Recognizing the Indivisibility of the Right to Life with Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Written Submission for the General Discussion on the Preparation for a General Comment on Article 6 (Right to Life) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

In its Written Submission to the Human Rights Committee, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, with the support of ESCR-Net, calls on the Committee to reaffirm the interdependence and indivisibility of civil and political rights with economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights in the context of the modern recognition that both categories of rights are justiciable and subject to effective remedies.

The Submission analyzes the present state of human rights law, including the Human Rights Committee’s own pronouncements, to demonstrate that the right to life requires States to abide by both negative and positive human rights obligations, and that issues such as homelessness and denial of access to water, sanitation and health care all rise to violations of Art. 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Submission recommends that the Committee’s new General Comment 36 on Article 6 should:

  1. Reaffirm the interdependence and indivisibility of the right to life with ESC rights, recognizing that obligations under article 6 frequently overlap with obligations to realize rights to food, clothing, housing, health, water sanitation and other ESC rights.
  2. Clarify that Article 6 imposes obligations to address systemic factors leading to violations of the right to life, and requires the adoption of strategies with clear goals, timelines, monitoring and accountability, participation of affected groups and access to legal remedies.
  3. Clarify that violations of the right to life may result from either state action or inaction, may be intentional or may be unintended consequences of policies or programmes, may relate to failures to provide for minimum essential requirements of from failures to implement comprehensive plans and strategies or to regulate non-State actors.
  4. Ensure that the right to life is interpreted consistently with the right to substantive equality and non-discrimination, with particular attention to the circumstances of women, people with disabilities, migrants, children, indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged or marginalize groups.
  5. Clarify that obligations to ensure access to adequate food, housing, health care, water, sanitation and other requirements of life, dignity and security derive from the right to life itself and are not dependent on the status accorded ESC rights under the domestic law of a State party to the ICCPR.

The Written Submission not only provides relevant information to the Human Rights Committee on the content of Art. 6, but is useful to all human rights advocates in crafting arguments to enforce or seek remedies for violations of social rights using the principle of indivisibility, interrelatedness and interdependence of all rights.

The Written Submission is available HERE.

Author: Bret Thiele.