Siracusa Principles

It has long been observed by the American Association for the International Commission of Jurists (A A ICJ) that one of the main instruments employed by governments to repress and deny the fundamental rights and freedoms of peoples has been the illegal and unwarranted Declaration of Martial Law or a State of Emergency.

Very often these measures are taken under the pretext of the existence of a “public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” or “threats to its national security.” The abuse of applicable provisions allowing governments to limit and derogate from certain rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has resulted in the need for a closer examination of the conditions and grounds for permissable limitations and derogations in order to achieve an effective implementation of the rule of law. The United Nations General Assembly has frequently emphasized the importance of a uniform interpretation of limitations on rights enunciated in the Covenant.

With this in mind, the A A IC J initiated a colloquium composed of 31 distinguished experts in international law, held at Siracusa, Italy, in the Spring of 1984. This meeting, the first of its kind, was co-sponsored by the International Commission of Jurists, the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights, and the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences.