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1503 Communicating with the UN Human Rights Commission

At the bottom of this page is a form for the 1503 filing.
Overview of Procedure for Communications to Commission

United Nations Human Rights Website:
http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/8/miriam.htm

One of the clearest signs of progress in human rights is the fact that individuals who claim that their rights and freedoms have been violated may call the State in question to account for its actions - if it is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to the Optional Protocol.

In the latter part of the 1980s, growing public awareness of the Human Rights Committee's work under the Optional Protocol multiplied the number of communications it received from individuals complaining of violations of their rights.

In all, 728 communications from individuals involving 52 States parties had been examined by the Committee by November 1996. The Committee had concluded its work and made known its views in 239 cases, and had established in 181 instances that violations of the Covenant had occurred.

The Committee considers communications from individuals in private meetings.

Is it admissible?

Communications must not be anonymous, and cannot be considered unless they come from a person subject to the jurisdiction of a State which is a party to the Optional Protocol. Actio popularis is not possible under this procedure.

Normally, a communication should be sent in by the individual who claims that his or her rights have been violated by the State. When it appears that the alleged victim cannot submit the communication, the Committee may consider a communication from another person who must prove that he or she is acting on behalf of the alleged victim. A third party with no apparent links with the person whose rights have allegedly been violated cannot submit a communication.

The complaint cannot be considered if the same problem is being investigated under another international procedure, and all domestic remedies must have been exhausted before it can be taken up by the Committee.

Even before deciding whether a communication is admissible or not, the Committee -or its Working Group on Communications- may ask the alleged victim or the State concerned for additional information or comments and set a time limit. If the State has anything to say at this stage, the person complaining receives a copy of its reply for comment.

If the case is merely referred back to the author for more information before being found inadmissible, nothing will have been transmitted to the State.

The Committee may decide to drop a complaint without a written decision; for example, when the author withdraws it, or shows in some other way that he or she does not want to go on with the matter.

Assessing a complaint

Once a communication has been declared admissible, the Committee asks the State concerned to explain or clarify the problem and to indicate whether anything has been done to settle it. A time limit of six months is set for the State party's reply. Then the author of the complaint has an opportunity to comment on the State's reply. After that, the Committee expresses its final views and sends them to the State concerned and to the author.

The Committee puts individuals who complain and the States which are alleged to have violated their rights on an equal footing throughout its proceedings. Each has an opportunity to comment on the other's arguments.

The findings of the Committee - its views on communications which have been declared admissible and examined on their merits, as well as decisions declaring other communications inadmissible - are always made public after the session at which the findings were adopted and are reproduced in the Committee's annual report to the General Assembly.

Interim protection

Usually it takes about 12 to 18 months to declare a case admissible or inadmissible. The examination of the merits of the case may then take a year or two, depending on the degree of co-operation by States parties and the authors of complaints in submitting all the information needed by the Committee.

People who allege that their human rights are being violated may need protection before the Committee adopts it final views. Without prejudging the merits of complaints, the Committee has, for this reason, sometimes addressed urgent requests to the States involved. There have, for example, been cases where the Committee has advised against a threatened expulsion, for the suspension of a death sentence, or the need for an urgent medical examination.

Evidence and burden of proof

The Committee has, as yet, no independent fact-finding functions, but it is bound to consider all information made available by the parties concerned. This information must be submitted to the Committee in writing.

In a number of cases dealing with the right to life, torture and ill- treatment, as well as arbitrary arrests and disappearances, the Committee has established that the burden of proof cannot rest alone on the person who is complaining of the violation of rights and freedoms. The Committee also maintains that it is not sufficient for the State Party to make a refutation in general terms of a complaint of a violation of a person's human rights.

Individual opinions

The Human Rights Committee works by consensus, but individual members can add their opinions to the views it expresses on the merits of a case or when communications have been declared inadmissible.

Results

Several countries have changed their laws as a result of decisions by the Committee on individual complaints under the Optional Protocol. In a number of cases, prisoners have been released and compensation paid to victims of human rights violations. In 1990, the Committee instituted a mechanism whereby it seeks to monitor more closely whether States parties have given effect to its final decisions on the merits; cooperation from States parties has been encouraging.
 


