International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights



The right to self-determination


The ICCPR like the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) resulted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including the UK who extend the protections of this Covenant to St Helena, was adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1966.

The Covenant has a preamble and fifty-three articles, divided into six parts.


Part 1 (Article 1) defines the right of all peoples to self-determination, which includes the right to:

  • Freely determine their political status,

  • Pursue their economic, social and cultural goals,

  • Manage and dispose of their own resources.

It also recognises a negative right of people not to be deprived of their means of subsistence.

Importantly for St Helena and imposes an obligation on those countries (including the UK) responsible for non-self-governing and trust territories (colonies) to encourage and respect their self-determination.

Part 2 (Articles 2-5) obliges the countries signed up to the treaty to legislate where necessary to give effect to the rights recognised in the Covenant, and to provide effective legal remedy for any violation of those rights. Part 2 of St Helena’s Constitution is the highest law that protects those rights.

This part also requires these rights be recognised without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex,language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, and to ensure that they are enjoyed equally whatever our gender.

Only at times of national emergency may some of these rights be limited and even then not the rights to life, freedom from torture and slavery, the freedom from retrospective law, the right to personhood, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Part 3 (Articles 6-27) lists the rights themselves. These include the right to life, freedom from torture and slavery (Articles 6, 7, and 8);liberty and security of the person, fair trial and the concept of being innocent until proved guilty.

Other rights include freedoms of movement, thought, conscience and religion, speech, association and assembly, family rights, the right to a nationality, and the right to privacy.

Many of these rights include specific actions which must be undertaken by governments to realise them.

For full details of the rights protected follow the link below.

Part 4 (Articles 28-45) governs the establishment and operation of the Human Rights Committee and the reporting and monitoring of the Covenant. It also sets out the process for resolving disputes.

Parts 5 & 6 (Articles 46-53) deal with the administration of the Covenant.

Optional protocols

There are two Optional Protocols to ICCPR but these have not been ratified by the UK therefore do not apply on St Helena.

Current Recommendations for improvement

In July 2015, the Human Rights Committee recommended that the UK needed to improve upon. Some of those areas need addressing on St Helena too and form part of our strategic plan. They are:

  • strengthen efforts to prevent racism and xenophobia;

  • strengthen measures to prevent violence against women and girls;

  • take action to prevent self-inflicted deaths and self-harm of adults and young people in the custody of the state;

  • review the surveillance laws so that any interference with the right to privacy is legal, proportionate and necessary.

Useful Links

Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Matthew Ahmann The Equality and Human Rights Commission International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights
Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Matthew Ahmann

RESOURCES Go to: Resources pages index

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