Human Rights Committee
The Human Rights Committee is a body of 18 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Protocols.
State reporting procedure:
Under article 40 of ICCPR, States parties must submit reports every five years on measures taken to implement ICCPR. The reports are examined by the Committee in public sessions, through a dialogue with State representatives. On the final day of each session, the Committee adopts concluding "observations" summarizing its main concerns and making appropriate suggestions and recommendations to the State party.
Amongst its observations or "views", the Committee has called on States to:
- ensure that independent mechanisms are established to investigate all violations of the right to life and security of the person;
- put in place mechanisms for dealing with complaints of police violence;
- bring offenders to justice;
- put in place credible systems to monitor the treatment of detainees so as to ensure that they are not subject to torture and ill-treatment;
- ensure that victims be provided with proper compensation;
- put in place preventive measures, including education of law enforcement officials and judges with a view to preventing ill-treatment.
The first Optional Protocol to the Covenant allows individuals to submit complaints to the Human Rights Committee. The Committee has adopted detailed Rules of Procedure which set out the complaint process. Model complaint forms are also available. The conditions for admissibility are very similar to other mechanisms.
Admissibility: For a complaint to be admissible:
- It must not be anonymous
- It must relate to a State that is a party to the first Optional Protocol.
- The party submitting the complaint must be the victim or a person acting on their behalf
- The complaint cannot be considered if the same problem is being investigated under another international procedure
- Domestic remedies must have been exhausted.
Merits: 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. The author of the complaint then has an opportunity to comment on the State's reply. In a number of cases dealing with the right to life, torture and ill-treatment, and arbitrary arrests and disappearances, the Committee has established that the burden of proof cannot rest alone with the person complaining of the violation of rights and freedoms. The Committee also views a refutation in general terms of a complaint of a violation of a person's human rights as insufficient. Once the inquiry is completed, the Committee expresses its final views and sends them to the State concerned and to the author.
Interim protection: Given the lengthy period of time from when the claim is initially filed to when it is ultimately decided, the Committee instituted a procedure for interim protection - to ensure that urgent requests are dealt with expeditiously. There have been cases, for example, in which the Committee has advised against a threatened expulsion, requested the suspension of a death sentence or drawn attention to the need for an urgent medical examination.
Decisions: The Committee issues final decisions, which States Parties are obliged to follow. The Committee has urged State parties to investigate allegations of ill-treatment in detention, and in cases of disappearances, to establish the truth of what has happened and to bring to justice any persons found to be responsible. The Committee has noted the obligation to and to prosecute criminally, try and punish those held responsible for violations under the Covenant, to grant appropriate compensation to victims and afford all necessary medical care. In some instances, it has called for the immediate release of persons wrongfully detained. Importantly, the Committee has called on State parties to take effective measures in order to ensure that similar violations do not occur in the future.
Follow up: The Human Rights Committee has requested from State parties information on any relevant measures taken by the State party in respect of the Committee's decisions. In 1990, the Committee instituted a mechanism to assist it in monitoring more closely whether States parties have given effect to its final decisions on the merits, and cooperation from States parties has been encouraging.