27 May 2019
Treaty Bodies’ Individual Communication Procedures (ICPs) are a major instrument to enforce the rights enshrined in the corresponding human rights treaties and provide victims with an effective remedy before an international body. They also represent a key entry point for victims of human rights violations to the United Nations (UN) human rights system.
Our new publication Treaty Bodies’ Individual Communication Procedures: Providing Redress and Reparation to Victims of Human Rights Violations addresses the handling of individual communications, tackles efficiency questions related to this procedure and outlines a series of key recommendations to improve the system, including the creation of a registry to provide substantive legal support to UN treaty bodies.
This report examines an essential aspect of the work of UN treaty bodies which, unlike state reporting, has received insufficient attention despite representing an import¬ant mechanism to enforce victims’ rights and ensure that national laws are in line with international standards.
‘Compared to the periodic reviews based on state reports, the issue of communications has received little attention in the debate, hence the need to fill this gap’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier, Coordinator of the Geneva Human Rights Platform and co-author of the report.
Victims’ access to redress forms the basis of the reflections in this publication.
‘We notably examined how the available procedures function, how useful they are to victims in terms of guaranteeing their rights and providing remedies, how they are implemented, what and how could be improved’ explains Kamelia Kemileva, Special Projects Manager at the Geneva Academy and co-author of the publication.
The publication identifies four challenges that currently prevent individual communication procedures from providing relief to victims of human rights violations – accessibility and visibility, stakeholder’s participation, universal use and structural difficulties – and provides specific recommendations to address these challenges.
‘For each challenge, we discuss the current shortcomings of the system, including for instance the issue of reprisals against those filing complaints; the need to modernize the Petitions and Urgent Action Section of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; or the issue of coordination and harmonization among the various treaty bodies and complaint procedures’ stresses Claire Callejon, Associate Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy and co-author of the publication.
The publication details concrete and feasible steps that can be taken to improve the ICPs, including short-term critical measures like enhancing the visibility through a more user-friendly web¬site and a readily accessible, up-to-date, comprehensive database; digitalizing the registration of new complaints based on strict criteria; giving autonomy to both parties in the complaint procedure through an online, secure portal where the author of the communication and the state party concerned can submit infor¬mation and be kept informed of the proceedings ; harmonizing working methods related to individual communications across treaty bodies; continuing to develop in all committees ‘fast-track’ techniques, and work in groups and internal chambers to speed up the process and deal with the backlog of cases.
‘While we are fully aware that UN treaty bodies are under huge budgetary constraints, most of these short-term recommendations would, if implemented, hugely contribute to the improvement of the system and would not require a huge amount of financial resources’ explains Felix Kirchmeier.
The publication will be launched and distributed in Geneva at an event of the Geneva Human Rights Platform that will take place on 31 May (10:30–12:00) at the Geneva Academy.
As Executive Director of the new Geneva Human Rights Platform, he will notably lead the development of this new platform to anchor it in international Geneva.
In an event co-organized with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN in New York, two of the authors – Noam Lubell and Jelena Pejic – presented the 16 guidelines before a full room of delegates from the UN General Assembly First and Sixth Commissions, UN agencies, and experts.
To kick-start discussions at the UN about the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, this expert seminar will consider the growing recognition of this right and will answer the question: is it time for universal recognition at UN-level?
Robin Geiß, Swiss Chair of IHL at the Geneva Academy, will explore the disruptive potential of new military technologies with a focus on those areas where these technologies could fall through the cracks of the international legal order.
This training course provides participants with a deep understanding of the international legal framework for the protection of human rights and the environment as well as in-depth knowledge of how to promote environmental protection through existing human rights mechanisms. The 2020 edition will have a specific focus on water pollution and scarcity.
UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.
This research aims at building a common understanding and vision as to how states and the relevant parts of the UN system can provide a concrete and practical framework to address human rights responsibilities of armed non-state actors.
The Geneva Human Rights Platform contributes to this review process by providing expert input via different avenues, by facilitating dialogue on the review among various stakeholders, as well as by accompanying the development of a follow-up resolution to 68/268 in New York and in Geneva.