments has been directly incorporated into United Kingdom domestic law. The United Kingdom has legislated against discrimination on the basis of sex (throughout the United Kingdom),5 colour, race, ethnic or national origins, or nationality (in Great Britain),6 and religious belief and political opinion (in Northern Ireland).7 However, this legislation operates only in certain areas of life;

____________________
1
Arts. 2(1), 3, and 26.
2
Art. 14.
3
Art. 24.
4
Arts. 2 and 3
5
The Equal Pay Act 1970, as amended, the Equal Pay ( Northern Ireland) Act 1970, as amended, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (hereinafter SDA) and the Sex Discrimination ( Northern Ireland) Orders 1976 (SI 1042 (NI 15)) and 1988 (SI 1303 (NI 13)).
6
Race Relations Act 1976 (hereinafter RRA).
7
Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, Pt. III, and Fair Employment ( Northern Ireland) Acts 1976 and 1989.

-563-

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