Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on civil and political rights


The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a treaty that provides an additional mechanism for individuals to seek redress for violations of their rights under the ICCPR. The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty that outlines a range of civil and political rights that should be protected by member states.

The Optional Protocol was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. It has been ratified by a significant number of countries, but not all states that are party to the ICCPR are party to the Optional Protocol.

The Optional Protocol establishes two important procedures that individuals can use to seek remedies for violations of their rights. These procedures are:

  1. Individual Complaints Procedure: This procedure allows individuals to submit complaints, known as communications, to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the ICCPR by member states. If the Committee determines that a violation of the ICCPR has occurred, it can issue recommendations to the state party concerned. However, the Committee’s recommendations are not legally binding.
  2. Inquiry Procedure: This procedure empowers the Human Rights Committee to initiate an inquiry into grave or systematic violations of human rights by a state party. The Committee can conduct an inquiry based on reliable information received from credible sources. The purpose of the inquiry is to gather facts and make recommendations to the state party concerned. Unlike the individual complaints procedure, the inquiry procedure is not triggered by individual complaints but is initiated by the Committee itself.

It is important to note that the Optional Protocol is an additional mechanism available to individuals to seek redress for human rights violations. It does not replace domestic legal systems or other existing international and regional human rights mechanisms. Its aim is to provide an avenue for individuals to bring complaints to an international body when national remedies have been exhausted or are not available.

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