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This compendium of core human rights instruments provides quick access to:

  • Different language versions

  • Searchable jurisprudence databases
  • Ratification status with treaty reservations

  • Voting history

  • Travaux préparatoires (drafting history)

  • Commentaries

Key documents often left out of other human rights law compendia are included such as on international economic law, environmental law, autonomous warfare, artificial intelligence, gene technology, class discrimination, and imperialism.

Open access materials are also provided by Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) on African human and peoples' rights law and the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.


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  UN, ICJICC Elements DATABASE, Paris Pact*IHLVCLTConstitutions, S. Africa, IndiaU.S. 


"Domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups."

Rome StatuteApartheid Convention


While there is not yet a Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Class Discrimination (CECD), discrimination based on class (social origin; property, posición económica 'economic position,' la fortune 'wealth,' 财产 'property,' الثروة 'wealth'; birth, сословное положение 'estate/class status') is prohibited in international human rights law alongside the jus cogens (absolute) prohibition of racial, gender, and other discrimination.


UDHR – Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Article 2: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as ... social origin, property [posición económica 'economic position,' имущественное положение 'property status'], birth [сословное положение 'estate/class status'] or other status."

ICESCR – International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

Article 2(2): "The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as ... social origin, property [posición económica 'economic position'], birth or other status."

ICCPR – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

Article 2(1): "Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as ... social origin, property [posición económica 'economic position'], birth or other status."

CRC – Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

Article 2(1) (see also preamble): "States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's ... social origin, property, disability, birth or other status."

ICMW – International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990)

Article 7: "States Parties undertake ... to respect and to ensure to all migrant workers and members of their families within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction the rights provided for in the present Convention without distinction of any kind such as to ... social origin, ... economic position, property, ... birth or other status."

ILO C111 – International Labor Organization Convention concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (No. 111) (adopted 25 June 1958, entered into force 15 June 1960)

Article 1: "1. For the purpose of this Convention the term discrimination includes -- (a) any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of ... social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation."

See also Article 5(2): "social or cultural status."


Note: Free movement protections are less developed for human beings than for animals, capital, goods, and services. For example, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (127 states parties) requires states "to prevent, remove, compensate for or minimize ... obstacles that seriously impede or prevent the migration of the species" listed in Appendix I of the treaty (see Articles III(4)(b), V(5)(h)). See "Finance" for free movement of capital and "Trade & IP" for free movement of goods and services. Even where there is limited development of free movement of persons, it is often restricted to free movement of certain "workers" or (paid) "labor," which may discriminate against women, people of color, economic classes, and others.

Free Movement of Persons as a "Cardinal Principle of International Law"

Violation of Free Movement of Persons as an "Act of War"

  • Vincent Chetail: International Migration Law, "Free movement had long been the rule in the doctrine and practice of international law" (Chetail, p. 18). "Francisco de Vitoria ... played an influential role in establishing the free movement of persons as a cardinal principle of international law. ... Vitoria conceptualized the principle of free movement as a truly universal norm binding every state. ... For Vitoria, all nations acknowledged the right to travel as a rule of international law" (pp. 20-21). "Immigration control is a relatively recent invention of states" (p. 46) rooted in nationalism, racism, and xenophobia.

  • Francisco de Vitoria (1483–1546): Vitoria wrote, "To refuse to welcome strangers and foreigners is inherently evil." "Vitoria made clear that foreigners who did not commit any crime were free to enter another country: [Vitoria stated] 'it is not lawful to banish visitors who are innocent of any crime.' The importance he assigned to this right of entry shall not be underestimated. Refusing such admission is not only a violation of international law; it can also be considered as an act of war" (p. 21).

  • Hugo Grotius (himself a refugee, 1583–1645): Grotius proclaimed, "Every nation is free to travel to every other nation." This is an "unimpeachable rule of the law of nations [...] which is self-evident and immutable." (Chetail quoting Grotius, p. 24) "The liberty of passing ought first to be demanded, and if that be denied, it may be claimed by force" (Chetail quoting Grotius, p. 24, n. 41).

  • Emer de Vattel (1714–1767): Vattel declared, "When a real necessity obliges you to enter into the territory of others,—for instance, if you cannot otherwise escape imminent danger, or if you have no other passage for procuring the means of subsistence, or those of satisfying some other indispensable obligation,—you may force a passage when it is unjustly refused" (Chetail quotting Vattel, p. 37). Chetail explains that "the judgment as to whether there is a state of necessity lies with the person seeking entry and not with the state" (p. 37).

  • Johann Caspar Bluntschli (1808–1881): "No State has the right to prohibit in an absolute way the entry of foreigners onto its territory" (p. 42).

  • Institute of International Law: International Rules on the Admission and Expulsion of Aliens (1892), Article 6: "Free entrance of aliens into the territory of a civilized [sic] state cannot be prohibited in a general and permanent manner other than in the interest of public welfare and on extremely serious grounds" (p. 45). Article 7: "The protection of national labour force is not in itself a sufficient ground of non-admission" (p. 46).

European Union Right to Free Movement of Persons

Free Movement Directive (adopted 29 April 2004): English | Other Language Versions

Free Movement of Workers Regulation (adopted 5 April 2011): English | Other Language Versions

European Parliament | ECJ | ECtHR 

African Union Free Movement of Persons Protocol (adopted 29 January 2018)

Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment

Authentic Language Texts: Arabic | English | French | Portuguese 

States Parties | AUILO Summary 

Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 27 on Freedom of Movement

"Liberty of movement is an indispensable condition for the free development of a person."

Arabic | ChineseEnglish | French | Russian | Spanish 

GCM – Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (adopted 19 December 2018)

ArabicChinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

IOM | Vote: 152-5 (Against: Czechia, Hungary, Israel, Poland, USA)

New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (adopted 19 September 2016)

ArabicChinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish


ICRMW – International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (adopted 18 December 1990, entered into force 1 July 2003)

Authentic Languages Texts (Certified True Copy): ArabicChinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

Committee (CMW) | General CommentsJurisprudenceStates Parties | VoteTravaux 

1951 Refugee Convention – Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 

(done 28 July 1951, entered into force 22 April 1954)

Authentic Languages Texts (Certified True Copy): English | French 

UNHCR RefworldStates Parties | Vote | UNHCR Travaux, Refworld TravauxWeis Travaux | UNHCR CommentaryOUP Commentary 

1967 Refugee Protocol – Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees 

(done 31 January 1967, entered into force 4 October 1967)

Authentic Languages Texts (Certified True Copy): ChineseEnglish | French | Russian | Spanish 

UNHCR RefworldStates Parties | Vote | Travaux | Commentary 

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