New Publication Provides Guidance to Improve the UN Human Rights Individual Complaints Mechanism

Cover Page of the Publication Cover Page of the Publication

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.

An Under-Studied Issue

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.

Focus on Victims

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.

Key Challenges

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.

Academics Training on Geneva based UN Human Rights Mechanisms at the Committee against Torture

Recommendations for Improvement: From Short-Term Critical Measures to Medium-Term Positive Change

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.

Launch in Geneva

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.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Peasants work in a rice field in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. News

Outlining the Role of UN Human Rights Mechanisms in Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

25 June 2019

At a seminar, UN experts, civil society representatives and staff of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights discussed the role of UN human rights mechanisms in the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants.

Read more

Belt of police officers with a Taser Event

Launch: United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons

25 October 2019, 13:15-14:45

This event marks the launch of the UN Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons, the outcome of research and consultations carried out under the Geneva Academy and Pretoria University auspices.

Read more

Syria,  Aleppo, great Umayyad mosque. Destructions. Short Course

The Interplay between International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

6-20 December 2019

This short course focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

6 March - 9 April 2020

This short course analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

Panel Discussion: Project

Treaty Body Members’ Platform

Started in January 2014

The Treaty Body Members’ Platform connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats to share expertise, exchange views on topical questions and develop synergies.

Read more

First annual conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform Project

The Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform

Started in June 2019

Read more