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Each communication must describe the facts, the purpose of the petition, and the rights that have been violated. As a rule, a
communication will not be considered if the language is abusive or if it contains insulting remarks about the State against which
the complaint is directed. If the other requirements are fulfilled once the abusive language has been deleted, such
communications may, nevertheless, be considered. 

No communication will be admitted if it runs counter to the principles of the United Nations Charter, or if it shows political
motivations. 

The domestic remedies must have been exhausted before a communication is considered-unless it can be shown convincingly
that solutions at the national level would be ineffective or that they would extend over an unreasonable length of time. 

The rules of procedure, finally, seek to avoid overlapping with other existing procedures, and the repeated submission of
communications already dealt with by the United Nations. 

Communications intended for handling under the "1503" procedure may be addressed to: 

OHCHR-UNOG 
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland.

*********

A communication, to be considered, must not be anonymous and it must come from a person, or persons who live under the
jurisdiction of a State which is a party to the Optional Protocol. Normally, a communication should be sent in by the individual who
claims that his or her rights, as set out in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, have been violated by that State. When it
seems that the alleged victim cannot submit the communication, the Committee may consider a communication from another
person, who justifies his authority to act on behalf of the alleged victim. An unrelated third party having no apparent links with the
alleged victim cannot submit the communication. 

The complaint, naturally, has to be compatible with the provisions of the Covenant, and it cannot be considered if the same
problem is being examined under another international procedure of investigation or settlement. All domestic remedies must
have been exhausted before the complaint is placed before the Committee. 
 

*******
Thailand is not joined the Optional Protocol.
Nor has US

Of the 87 States which had acceded to or ratified the Covenant by the end of 1988, 43 had accepted the competence of the
Committee to deal with individual complaints. These States are: Argentina; Austria; Barbados; Bolivia; Cameroon; Canada;
Central African Republic; Colombia; Congo; Costa Rica; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Equatorial Guinea; Finland;
France; Gambia; Hungary; Iceland; Italy; Jamaica; Luxembourg; Madagascar; Mauritius; Netherlands; Nicaragua; Niger; Norway;
Panama; Peru; Portugal; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; San Marino; Senegal; Spain; Suriname; Sweden; Trinidad and
Tobago; Togo; Uruguay; Venezuela; Zaire; and Zambia.
 

*******

At the end of this fact sheet there is a model which shows how a communication to the Human Rights Committee should be set
out. Communications intended for handling under the Optional Protocol should be addressed to: 

Human Rights Committee 
c/o OHCHR-UNOG 
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. 
******

Other avenues

Two other procedures are available to people who believe that their human rights are being violated. They have been established
under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

Elimination of racial discrimination 

Individuals or groups of people who claim that their rights, as set out in the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination, are being violated, may-as laid down in article 14 of the Convention-write to the United Nations
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), asking that their complaint be considered. They must first have
exhausted all domestic remedies. 

Twelve of the 125 States that had ratified or acceded to the Convention by the end of 1988 recognize the competence of the
Committee to receive and consider communications under article 14. They are: Costa Rica; Denmark; Ecuador; France; Iceland;
Italy; Netherlands; Norway; Peru; Senegal; Sweden; and Uruguay. 

Communications intended for handling by the Committee should be addressed to: 

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 
c/o OHCHR-UNOG 
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. 

The Committee cannot receive a communication if it concerns a State which, although a party to the Convention, does not
recognize the competence of the Committee to do so. 

[For more and updated information, please refer to Article 14 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Racial Discrimination.] 

Convention against Torture 

Under article 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, individuals
who claim to be victims of a violation of the rights protected by the Convention and who have exhausted all the domestic
possibilities of recourse may write to the Committee against Torture, asking for consideration of their case. As of 31 March 1989,
17 of the 41 States which have ratified or acceded to the Convention had recognized the competence of the Committee to receive
and consider communications of this kind. These States are: Argentina; Austria; Denmark; Ecuador; France; Greece;
Luxembourg; Netherlands; Norway; Portugal; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; and Uruguay. 

