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On the Commonness of “UN Core Human Rights Conventions”
May 11,2018   By:On the Commonness of “UN Core Human Rights Conventions”

On the Commonness of “UN Core Human Rights Conventions”

 
MAO Junxiang*

 
Abstract: As a main component of internationa1 human rights documents, the United Nations core human rights conventions show obvious formal and substance commonalities. The formal commonali- ties consist in their being adopted by UN General Assembly and their similarity in structure, subjects and systems. Their commonalities in substance include the similarity of contents, the homogeneity of the procedural mechanisms and the complementary nature of their nor- mative interpretation. The commonalities among the UN’s core human rights treaties is the inevitable requirement of the universality and wholeness of human rights.


Keywords: UN core human rights conventions  formal com- monness  substantial commonness

Ⅰ.  Proposition of the Problem


Among the nearly 200 international human rights documents that have been for- mulated, there is a category called the United Nations core human rights conventions. For example, in some research literature the expression “UN core human rights con- ventions” or “UN core human rights documents” are often used.1 The term “UN core human rights conventions” is also frequently used on some governmental websites or academic human rights websites, synonymously with “core international human rights documents” or “core international human rights conventions.” For example, the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China states in the section “UN Human Rights Institutions” that “There are currently nine UN core human rights conventions of the United Nations.” 2 A citation of this statement can be found on the website of the Research Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Peking University Law School.3  In the Introduction to the Implementation of Human Rights Convention in Hong Kong SAR accessible on the official website of the Office of the Special Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, there is a paragraph saying “The six UN core human rights conventions include...” 4 On the website of China Society for Human Rights Studies, 20 “international core human rights documents” are listed, including the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Cove- nant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, So- cial and Cultural Rights.5 “Core international human rights instruments” or similar ex- pressions are also frequently used by overseas scholars. For example, Charles R. Beitz specifically lists several core international human rights instruments in his monograph “The Idea of Human Rights”.6 Similar use can also be found in “Qualified Audition: Explaining Reservations to International Human Rights Treaties” and other theses.7 In addition, the term “core treaties protecting human rights” is also used by some scholars.
 
Written and published at different times, the above-mentioned research papers or monographs differ from each other regarding specific documents to qualify as “UN core human rights conventions.” Although enumerative definition is found in some of them, no clear definition of “UN core human rights conventions” has been made.9 Nor do any of them answer the reason for certain documents to be called “UN core human rights conventions.” This thesis attempts to analyze the common features of the “UN core human rights conventions” in both form and substance, in order to solve the above confusion and deepen the understanding of this concept.

Ⅱ. Formal Commonalities of the “UN Core Human Rights Conven- tions”


The expression “UN core human rights conventions” has been cited by the academic community or some government official websites generally from the au- thoritative source of the United Nations. In 2002, Human Rights: A Compilation of International Instruments was compiled under the organization of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The document consists of two volumes. Volume I includes universal documents on international human rights and Volume II comprises regional documents on international human rights. The former consists of 94 documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Cove- nant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.10 In neither of the two volumes is the expression “core” used. However, to facilitate data retrieval by “users, especially government officials, civil society, human rights defenders, legal practitioners, aca- demics, general citizens, and others interested in human rights norms and standards”, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights compiled and published in 2002 Core International Human Rights Conventions, “a user-friendly col- lection of core treaties,” according to Human Rights: A Compilation of International Instruments.11 In 2007, it compiled another document entitled New Core International Human Rights Conventions,12 incorporating the three international human rights con- ventions recently adopted at the General Assembly of the United Nations, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Dis- appearance.
 
