Thursday, May 9, 2013

Optional Protocol to the ICESCR Has Entered into Effect

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights took effect on May 5, 2013.  It will allow individuals or groups to file a complaint with the United Nations if their rights are infringed by a Member State that is party to the Protocol.

In a statement celebrating the occasion as “a major advance,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, voiced hope that the Protocol would finally fill a long-time gap in international law. “Egregious violations of economic, social and cultural rights are occurring, often unnoticed, on a daily basis, which in the area of civil and political rights would have been immediately condemned,” said Ms. Pillay in a news release.  “This Protocol will help to address this imbalance.”

According to the Protocol, citizens of signatory nations will be permitted to appeal to the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on specific rights-related cases after they have exhausted all attempts to find justice in their respective country.  The Protocol grants the Committee authorization to conduct inquiries if it receives reliable information indicating “grave or systematic violations by a State party of any of the rights covered by the Covenant.” 

The Protocol took effect on May 5, 2013, three months after Uruguay became the required tenth country to ratify it.  The parties to the Optional Protocol are:

  • Argentina,
  • Bolivia,
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina,
  • Ecuador,
  • El Salvador,
  • Mongolia,
  • Portugal,
  • Slovakia,
  • Spain, and
  • Uruguay.

Click here for a copy of the Optional Protocol.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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