International Human Rights Law

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

I. Introduction🔗

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) sets out a binding framework for the protection of civil and political rights. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and entered into force on 23 March 1976.1 The Human Rights Committee (CCPR) monitors States’ implementation of the Covenant.2

Note to reader
For an explanation of the Committee’s powers and other international legal mechanisms that may be available to enforce a State’s obligations under the ICCPR, please consult the “Ratification and Enforcement of Treaties” chapter, “International Human Rights Law” section.

I.1 CRSV under the ICCPR🔗

The Committee has condemned sexual violence as ‘a form of extreme gender-based violence’3 that may also amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (“ill-treatment”), in contravention of:

  • Article 7 (on torture and ill-treatment).4 As the Covenant does not contain an exhaustive definition of the forms of treatment covered by article 7, and the Committee has not provided an exhaustive list of practices contrary to article 7 or established sharp distinctions between the different kinds of punishment or treatment,5 States should determine whether an act amounts to torture or ill-treatment on a case-by-case basis. However, the Committee has clarified that ‘article 7 relates not only to acts that cause physical pain but also to acts that cause mental suffering to the victim’.6 Further, it has specified that conflict-related rape may amount to torture, particularly in the form of gang rapes and rapes committed in detention;7
  • Article 17 (on the right to privacy and family life).8 The Committee has found that conflict-related rape committed by State agents constitutes an arbitrary interference with a victim/survivor’s privacy and sexual autonomy.9
Note to reader
The Committee has primarily addressed sexual violence through the lens of article 7. As such, all references to torture and ill-treatment in this subchapter encompass CRSV.

The Committee has noted that the provisions of the Covenant apply in situations of armed conflict in a complementary manner with international humanitarian law.10 It has acknowledged that sexual violence is frequently used as a weapon of war, by both armed groups and States’ armed forces,11 and that it particularly affects women.12

II. Legal Framework🔗

Note to reader
On the authoritativeness and the question of bindingness of the Committee’s work, consult the “International Human Rights Law” chapter, “Introduction” section, and the “Introduction” chapter, “Methodology” section.

III. Obligations🔗


III.1 States must ensure that no one subject to their jurisdiction suffers CRSV🔗

III.2 State should adopt legislative and other measures to eliminate CRSV🔗

III.3 States should educate their population on CRSV🔗

III.4 States should monitor the measures they have adopted to eradicate CRSV and report on them to the CCPR🔗

Justice and Accountability🔗

III.5 States should investigate and prosecute CRSV🔗

III.6 States should provide victims/survivors of CRSV with access to justice🔗

Humanitarian Response🔗

III.7 States should provide victims/survivors of CRSV with appropriate care🔗


III.8 States should provide victims/survivors of CRSV with remedies🔗


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