Meanwhile, the term “core international human rights instruments” is more ex- plicitly used on its website, mentioning that “(currently) there are 10 core international human rights instruments (9 human rights conventions and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). Each instrument has an expert committee to supervise the implemen- tation of their provisions by the State Parties. Some treaties are supplemented by op- tional protocols to deal with special issues.”13 According to the website, the UN core international human rights conventions include the following “9+1 model” and 18 documents of “Conventions + Protocols”, as seen in Table 1
.
Table 1 “Core international human rights instruments” listed on the official web- site of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
 
Title Abbrevi- ation  
Title
Date of Ratifi- cation  
Institution
 
CERD
 
Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
 
December 21,
1965
UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Dis- crimination
 
CCPR
International Convention of Civil Rights and Political Rights December 16,
1966
 
UN Human Rights Council

 
Title Abbrevi- ation  
Title
Date of Ratifi- cation  
Institution
 
ICCPR-OP1
Optional Protocol to the International Convention of Civil Rights and Political Rights  
December 16,
1966
 
UN Human Rights Council
 
 
ICCPR-OP2
The Second Optional Protocol to the In- ternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Aiming at the Abolition of Death Penalty  
December 15,
1989
 
 
UN Human Rights Council
 
CESCR
 
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
December 16,
1966
UN Committee on Eco- nomic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
CESCR-OP
Optional Protocol to International Cov- enant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  
December 10,
2008
UN Committee on Eco- nomic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
CEDAW
 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
 
December 18,
1979
UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
 
CEDAW-OP
Optional Protocol to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimina- tion Against Women  
December 10,
1999
UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
 
CAT
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  
December 10,
1984
 
UN Committee Against Torture
 
 
 
CAT-OP
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Optional Protocol to Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
 
 
December 18,
2002
UN Committee Against Torture
Subcommittee against Tor- ture and Other Cruel Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment Or Punishment
 
CRC
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child December 20,
1989
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
 
CRC-OP-AC
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict  
May 25, 2000
 
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
 
 
CRC-OP-SC
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography  
 
May 25, 2000
 
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
 
CRC-OP-IC
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communica- tions Procedure  
December 19,
2011
 
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
 
 
CMW
 
International Convention on the Protec- tion of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
 
December 18,
1990
UN Committee for Protec- tion of the Rights of All Mi- grant Workers and Members of Their Families
 
Title Abbrevi- ation  
Title
Date of Ratifi- cation  
Institution
 
CED
International Convention for the Protec- tion of All Persons from Enforced Disap- pearance  
December 20,
2006
 
Committee on Enforced Disappearance
 
CRPD
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities December 13,
2006
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
 
CRPD-OP
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities December 13,
2006
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
 
Although the website does not offer a clear explanation for the standards of the core UN human rights conventions, we can conclude their formal commonalities from the UN publication Core International Human Rights Conventions and the official website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A.    Formulating agency—the United Nations General Assembly


The UN’s Core International Human Rights Conventions is a human rights docu- ment formulated by the United Nations, adopted at its General Assembly and binding for all member countries. Even if formulated by the relevant specialized agencies of the United Nations, a convention will not be recognized as “a UN core human rights convention” unless it is adopted by the UN General Assembly and ratified by rele- vant countries.

Therefore, Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100 of 1951) and Convention for the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182 of 1999) formulated by the International Labour Or- ganization, Convention against Discrimination in Education formulated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on December 14, 1960 does not belong to the above category. Moreover, from the perspective of international law, the “UN core human rights conventions” should be international treaties with clear le- gal binding force on the State Parties that are signatories, prompting them to perform certain obligations under the international law. Some very important international human rights documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are rec- ognized as the cornerstone of international human rights law,14 but they do not  count as “UN core human rights conventions.”15 Therefore, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is open to question by including Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Core Internationa1 Human Rights Treaties edited and published in 2006.

B.    Structural features: entity rights plus supervision mechanism


The UN core human rights conventions have specific requirements on the  structure of their content. This includes not only substantive rights clauses, but also an in- ternational monitoring mechanism for supervising State Parties in implementing them. The nine human rights conventions listed in Table I all set forth at least one interna- tional monitoring mechanism, such as the reporting mechanism of the State Parties, individual complaints mechanism, State Parties accusation mechanism, international investigations, field visits and national preventive mechanisms.16 The State Parties reporting system is defined as a mandatory procedural obligation, while other supervi- sory procedures are mostly procedural.
 
