On 18 June 2007, the Human Rights Council adopted the President text entitled "UN Human Rights Council: Institution Building" (resolution 5/1) by which a new Complaint Procedure is being 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 new Complaint Procedure is established in compliance with the mandate entrusted to the Human Rights Council by General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, in which the Council was requested to review and, where necessary, improve and rationalize, within one year after the holding of its first session, all mandates, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities of the former Commission on Human Rights, including the 1503 procedure, in order to maintain a system of special procedures, expert advice and a complaint procedure.
Accordingly, ECOSOC resolution 1503 (XLVIII) of 27 May 1970 as revised by resolution 2000/3 of 19 June 2000, served as a working basis for the establishment of a new Complaint Procedure and was improved where necessary to ensure that the complaint procedure be impartial, objective, efficient, victims-oriented and conducted in a timely manner.
Review of the 1503 procedure
In compliance with the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly, the Council decided on 30 June 2006 to establish the Working Group on the implementation of operative paragraph 6 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 (decision 1/104), to formulate concrete recommendations on the issue of reviewing and when necessary, improving and rationalizing all mandates, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities of the former Commission on Human Rights, including the 1503 procedure.
The Working Group held three formal open-ended sessions from 13 to 24 November 2006, 5 to 16 February 2007 and 10 to 27 April 2007. The segment on the complaint procedure was chaired by the Permanent Representative of Switzerland , who was appointed by the President of the Council to facilitate the consultations on this mechanism. Discussions in the Working Group and various rounds of informal consultations were conducted on the basis of an initial and subsequently revised framework for discussions prepared by the Facilitator. Following the last session of the Working Group, a final proposal (A/HRC/5/15) was submitted by the Facilitator to the President, taking into account to the greatest extent possible, the positions expressed during several months of consultations, with a view to facilitating the drafting of the section on the Complaint Procedure of a final document on institution building of the Council to be adopted in June 2007.
Summaries of the discussions held in the Working Group on the Complaint Procedure are contained in documents A/HRC/3/CRP.3, A/HRC/4/CRP.6 and A/HRC/5/CRP.6.
How does the complaint procedure work?
Pursuant to Council resolution 5/1, the Complaint Procedure is being 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.
It retains its confidential nature, with a view to enhancing cooperation with the State concerned. The procedure, inter alia, is to be victims-oriented and conducted in a timely manner.
Two distinct working groups - the Working Group on Communications and the Working Group on Situations - are established with the mandate to examine the communications and to bring to the attention of the Council consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Manifestly ill-founded and anonymous communications are screened out by the Chairperson of the Working Group on Communications, together with the Secretariat, based on the admissibility criteria. Communications not rejected in the initial screening are transmitted to the State concerned to obtain its views on the allegations of violations.
The Working Group on Communications (WGC) is designated by the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee from among its members for a period of three years (mandate renewable once). It consists of five independent and highly qualified experts and is geographically representative of the five regional groups. The Working Group meets twice a year for a period of five working days to assess the admissibility and the merits of a communication, including whether the communication alone or in combination with other communications, appears to reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. All admissible communications and recommendations thereon are transmitted to the Working Group on Situations.
The Working Group on Situations (WGS) comprises five members appointed by the regional groups from among the States member of the Council for the period of one year (mandate renewable once). It meets twice a year for a period of five working days in order to examine the communications transferred to it by the Working Group on Communications, including the replies of States thereon, as well as the situations which the Council is already seized of under the complaint procedure. The Working Group on Situations, on the basis of the information and recommendations provided by the Working Group on Communications, presents the Council with a report on consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and makes recommendations to the Council on the course of action to take.
Subsequently, it is the turn of the Council to take a decision concerning each situation thus brought to its attention.
What are the criteria for a communication to be accepted for examination?
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.
Where to send communications?
Communications intended for handling under the Council Complaint Procedure may be addressed to:
Treaties and Human Rights Council Branch
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: (41 22) 917 90 11