UN Human Rights Treaties
The UK has ratified 7 of the UN's core human rights treaties. This means the State has entered into a voluntary agreement to be legally bound by all of the obligations contained with each treaty.
- CERD Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) Ratified in 1969
CERD commits the Government to the elimination of racial discrimination based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin and requires the promotion of understanding among all races. This means that all Civil Servants are obliged not to discriminate on the basis of race and not to sponsor or defend racism. The Government must prohibit racial discrimination within their jurisdictions. The Convention also requires the Government to criminalise hate speech, which includes acts of or the incitement to racial discrimination and violence.
The CERD is monitored by The Exectuive Office.
- ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) Ratified in 1976
The ICCPR commits the Government to guarantee civil and political rights, such as the right to life, freedom of religion or the right to a fair trial. The ICCPR was elaborated alongside ICESCR to develop the rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into a legally binding treaty. The three documents are commonly referred to as the ‘International Bill of Human Rights’.
The ICCPR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and entered into force in 1976.
The ICCPR is monitored by The Executive Office.
- ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) Ratified in 1976
ICESCR was adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. The Covenant protects the economic, social and cultural rights of all individuals, including rights such as the right to health, the right to education and the right to work. The ICESCR was elaborated alongside ICCPR to develop the rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into a legally binding treaty. The three documents are commonly referred to as the ‘International Bill of Human Rights’.
The ICESCR is monitored by The Executive Office.
- CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) Ratified in 1986
CEDAW came into force in 1981 and is a landmark international agreement that affirms fundamental human rights and equality for women and girls. By ratifying the Convention, the NI Executive and Departments must take a range of measures to eliminate prejudices against women and girls and end discrimination based on sex or gender. This includes adopting legislation and temporary special measures, so women have equal opportunities and access to enjoy all their human rights.
The UK has also ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, which gives the Committee the authority to receive individual complaints, to conduct inquiries and country visits, as well as to adopt interim measures. Interim measures are requests to the UK to take urgent provisional measures to avoid irreparable damage to a victim or victims of an alleged violation.
The CEDAW is monitored by Department of Communities.
- CRPD Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) Ratified in 2009
The CRPD is the first UN treaty of the 21st Century and entered into force in 2008. The purpose of CRPD is “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”.
The Convention adopts a social model of disability rather than a medical one, focusing on the attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. The Government must therefore remove the social barriers by taking measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of their human rights and their full inclusion and participation in the community.
The UK has also ratified the Optional Protocol to CRPD, which gives the Department the authority to receive individual complaints, to conduct inquiries and country visits, as well as to adopt interim measures. Interim measures are requests to the UK to take urgent provisional measures to avoid irreparable damage to a victim or victims of an alleged violation of the CRPD.
The CRPD is monitored by Department of Communities.
- CAT Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) Ratified in 1988
CAT defines torture and commits States to take effective measures to prevent any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It also forbids the Government to expel, return or extradite individuals to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured. Further, any allegation of such treatment must be investigated promptly.
The UK has also ratified the Optional Protocol to CAT (OPCAT), which establishes the Sub-committee on Prevention. By signing up to OPCAT, the UK allows the Subcommittee on Prevention to visit “any place under its jurisdiction and control where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty”. This includes public and private custodial settings.
The CAT is monitored by Department of Justice.
- CRC Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) Ratified in 1991
CRC sets out the rights of all children below the age of 18. Coming into force in 1990, it requires that the Government acts in the best interests of the child and to allow parents to exercise their parental responsibilities. The Convention also acknowledges that children have the right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate; to be protected from abuse or exploitation, and to have their privacy protected.
The UK has also ratified the Optional Protocol to CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Optional Protocol to CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
The CRC is monitored by the Department of Education.