To this end, monitoring bodies consisting of independent experts have been established for relevant conventions, including the Commission on Human Rights and the UN Committee against Torture17 to monitor the implementation of the inter- national obligations imposed on states parties. The existence of a monitoring body   is a distinctive feature for core human rights conventions. The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is special in this regard. Its greatest difference from other optional proto- cols is that it embraces in Article 1 a system of field visits and stipulates in Article 2 a subcommittee for supervising its implementation. Therefore, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has specifically proposed the “9+1” model.

C.   Thematic orientation: standards for core human rights


The substantive rights clauses of the UN core human rights conventions cover all major aspects of human rights and thus constitute the normative system of interna- tional laws with the most comprehensive protection of human rights. UN core human rights conventions mainly stipulate the standards for core human rights. They cover general civil rights, political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, as well as specific subjects. They encompass the protection of rights for women, children, immigrant individuals and persons with disabilities, and elimination of racial discrim- ination, torture, and enforced disappearances. Undoubtedly, the UN human rights convention system built on the basis of the International Covenant on Civil and Polit- ical Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights constitute the core component of international human rights law and the basic legal sources for obligations of nations under it.

D.    System structure: convention + protocol


The UN core human rights conventions are a relatively broad concept. They in- clude both international human rights documents named a “covenant”, “convention” or “protocol.” It can be seen from the official website of the Office of the United Na- tions High Commissioner for Human Rights, the optional protocols to the nine human rights conventions obviously also constitute UN core human rights conventions. Some of them have established new monitoring mechanisms for their respective conven- tions, including the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. Others supplement the substantive pro- visions of their respective conventions, including the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty. However, in either case they all form an integral part of their respec- tive conventions, to jointly create the framework of “substantive + procedural.”
 
In addition, the scope of the UN core human rights conventions is constantly be- ing expanded. From a practical point of view, its number has been continually increas- ing, in the four decades since the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights took force in 1976, giving rise to an international human rights treaty system embracing nine UN human rights conventions and their protocols. There is no reason to deny its future expansion, although that of course depends on the common will of the international community.

Therefore, UN core human rights conventions boast obvious formal common- ness, via which a formal definition can be obtained. Specifically, they should be human rights conventions and their protocols adopted at the UN General Assembly, acceded to by all countries, stipulating core human rights standards and including substantive provisions and supervision procedures for their implementation. In view of the fact that conventions and the protocols are also treaties in a broad sense despite their specific meanings in international law, UN core human rights conventions could thus be more justifiably called UN Core Human Rights Treaties.

Ⅲ. The Substantive Commonalities of the UN Core Human Rights Conventions


The UN Core Human Rights Conventions can be divided into two major catego- ries according to theme. Among them, the International Covenant on Civil and Polit- ical Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights commonly known as the “two UN conventions on human rights can be regarded as general human rights covenants. Others are specialized human rights conventions. On the whole, “UN core human rights conventions” boast considerable similarity due to substantial overlaps, a high degree of homogeneity due to consanguinity in procedural mechanisms, and obvious complementarity due to citations by monitoring agencies in interpretation. See the brief lists in Table 2 and Table 3.


Table 2    Correspondence between ICCPR and Special Human Rights Conventions

 
 
ICCPR
 
CERD
CE- DAW  
CAT
 
CRC
 
CMW
 
CED
 
CRPD
Right to self-de- termination(1)              
 
 
ICCPR
 
CERD
CE- DAW  
CAT
 
CRC
 
CMW
 
CED
 
CRPD
Against discrimi- nation (2.1)  
(2)
 
(2)
   
(2)
 
(1.1)(7)
   
(5)
Access to right relief (2.3)  
(6)
           
Gender equali- ty(3)    
(36)
         
(6)
Right to life(6)       (6) (9)   (10)
Against tor- ture(7)      
(1-16)
 
(37.1)(39)
 
(10)
   
(15)
Against enslave- ment(8)          
(11)
   
Personal freedom and safety(9)  
(5.2)
     
(37.2)
 
(16)
 
(1-25)
 
(14)
Humane treat- ment for all those deprived of freedom (10)        
 
(37.3)
 
 
(17)
   
