Human Rights Committee scrutinizes the United States regarding extra-territorial human rights obligations

Human Rights Committee scrutinizes the United States regarding extra-territorial human rights obligations

The Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), scrutinized the United States regarding its extra-territorial human rights obligations under the Covenant. The U.S. appeared before the Committee in March 2014 for its periodic review.

The Committee has made clear that the ICCPR includes extra-territorial obligations to respect and to ensure human rights, including by regulating and otherwise holding corporations accountable to those obligations for their activities abroad.

The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights successfully intervened with a Parallel Report laying out the extra-territorial obligations under the ICCPR and requesting that the Committee include scrutiny on those obligations within the periodic review of the U.S.

The List of Issues recently adopted by the Committee, which defines the scope of review, requires the U.S. to discuss its understanding of the “the scope of applicability of the Covenant with respect to individuals under its jurisdiction but outside its territory; in times of peace, as well as in times of armed conflict”. As the Parallel Report makes clear, the jurisprudence of the Committee provides a clear articulation of the extra-territorial application of ICCPR obligations. Notwithstanding, the U.S. continues to states that the ICCPR only applies within U.S. territory.

The Global Initiative’s Parallel Report for the periodic review also calls on the Committee to hold the U.S. accountable for extra-territorial obligations in the context of decisions made within international financial institutions such as the World Bank.

This examination of the U.S. provided advocates the opportunity to address the issue of extra-territorial obligations and provides the Committee the opportunity to finally settle this misinterpretation by the U.S. of its treaty obligations.


The Human Rights Committee issued the following Concluding Observation related to ETOs under the ICCPR

4. The Committee regrets that the State party continues to maintain its position that the Covenant does not apply with respect to individuals under its jurisdiction but outside its territory, despite the contrary interpretation of article 2(1) supported by the Committee’s established jurisprudence, the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice and state practice. The Committee further notes that the State party has only limited avenues to ensure that state and local governments respect and implement the Covenant, and that its provisions have been declared to be non-self-executing at the time of ratification. Taken together, these elements considerably limit the legal reach and the practical relevance of the Covenant (art. 2).

The State party should:

(a) Interpret the Covenant in good faith, in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to its terms in their context, including subsequent practice, and in the light of its object and purpose and review its legal position so as to acknowledge the extraterritorial application of the Covenant under certain circumstances, as outlined inter alia in the Committee’s general comment No. 31 (2004) on the nature of the general legal obligation imposed on States parties to the Covenant;’


The Global Initiative’s Parallel Report regarding the List of Issues can be found HERE.

The List of Issues can be found HERE.

The Global Initiative’s Parallel Report on the legal analysis for the periodic review can be found HERE.

The Joint Global Initiative – International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law factual Parallel Reports can be found HERE and HERE.

A Summary of the Human Rights Committee’s questioning can be found HERE.

Concluding Observations on the United States can be found HERE.

Categories Uncategorized | Tags: | Posted on March 17, 2014

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