U.N. Commission Adopts Draft of Covenant Binding Governments to Respect Human Rights

The Commission on Human Rights this morning adopted a portion of the draft International Covenant on Human Rights, dealing with the duties and obligations of states party to the covenant. The text as adopted reads.

“1. Each state party hereto undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in this covenant, without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

“2. Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each state undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of this covenant, to adopt within a reasonable time such legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in this covenant.”

A United Kingdom amendment to include a provision that states should give full and complete effect by law to the provisions of the covenant before ratifying it was rejected by 10 votes, with Denmark, India and Lebanon abstaining. Only Britain voted for the amendment.

Several delegates pointed out that such a provision would be contrary to normal international practice on the ratification of covenants and conventions. They added that ratification of the covenant would be delayed or prevented if the states were required to adopt or alter their legislation in compliance with its provisions.

A five-nation effort to get the U.N. Human Rights Commission to keep alive a proposal for the establishment of an International Court on Human Rights stalled when the Commission, by a vote of eight to five, with two abstentions, turned down a French-Australian resolution asking the Economic and Social Council to obtain a report from the International Law Commission on all proposals–official and non-official–for implementing a Human Rights covenant through international judicial organs.

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