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Human Rights Mechanism

The UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe promotes the UN human rights mechanism and processes like the Treaty Bodies, the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, and the Special Procedures, by giving their work visibility at the regional and national levels.

The human rights recommendations of the UN mechanism or bodies provide a strong basis and compass for the work of the Regional Office for Europe. The Office also facilitates the interaction of the European Union, States, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and human rights defenders with these mechanisms.

There are different human rights monitoring mechanism in the UN System:

UN Charter-based bodies and bodies created under the international human rights treaties and made up of independent experts mandated to monitor State parties' compliance with their treaty obligations.

Charter bodies include the Human Rights Council (the former Commission on Human Rights), and Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Charter-based bodies derive their establishment from provisions contained in the Charter of the United Nations, they hold broad human rights mandates, address an unlimited audience and take action based on majority voting.

The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body, which meets in Geneva, and is composed of 47 elected UN Member States. The first meeting was held in June 2006. Member States serve for an initial period of 3 years, and cannot be elected for more than two consecutive terms. The Human Rights Council is a forum empowered to promote and protect of all human rights around the globe. UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) provides substantive support for the meetings of the Human Rights Council, and follow-up to the Council's deliberations. However, the Human Rights Council is a separate entity from OHCHR. This distinction originates from the separate mandates they were given by the General Assembly.

Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure was established to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and all fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances. The complaint procedure addresses communications submitted by individuals, groups, or non-governmental organizations that claim to be victims of human rights violations or that have direct, reliable knowledge of such violations. The new complaint procedure has to ensure confidentiality (with a view to enhance cooperation with the State concerned), impartiality, objectivity and efficiency. It should be victims-oriented and be conducted in a timely manner.

Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are mechanisms established by the Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Special Procedures are either an individual -a special rapporteur or independent expert-or a working group. These experts work on a voluntary basis. They are appointed by the Human Rights Council for 3-year mandates that can be reconducted for another three years.

Special Procedures' mandates usually call on mandate-holders to examine, monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories, known as country mandates, or on human rights issues of particular concern worldwide, known as thematic mandates.

With the support of the UN Human Rights (OHCHR), special procedures: undertake country visits, act on individual cases of reported violations and concerns of a broader nature by sending communications to States and others, conduct annual thematic studies, seek information from calls for input and convene expert consultations, contribute to the development of international human rights standards, and engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation.

All report to the Human Rights Council on their findings and recommendations, and many also report to the General Assembly. They are sometimes the only mechanism that will alert the international community to certain human rights issues, as they can address situations in all parts of the world without the requirement for countries to have had ratified a human rights instrument.

As of November 2023, there are 46 thematic mandates and 12 country mandates.

The UN Human Rights (OHCHR) supports the work of rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups through its Special Procedures Branch (SPB) which services all but one of the thematic mandates and provides centralised support to the Special Procedures as a system. The Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (FOTCD) supports the work of country-mandates.

Treaty-Based Bodies

Treaty-based bodies derive their existence from provisions contained in a specific legal instrument and base their decision-making on consensus. They hold more narrow mandates and address only countries that have ratified the legal instrument.

The human rights treaty bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties. Independent experts are nominated and elected for fixed renewable terms of four years by State parties. Each State party to a treaty has an obligation to take steps to ensure that everyone in the State can enjoy the rights set out in the treaty.

Currently, there are nine human rights international treaties, and one optional protocol, from which 10 treaty bodies have been established. Nine of these treaty bodies monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties while the tenth treaty body, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, monitors places of detention in States parties to the Optional Protocol.

The treaty bodies meet in Geneva, Switzerland. All the treaty bodies receive support from the Human Rights Treaties Division of OHCHR in Geneva.

The treaty bodies are created in accordance with the provisions of the treaty that they monitor. There are ten human rights treaty bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties:

individual complaints

If you are a victim of human rights abuse or have credible evidence that someone else is a victim, you can turn to the UN for help.