The GHRP Facilitates the Harmonization of UN Treaty Bodies’ Individual Communications

24 April 2023

At a meeting co-hosted by the Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) and the Paris Human Rights Center, members of United Nations (UN) Treaty Bodies (TBs) responsible for individual communications discussed the implementation of a coherent approach to dealing with communications brought by individuals who seek justice at the international level.

‘This meeting forms part of our initiative on UN TBs individual communications, a longstanding project aimed at supporting the harmonization of individual communications and their coherent, effective and efficient handling’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

‘It follows up on previous meetings held in Paris and Geneva, on a visit to the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, as well as on a 2019 publication that provides concrete guidance to improve the system’ he adds.

‘Communications procedures before human rights treaty bodies certainly lack human and financial resources to function properly. But even if hopefully these resources are granted, improving and harmonizing rules of procedures and working methods is key to success. TBs need to be aligned on such important matters as interim measures, third-party interventions or the much needed ‘digital uplift’’ underlines Professor Olivier de Frouville, Member of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and Director of the  Paris Human Rights Centre.

Focus on Concrete Harmonization Questions

Individual Communications 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 UN human rights system.

Currently, eight TBs out of ten may receive individual communications. While the ways they handle them are, in many aspects, similar, they still differ in important aspects, which include methods of work and the practice at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Petitions and Urgent Actions Section (PUAS), which prepares and supports the procedure.

The exchanges during this meeting focused on four issues and related harmonization questions: the life cycle of individual communications; interim and protection measures; third-party interventions and friendly settlement; and communication relating to individual communications, including outreach and reactions from state parties.
‘The discussions highlighted concrete avenues for alignment between the different procedures used by TBs, as well as how relatively recent procedures, such as friendly settlements, could be developed in a coherent way’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier.

‘In a next step, TBs and OHCHR can take these results further, integrating them into the working methods of the TB system’ he adds.

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