Interpreting the Right to Life: ESCR-Net member submissions to the Human Rights Committee

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

In mid-2017, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) released its draft General Comment on the Right to Life (under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and invited comments on the draft by all interested stakeholders, including Member States, other UN and regional human rights mechanisms, UN organizations or specialised agencies, National Human Rights Institution, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, and academics. In response, 12 organizational members of ESCR-Net generated submissions (available below).

UN treaty body general comments guide the interpretation of international human rights and assist State implementation of treaty obligations. They are often used to: inform legislative drafting, support strategic litigation arguments, build knowledge about rights among communities, and further human rights enjoyment in practice.

The HRC has not issued a general comment on the right to life in over 30 years. Therefore, this process offered an important opportunity at the international level to discuss how the right to life – as part of an evolving, rather than static, international human rights framework – should be interpreted, given current global conditions, the indivisibility and interdependence of rights, and the lived experiences of people around the world, particularly the most marginalized.

In particular, this HRC Draft General Comment would provide guidance on issues relevant to collective ESCR-Net action on key economic, social and cultural rights concerns. These include:

  • general conditions in society that may eventually give rise to direct threats to life or prevent individuals from enjoying their right to life with dignity;
  • corporate activities;
  • due diligence obligations;
  • non-discrimination and equality;
  • women’s reproductive rights;
  • environmental degradation, climate change and non-sustainable development;
  • state extraterritorial obligations; and
  • human rights defenders.

The HRC received more than 150 submissions, including the following from ESCR-Net members (and member allies):

It is anticipated that the HRC will continue to revise the draft general comment and release a final version in 2018. Further information can be found on the HRC webpage.