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Complaint Procedure
Wednesday, 21 November 2007 07:42

Latest news

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee has just elected new members of the Working Group on communications. The new members of the Working Group on communications are:

  • Mr Chen Shiqiu (China)
  • Mr Vladimir Kartashkin (Russian Federation)
  • Ms Halima Embarek Warzazi (Morocco)
  • Mr Jose Antonio Bengoa Cabello (Chile)
  • Mr Wolfgang Stefan Heinz (Germany)
 
The members of the Working Group on situations are:
  • Angola
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Jordan
  • Italy
  • Nicaragua
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Background

 

The complaint procedure of the Human Rights Council is the successor of the so-called '1503 procedure' established by the Commission on Human Rights. It was a confidential procedure, under which the Commission could receive communications from victims or others acting on behalf of the victims regarding situations that ‘reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights’ in any part of the world. 

 
The 'new' complaint procedure as established by Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1is not radically different from the former 1503. It will have the same scope as the old procedure, and will address 'consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and fundamental freedoms'.
 
Despite its shortcomings, the new complaint procedure has improved on a few points in comparison with the 1503 procedure. In terms of transparency, it now provides for the author of a complaint to be informed at various stages in the process, including when a communication registered, if it is deemed inadmissible, when it is taken up for consideration or kept pending, and at the final outcome. There are also provisions aimed at ensuring a more timely consideration of communications: the period between the transmission of a complaint to the State concerned and consideration by the Council should not exceed 24 months.
 
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Stages of the complaint procedure

The complaint procedure comprises of two working groups, the 'Working Group on communications' and the 'Working Group on situations'.
 
Working group on communications:
  • Once an individual complaint is received, the Working Group on communications, after screening out the inadmissible complaints, will transmit communications to the States concerned to obtain their views on the allegations.
  • The Working Group then assess the merit of the allegations of violations, including if the communication, alone or in combination with other communications, reveals a 'consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms'. It will then either transmit the case to the Working Group on situations, keep the case under review or dismiss it.
  • The Working Group on communications is composed of five members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, who are appointed for a 3-year mandate which is renewable once.
The Working Group on communications meets 'at least twice a year for five working days'. 
Working group on situations:
 
  • On the basis of information and recommendations transmitted by the Working Group on communications, the Working Group on situations presents the Council with a report on consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, but may also decide to keep a case under review.
  • The Working Group on situations is composed of five representatives from member States of the Council, one from each regional groups. The members are expected to serve in their personal capacity for one year, renewable once.
  • The Working Group on situations meets 'at least twice a year for five working days'.
The Council can then decide on the final outcome of a case. Resolution 5/1 leaves a limited range of options, namely:
 
  • Discontinue the consideration of the case.
  • Keep a situation under review, and request the State concerned to provide further information.
  • Keep a situation under reviw and appoint an independent expert to monitor the situation and report back.
  • Continue consideration of the matter in public.
  • Recommend that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provide technical assistance.

Admissibility of complaints

Any complaints sent to the complaints procedure must fulfill a number of 'admissibilty criteria'. A communication related to a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms is admissible, unless:
 
  • It has manifestly political motivations and its object is not consistent with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other applicable instruments in the field of human rights law; or
  • It does not contain a factual description of the alleged violations, including the rights which are alleged to be violated; or
  • Its language is abusive. However, such communication may be considered if it meets the other criteria for admissibility after deletion of the abusive language; or
  • It is not submitted by a person or a group of persons claiming to be the victim of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms or by any person or group of persons, including NGOs acting in good faith in accordance with the principles of human rights, not resorting to politically motivated stands contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter and claiming to have direct and reliable knowledge of those violations. Nonetheless, reliably attested communications shall not be inadmissible solely because the knowledge of the individual author is second hand, provided they are accompanied by clear evidence; or
  • It is exclusively based on reports disseminated by mass media; or
  • It refers to a case that appears to reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights already being dealt with by a special procedure, a treaty body or other United Nations or similar regional complaints procedure in the field of human rights; or
  • The domestic remedies have not been exhausted, unless it appears that such remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged.
 
The National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), when they are established and work under the guidelines of the Principles Relating to Status of National Institutions (the Paris Principles) including in regard to quasi-judicial competence, can serve as effective means in addressing individual human rights violations.
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Where to send complaints

Communications intended for handling under the Human Rights Council complaint procedure may be addressed to:

Human Rights Council and Treaties Division
Complaint Procedure
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: (41 22) 917 90 11
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Further reading

  • Official website of the complaint procedure
  • On the stakes involved in the institution-building process and the transition from the 1503 to the new Complaint Procedure, see Meghna Abraham, A New Chapter for Human Rights, ISHR and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (Geneva, 2006), and in paritcular chapter 5 on the complaint procedure.

For the outcome of the institution-building process in relation to the complaint procedure, see any of the following publications:

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 14:40
 

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