Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

It has long been observed by the American Association for the ICJ (AAICJ) that one of the main instruments employed by governments to repress and deny the fundamental rights and freedoms of peoples has been the illegal and unwarranted Declaration of Martial Law or a State of Emergency. 

Very often these measures are taken under the pretext of the existence of a “ public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” or “ threats to its national security.”

The abuse of applicable provisions allowing governments to limit and derogate from certain rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has resulted in the need for a closer examination of the conditions and grounds for permissible limitations and derogations in order to achieve an effective implementation of the rule of law. The United Nations General Assembly has frequently emphasized the importance of a uniform interpretation of limitations on rights enunciated in the Covenant.

With this in mind, the A AICJ initiated a colloquium composed of 31 distinguished experts in international law, held at Siracusa, Italy, in the Spring of 1984. This meeting, the first of its kind, was co-sponsored by the ICJ, the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights, and the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences.

The participants examined the limitation and derogation provisions in the Covenant, seeking to identify:

  1. their legitimate objectives;
  2. the general principles of interpretation which govern their imposition and application; and
  3. some of the main features of the grounds for limitation or derogation

The document contains:

  • an introductory note
  • the texts of the Siracusa Principles, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Optional Protocol, plus individual limitation provisions cross-referenced to the Covenant

Siracusa principles-ICCPR-legal submission-1985-eng (full text in English, PDF)


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