Against impris- onment because of debt (11)          
(20)
   
Freedom of migration(12)  
(5.4.1;5.4.2)
     
(10)
 
(8)(39)
   
(18.1.3;18.1.4)
Immunity of aliens from arbi- trary expulsion (13)          
 
(22)
   
Right to a fair trial (14)  
(5.1)
     
(40)
 
(18)
   
Prohibition of the retroactive ef- fects of criminal offences (15)          
 
(19)
   
Legal personali- ty(16)          
(24)
   
Right of privacy (17)        
(16)
 
(14)
   
(22)
Freedom of reli- gion belief (18)  
(5.4.7)
     
(14)
 
(12)
   
Freedom of expression(19)  
(5.4.8)
     
(13)(17)
 
(13)
   
(21)
 
 
ICCPR
 
CERD
CE- DAW  
CAT
 
CRC
 
CMW
 
CED
 
CRPD
 
Against war propaganda and incitement of hatred(20)
Against in- citement of racial hatred and discrim- ination(4)            
Right of peaceful gathering(21)  
(5.4.9)
     
(15)
     
Right of associa- tion (22)  
(5.4.9)
     
(15)
 
(40)
   
 
Marriage and family rights (23)
(5.4.3;  
(9)(16)
     
(29), (44)
  (18.1.1;
5.4.4; 18.1.2),
5.4.5) (23)
Child’s rights(24)       (78)     (7)(18.2)
Political rights(25)  
(5.3)
 
(78)
     
(41-42)
   
(29)
Legal equali- ty(26)    
(15)
         
(12)
Rights of minori- ty(27)        
(30)
     
        Maximal bene- fits for children (3) (21) Property right(15) (32)(46)    
Judicial pro- tection (12)
        Respect for the duties, rights and obligations of parents or custodians (5)
(18)
 
Prohibition of illegal confiscation of docu- ments (21)
   
Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse (16)
        Do not separate  
Seeking
   
 
Protection
children from
their parents diplomatic
against their will or consular of personal
or force them protection integrity (17)
to region their (23)
parents (9-10)
         
Children’s right to self-determi- nation (12)
National treatment (43)(45)   Living inde- pendently and integrating into the community
(19)
 
 
ICCPR
 
CERD
CE- DAW  
CAT
 
CRC
 
CMW
 
CED
 
CRPD
        Rights of refu- gee children(22) and children with disabili- ties(23)  
The right to taxation and work, etc. (47-71)
   
 
ICCPR
 
CERD
CE- DAW  
CAT
 
CRC
 
CMW
 
CED
 
CRPD
        Protecting chil- dren from illegal use, production and trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotro- pic substances (33)      
 
 
Personal abil- ity of action (20)
        Freedom from sexual exploita- tion and sexual abuse (34)      
        Abduction, sale or trafficking of children (35)      
        Armed conflict and child protec- tion (38)      
 

Table 3    Correspondence between ICESCR and Other Conventions

 
ICESCR CERD CEDAW CRC CMW CRPD
Right to self-determina- tion (1)          
Against discrimination(2) (2) (2) (2) (1.1) (7)  
Gender equality (3)   (36)      
Right to work (68) (5.5.1;5.5.2) (11) (32) (25-26) (27)
Right to social securi- ty(9)  
(5.5.4)
   
(26)
 
(27)
 
The rights of family, mothers, children and juve- niles (10)          
(23)
Right to fair standard of living (11)  
(5.5.3)
   
(27)
   
(28)
Right to health (12) (5.5.4) (12) (24), (25) (28) (25-26)
 
ICESCR CERD CEDAW CRC CMW CRPD
Right to education (13- 14)  
(5.5.5)
 
(10)
 
(28), (29)
 
(30)
 
(24)
Cultural rights (15) (5.5.6) (13.1) (31) (31) (30)
 

A. Overlap in the content of rights


1.   The substantive content of the UN Human Rights Conventions is highly sim- ilar and even partially identical. The preambles of the two conventions are almost identical in the wording, and their texts also contain a number of articles with identical expression. For example, Articles 1, 46 and 47 (right to self-determination) in Inter- national Covenant on Civil Rights and Political Rights are identical to Article 1 (right to self-determination), 24 and 25 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, respectively. In addition, the two also have the same structural arrangement, both roughly including a common first part (Article 1 self-determination clauses), umbrella clauses, entity clauses, supervision mechanism clauses and miscel- laneous clauses.

