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Introduction to Civil and Political Rights


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes all rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural. But international human rights law actually treats different categories of rights somewhat differently. In this Module we will take an in-depth look at civil and political rights, in particular at the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We will look at the circumstances in which these rights might be limited – using as a case study the prohibition on torture and debates on whether it might be weakened in the context of efforts to combat terrorism.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this module, you will be able to:

  1. describe the range of rights protected in ICCPR, and the types of obligations it gives rise to;
  2. explain, the limitation clauses in the ICCPR, that allow for some restrictions on the exercise of civil and political rights;
  3. explain the derogation clauses in the ICCPR, that can be invoked in a state of emergency;
  4. debate the permissible limits on human rights in the context of counter-terrorism policies, and
  5. discuss the Convention against Torture, and the prohibition on torture, and debates on its scope in countering the risks of terrorism.