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Human Rights Bodies

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) works to offer the best expertise and support to the different human rights monitoring mechanisms in the United Nations system : UN Charter-based bodies, including the Human Rights Council, 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. Most of these bodies receive secretariat support from the Human Rights Council and Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Charter-based bodies


Treaty-based bodies

There are ten human rights treaty bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties :


Charter-based bodies

UN Photo Jean Marc Ferre

Charter bodies include the former Commission on Human Rights, the Human Rights Council , and Special Procedures. The Human Rights Council, which replaced the Commission on Human Rights, held its first meeting on 19 June 2006. This intergovernmental body, which meets in Geneva 10 weeks a year, is composed of 47 elected United Nations Member States who 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 prevent abuses, inequity and discrimination, protect the most vulnerable, and expose perpetrators.

The Human Rights Council is a separate entity from OHCHR. This distinction originates from the separate mandates they were given by the General Assembly. Nevertheless, OHCHR provides substantive support for the meetings of the Human Rights Council, and follow-up to the Council's deliberations.

Special Procedures is the general name given to the 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 either an individual –a special rapporteur or representative, or independent expert—or a working group. They are prominent, independent experts working on a voluntary basis, appointed by the Human Rights Council.

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 major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide, known as thematic mandates. There are 37 thematic mandates and 14 country mandates. All report to the Human Rights Council on their findings and recommendations. They are sometimes the only mechanism that will alert the international community on certain human rights issues.

OHCHR supports the work of rapporteurs, representatives and working groups through its Special Procedures Division (SPD) which services 27 thematic mandates; and the Research and Right to Development Division (RRDD) which aims to improve the integration of human rights standards and principles, including the rights to development; while the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (FOTCD) supports the work of country-mandates.

Treaty-based bodies

There are nine core international human rights treaties, the most recent one -- on enforced disappearance -- entered into force on 23 December 2010. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, all UN Member States have ratified at least one core international human rights treaty, and 80 percent have ratified four or more.

There are currently ten human rights treaty bodies, which are committees of independent experts. 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 are created in accordance with the provisions of the treaty that they monitor. OHCHR supports the work of treaty bodies and assists them in harmonizing their working methods and reporting requirements through their secretariats. 

There are other United Nations bodies and entities involved in the promotion and protection of human rights