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Since the publication of the first edition of the CCPR Commentary in 1993 a considerable increase of States parties to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to its first Optional Protocol (OP) took place, as at 1 Jan. 1993: CCPR 114 ratifications; OP 66 ratifications 1 Jan. 2004: CCPR 151 ratifications; OP 104 ratifications.
With more than 100 States parties, the individual communications system under the first OP to the CCPR provides human beings in more than half of all States in all regions of the world with a right to complain against human rights violations in their own countries to an international expert body which hands down quasi-judicial decisions on the admissibility and merits of such claims.
The second edition covers the practice and jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee between 1977 and the end of 2003. During these 27 years, this expert body has examined 330 State reports, adopted 31 General Comments and rendered decisions on more than 1,200 individual cases, of which almost half have been decided on the merits. All relevant texts, tables and decisions have been updated to 1 May 2004.
New Developments: The Committee’s concluding observations on State reports have become more critical and substantive, and the General Comments adopted during the last ten years address highly controversial and sensitive issues, such as minority rights, reservations, denunciations and the continuity of State obligations in case of dissolution and dismemberment of States.
Structure and Methology: The Commentary proceeds article by article, with paragraph numbers, in order to facilitate the quickest reference to specific problems. Thus, Arts. 1-53 of the CCPR and Arts. 1-14 of the first Optional Protocol relating to the individual communications procedure are analyzed. Since the second Optional Protocol of 15 December 1989 aiming at the abolition of the death penalty is in fact an amendment to the right to life provided for in Article 6 of the Covenant, it is analyzed in the context of this Article.
The author’s interpretation takes into account the characteristically high degree of abstraction and vagueness of parts of the human rights texts. Therefore, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the travaux préparatoires are considered whenever appropriate. “In dubio pro libertate” is the prevailing principle when human rights guarantees are at stake, which goes hand in hand with a narrow interpretation of lawful restrictions.
Appendix: An index of key words refers to paragraph numbers. It is intended to make possible the best use of the expanding case law in resolving specific problems of interpretation. The careful inclusion of thorough cross-referencing further enables the reader to take advantage of the inter-dependence of various provisions of the Covenant.
Separate case index: The most important cases are indicated in italics. Relevant texts: the Covenant and both Optional Protocols in English and in French; Reservations, Declarations and Understandings of States parties; Rules of Procedure of the Committee; General Comments; Guidelines on State reports; the list of communications and State reports, including a table of ratifications.