Article Seven, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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General Assembly of the United Nations



Prepared by the Commission on Human Rights, the draft Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was first considered by the Third (Social,Humanitarian, and Cultural) Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1954. Article Seven of the draft covenant was adopted in 1958. Discussion of the article focused primarily on the second sentence. Some members argued that emphasis on one type of cruel and inhuman treatment weakened the article. However, it was generally agreed that that sentence was directed against criminal experimentation, such as that conducted by Nazi physician-researchers, and should be retained. The difficulty lay in prohibiting criminal experimentation without hindering legitimate research.

The committee entertained many amendments. Two notable discussions involved the "free consent" requirement and the phrase "…involving risk, where such is not required by his state of physical or mental health," which appeared at the end of the second sentence in the original draft. The committee ultimately retained the "free consent" requirement as an important criterion for determining when experimentation amounted to "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment." The committee also deleted the final phrase on the grounds that the term "experimentation" did not cover medical treatment that was required in the interest of an individual's health, and inclusion of the phrase would confuse the meaning of the provision by implying that scientific or medical practices directed toward an individual's welfare came within the scope of the article.

article 7.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.

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Article Seven, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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