2.   There are overlaps in substantive content between the two UN human rights conventions and the UN Special Core Human Rights Covenants. However, the former mainly deal with rights and are applicable to all people. Vertical in structure, they stip- ulate the collective rights to self-determination, individual civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights. The latter mainly concern specific subjects or specific rights dimensions. Horizontal in structure, they either involve equality (prohi- bition of racial discrimination and discrimination against women), special group rights (for women, children, disabled people, immigrant individuals and their families), or involve protection of personal liberty and safety (such as prohibition of enforced dis- appearance) or prohibition of torture. The rights of special groups are subordinated to civil rights, political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. In short, they are intertwined with and complementary to each other, forming a dense mesh of interna- tional law for human rights protection.

Therefore, although the UN special core human rights conventions are unique in the scope of rights protected and more specific in the requirements for state obliga- tions. However, the protection of rights is still centered on the UN human rights con- ventions. Compared with the special human rights conventions, the two UN human rights conventions are in a fundamental position.

B.    The homogeneity of the procedural mechanism


1.   Homogeneity in supervisory body

The supervisory bodies of the UN core human rights conventions feature a high degree of homogeneity in that all are treaty monitoring bodies except the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The criteria, composition, election and re- sponsibilities for their members are all specified in similarly worded chapters of   UN core human rights conventions. In terms of working mechanisms, they are all required to formulate procedural rules and working methods, and publish annual reports. In fulfilling their supervisory functions, they often adopt general opinions in interpreting the clauses of their respective treaties.
 

2.   Homogeneity in supervisory program


For example, in terms of reporting mechanism, most of the reports submitted by State Parties include initial reports, periodic reports, and supplementary reports. The content of those reports cover “measures and progress, influencing factors and diffi- culties, and other information.” The report review process includes report submission, list of issues, constructive dialogues, concluding observations, etc. In the individual complaint mechanism, there are clear specifications for the subjects (individuals or groups) and admissibility. Other procedural mechanisms, such as allegations by states parties and mechanisms for field investigations are highly similar.

3.   Synergy in mechanism operation


For example, in order to standardize the preparation of national reports, the treaty monitoring bodies have jointly formulated a guideline for drafting State Parties reports (HRI/GEN/2/Rev.5). To address the delayed operation, the lack of content, and the backlog of reports in the reporting mechanisms of State Parties, a campaign called “the process for strengthening treaty bodies” was launched since 2009. Under the leader- ship of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, treaty monitoring bodies, countries, United Nations entities, civil society and national human rights institutions actively participated in the campaign, finally forming a systematic reform document United Nations Reform: Measures and Proposals. Comprehensive report schedules and simplified and unified reporting processes were implemented to alleviate the current problems in the reporting process. 

C.    Mutual citation among monitoring agencies in treaty interpretation


In practice, the treaty monitoring bodies often draw on each other and cite each other in interpreting the “UN core human rights conventions.” The treaty monitoring body of one often cites the provisions of other core human rights conventions or other treaty monitoring agencies to supplement the analysis of the standard interpretation of its convention. Mutual citations mainly occur first between the two UN human rights conventions and second between them and UN special core human rights conventions.

