UN HR Committee: Views Concerning Communication No. 2728/2016 (Ioane Teitiota)

On 7 January 2020 the UN Human Rights Committee issued its Views adopted by the Committee under article 5 (4) of the Optional Protocol, concerning communication No. 2728/2016 (adopted 24 October 2019). Communication No. 2728/2016 was submitted by Ioane Teitiota, claiming New Zealand violated his right to life under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6(1), by removing him to Kiribati in September 2015.

Concerning admissibility:

“[T]he Committee considers that the author sufficiently demonstrated, for the purpose of admissibility, that due to the impact of climate change and associated sea level rise on the habitability of the Republic of Kiribati and on the security situation in the islands, he faced as a result of the State party’s decision to remove him to the Republic of Kiribati a real risk of impairment to his right to life under article 6 of the Covenant” (para. 8.6).

Concerning the merits:

“The Committee is of the view that without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving states may expose individuals to a violation of their rights under articles 6 or 7 of the Covenant, thereby triggering the non-refoulement obligations of sending states. Furthermore, given that the risk of an entire country becoming submerged under water is such an extreme risk, the conditions of life in such a country may become incompatible with the right to life with dignity before the risk is realized.

9.12 In the present case, the Committee accepts the author’s claim that sea level rise is likely to render the Republic of Kiribati uninhabitable. However, it notes that the timeframe of 10 to 15 years, as suggested by the author, could allow for intervening acts by the Republic of Kiribati, with the assistance of the international community, to take affirmative measures to protect and, where necessary, relocate its population […] the facts before it do not permit it to conclude that the author’s removal to the Republic of Kiribati violated his rights under article 6 (1) of the Covenant” (paras. 9.11-9.12; 10).

Vasilka Sancin and Duncan Laki Muhumuza each annexed individual dissenting opinions concerning the burden of proof and access to drinking water.

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