INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS (ICCPR)
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a treaty adopted by the United Nations on December 16, 1966 and put into effect March 23, 1976. It commits its signatory nations to respect human rights, including the right to life, freedom of religion, speech and assembly, and the right to vote and have access to a fair trial. The ICCPR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
President Carter signed the treaty in 1977, and the Senate voted to ratify it September 8, 1992 under President George H.W. Bush, with an unprecedented number of reservations.
Note: The UN treaty system finds Reservations, Understandings and Declarations that seek to limit the commitments of the ratifying nation to be unenforceable.
CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION (ICERD)
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is a United Nations convention, which commits its signatories to the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of understanding among all races.
Article 1 of the Convention defines “racial discrimination” as
…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 recognition, 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.
It commits signatory nations to outlaw hate speech and make racist organizations illegal. The ICERD was adopted and opened for signature on December 21, 1965, and put into effect on January 4, 1969. It was the first human rights treaty to include an individual complaints mechanism with a committee of 18 independent experts elected by signatory nations, which makes it enforceable against nations that have ratified it.
President Clinton signed the treaty and the Senate voted to ratify the treaty on October 21, 1994.
CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE (ICAT)
The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) is a human rights instrument that forbids torture around the world. Article 1.1 defines torture as:
Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
It calls for nations to prevent torture within their borders and forbids them to transport people outside of their borders where there may be threat of torture. The UN adopted the text on December 10, 1984 and it came into force on June 26, 1987. June 26 is now recognized as the International Day in Support of Torture Victims.
The United States signed the treaty on April 18, 1988 under President Clinton and ratified it by Senate vote on October 21, 1994.