1.  Mutual citations between the two UN human rights conventions


In view of the principle of civil rights, political rights and economic, social and cultural rights being interrelated and inseparable, the treaty monitoring mechanisms invokes the regulations of each other in interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for supplementation. For example, in its General Comment No. 3 on the obligations of states parties, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considers that “Indeed, those States parties which are also parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are already obligated (by virtue of articles 2 (paras. 1 and 3), 3 and 26) of that Covenant to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms (including the right to equality and non-discrimination) recognized in that Covenant are violated, “shall have an effective remedy.”19 The stipulation is cit- ed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, indicating that the vi- olated economic, social and cultural rights can be remedied through judicial channels. In its General Comment No. 17 on the rights of the child, the Commission on Human Rights held that, “In most cases, however, the measures to be adopted are not specified in the Covenant and it is for each State to determine them in the light of the protection needs of children in its territory and within its jurisdiction. The Committee notes in this regard that such measures, although intended primarily to ensure that children ful- ly enjoy the other rights enunciated in the Covenant, may also be economic, social and cultural. For example, every possible economic and social measure should be taken to reduce infant mortality and to eradicate malnutrition among children and to prevent them from being subjected to acts of violence and cruel and inhuman treatment or from being exploited by means of forced labour or prostitution, or by their use in the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, or by any other means. In the cultural field, every possible measure should be taken to foster the development of their personality and to provide them with a level of education that will enable them to enjoy the rights recog- nized in the Covenant, particularly the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
 

2. Mutual citations between the two UN conventions on human rights and UN special core human rights conventions


There are even more cases of mutual reference between the two UN conventions on human rights and special core human rights conventions. First, the two UN con- ventions on human rights occupy a fundamental position in international human rights law, stipulating the basic framework for the interpretation and application of special human rights conventions. Second, the special core human rights conventions con- tain more comprehensive and specific regulation on the specific subjects and specific rights to be protected, entailing more explicit obligations for State Parties. Therefore, the treaty monitoring bodies of the former tend to adopt the provisions in the latter to clarify the core concepts and obligations of the former. For example, in analyzing “non-discrimination”, the Commission on Human Rights Committee suffered from the lack of specification for this concept in the Convention, so it cited the Interna- tional Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women for interpretation. The Commission on Human Rights held that “the Covenant neither de- fines the term ‘discrimination’ nor indicates what constitutes discrimination. However, Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides that the term ‘racial discrimination’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recog- nition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. Similarly, Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimi- nation against Women provides that ‘discrimination against women’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of hu- man rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
 
In practice, there are many cases of UN special core human rights conventions citing the two UN human rights conventions. For example, in its General Recommen- dation No. 21, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination mainly analyses the connotations of the right to self-determination for ethnic or religious groups or minorities in accordance with the provisions of the two UN human rights covenants. It held that “1. The Committee notes that ethnic or religious groups or minorities frequently refer to the right of self-determination as a basis for an alleged right to secession. In this connection the Committee wishes to express the following views… 2. The right to self-determination of peoples is a fundamental principle of international law. It is enshrined in article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, in article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as in oth- er international human rights instruments. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for the rights of peoples to self-determination besides the right of ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion or to use their own language.”22 Taking another exam- ple, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women bases its analysis of women’s participation in politics and public life on the normative framework of Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its General Recommendation No. 23. It believed that, “The Convention envisages that, to be effective, this equality must be achieved within the framework of a political sys- tem in which each citizen enjoys the right to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections held on the basis of universal suffrage and by secret ballot, in such a way as to guarantee the free expression of the will of the electorate, as provided for under in- ternational human rights instruments, such as Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”23 For similar cases please refer to General Comment No. 1,24 General Comment No. 425 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
 

Ⅳ. Conclusion


It can be seen from the analysis that the “UN core human rights conventions” have maximal formal commonness and substantial commonness. Therefore, “UN core human rights conventions” as a relatively well established term has its inherent plausi- bility. Formal commonness shows not only the inherent systemic and structural beau- ty of UN core human rights conventions, but also the unity and coordination of the United Nations in promoting international protection of human rights. The substantial commonness confirms the position proclaimed in the Vienna Declaration and Pro- gramme of Action that “all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated.” The “UN core human rights conventions” should and must also support and cite each other substantially. Explanation of one right often requires the use of another. With the mutual reference, the normative interpretation and development of the “UN core human rights conventions” will gradually converge, until reaching unity. The formal and substantial commonness of the “UN core human rights conventions” are the inevitable requirements and important manifestations of the universality and integrity of human rights.

(Translated by QIAN Chuijun)
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