Communications intended for handling by the Committee should be addressed to: 

Committee against Torture 
c/o OHCHR-UNOG 
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. 

The Committee cannot receive communications which concern States not recognizing its competence under article 22 of the
Convention. (For more information, please refer to Fact Sheet No. 4, Methods of Combating Torture) 

[For more and updated information, please refer to Article 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment.] 

Status of women 

Two lists dealing with violations of human rights are prepared annually for the United Nations Commission on the Status of
Women by the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, based in Vienna. One is a non-confidential list
containing summaries of communications which concern the promotion of the status of women in the political, economic, social,
civil and educational fields. The other is a confidential list which contains summaries of communications on alleged violations
which affect the status of women. 

Communications intended for handling by the Commission on the Status of Women should be addressed to: 
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 
DAW-DESA 
UNHQ, 
New York, USA. 
 


 
 

United Nations specialized agencies 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
have created international legislation in defence of human rights and supervise its implementation. 

Committees of experts receive regular reports from the Governments of contracting States on the action they have taken to
conform with conventions adopted by these organizations. There are procedures to deal with complaints and disputes over the
application and interpretation of ratified conventions. 

A special ILO procedure has been established to cover freedom of association, under which complaints can be brought against
States even when they are not bound by conventions on this subject. 

For more information about such procedures please write to: 
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural 
Organization (UNESCO) 
Human Rights and Peace Division 
7, place de Fontenoy 
75700 Paris, France; 
International Labour Organization (ILO) 
International Labour Standards Department 
4, route des Morillons 
1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland.

**********
 
 

                                                Model communication
                                                                                        Date: .................................................
Communication to: 

The Human Rights Committee 

       c/o OHCHR-UNOG 
       1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, 

submitted for consideration under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 
 
 

                                I. Information concerning the author of the communication
 
 
 

Name ....................................                                       First name(s) ........................................ 

Nationality...............................                                      Profession ........................................... 

Date and place of birth ............................................................................................................. 

Present address ......................................................................................................................... 

.................................................................................................................................................... 

Address for exchange of confidential correspondence (if other than present address) ........................ 

......................................................................................................................................................... 

Submitting the communication as: 

       (a) Victim of the violation or violations set forth below ..............................................  /_/ 
       (b) Appointed representative/legal counsel of the alleged victim(s) ............................  /_/ 
       (c) Other ................................................................................................................  /_/

If box (c) is marked, the author should explain: 

(i) In what capacity he is acting on behalf of the victim(s) (e.g. family relationship or other personal links with the alleged
victim(s)): 
....................................................................................................................................... 

(ii) Why the victim(s) is (are) unable to submit the communication himself (themselves): 

....................................................................................................................................... 
 

An unrelated third party having no link to the victim(s) cannot submit a communication on his (their) behalf. 
 
 

                                     II. Information concerning the alleged victim(s) 
                                                 (if other than author)
 
 

Name ....................................                                       First name(s) ........................................ 

Nationality...............................                                      Profession ........................................... 

Date and place of birth ............................................................................................................. 

Present address or whereabouts ................................................................................................ 
 
 

                                 III. State concerned/articles violated/domestic remedies
 
 

Name of the State party (country) to the International Covenant and the Optional Protocol against which the communication is
directed: 

................................................................................................................................................ 
 

Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allegedly violated: 

............................................................................................................................................... 

Steps taken by or on behalf of the alleged victim(s) to exhaust domestic remedies-recourse to the courts or other public
authorities, when and with what results (if possible, enclose copies of all relevant judicial or administrative decisions): 

.............................................................................................................................................. 

If domestic remedies have not been exhausted, explain why: 

.............................................................................................................................................. 
 
 

                                           IV. Other international procedures
 
 

Has the same matter been submitted for examination under another procedure of international investigation or settlement (e.g.
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the European Commission on Human Rights)? If so, when and with what
results? 

.............................................................................................................................................. 
 
 

                                                 V. Facts of the claim
 
 

Detailed description of the facts of the alleged violation or violations (including relevant dates)* 

.............................................................................................................................................. 
 

                                                                                        Author's signature: ................................... 

______ 
  * Add as many pages as needed for this description.


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