A portion of Larry Pinkney’s United Nation submission under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which brought to light the arbitrary handling of prisoner correspondence by prison authorities was highlighted in Chapter 4 of Part II: CONCEPTS AND NORMS, in the book entitled International Human Rights Law: Six Decades After the Udhr and Beyond (Google eBook), edited by Mashood A. Baderin and Manisuli Ssenyonjo and published by Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. (England), 2010, ISBN 9781409403593 (hbk), ISBN 9781409403609 (ebk).

The Civil and Political Rights section (8. Limitations to Civil and Political Rights) of Chapter 4 which contains the reference to Larry Pinkney’s United Nations submission was written by Sarah Joseph of Australia.

Page 100 excerpt:

8.1 Unlawful and Arbitirary Interferences with Rights

There are various ways in which ICCPR rights are qualified. One approach is found in Article 17(1) on the right to privacy, which reads:

No one shall be subjected to arbitirary or unlawful interferences with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.

Therefore, one’s privacy may be interfered with if it is lawful and non-arbitrary to do so. The requirement of ‘lawfulness’ has generally been interpreted as requiring a limit to be prescribed in a state’s law. Regarding privacy, the HRC has stated in General Comment 16,

that relevent legislation must specify in detail the precise circumstances in which such interferences may be permitted. A decision to make use of such authorised interferences must be made only by the authority designated under the law, and not a case-by-case basis. 70

Therefore, a law which specifies a limit to an ICCPR right, such as privacy, must specify that limit with reasonable precision, rather than, for example, conferring broad discretions on authorities to apply a limit as when they see fit. For example, in Pinkney v Canada, an early HRC decision in 1981, the HRC stated that a law regarding the censorship of prisoner’s mail was unsatisfactory as it did not specify the grounds upon which the censorship would arise: too much discretion was vested in prison authorities in that regard.71

71 Pinkney v Canada, CCPR/C/14/D/27/1977, 29 October 1981.


Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities, Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS News Hour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and more recently on the nationally syndicated Alex Jones Show. Pinkney is a former university instructor of political science and international relations, and his writings have been published in various places, including The Boston Globe, San Francisco BayView newspaper, Black Commentator, Intrepid Report, Global Research (Canada), LINKE ZEITUNG (Germany), 107 Cowgate (Ireland and Scotland), and Mayihlome News (Azania/South Africa). He is in the archives of Dr. Huey P. Newton (Stanford University, CA), cofounder of the Black Panther Party. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book.)


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