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

By David Harris; Sarah Joseph | Go to book overview

19
The Complementarity of the Covenant and the European Convention on Human Rights--Recent Developments

MARKUS G. SCHMIDT*

It goes without saying that both the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ('ECHR' or 'European Convention') and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ('ICCPR' or 'Covenant') are milestones in the international community's post-war endeavours to strengthen the international protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Both protect a fairly comprehensive range of civil and political rights. While the scope of coverage of the two instruments is comparable, there are nonetheless some noteworthy differences. The following passages propose to highlight and to analyse some of these differences, without purporting to be exhaustive.

Firstly, the different historical context in the adoption of, and the cultural environment of states parties having ratified or acceded to, the respective instruments, must not be overlooked. The European Convention was discussed and negotiated only a few years after the end of the Second World War, in a political context marked by the Cold War and by superpower distrust. Nonetheless, it was adopted, in 1950, among countries displaying a fair amount of cultural homogeneity.

The Covenant was negotiated over a period of over fifteen years in the Commission on Human Rights and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. Both are universal bodies where cultural differences were, if not explicitly and outspokenly, drawn into the equation when the Covenant was negotiated and finally adopted in 1966. It can also be argued that, while the Cold War background and superpower conflict certainly influenced the negotiations in the early stages, they were less of an issue in 1966. The ICCPR displays, in the wording of several of its provisions, more progressive concepts in the protection of the rights of the individual than does the ECHR.

____________________
*
The views expressed in this chapter are the author's personal opinions and do not reflect those of the United Nations Organization.

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