Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. James Anaya, visiting indigenous peoples in the Likouala District, Republic of Congo © OHCHR photo
Mandate holders carry out country visits to investigate the situation of human rights at the national level. Mandate holders typically send a letter to the Government requesting to visit the country, and, if the Government agrees, an invitation to visit is extended. Some countries have issued standing invitations, which means that they are, in principle, prepared to receive a visit from any special procedures mandate holder.
During such missions, the experts assess the general human rights situation in a given country, as well as the specific institutional, legal, judicial, administrative and de facto situation under their respective mandates. During the country visit the experts will meet with national and local authorities, including members of the judiciary and parliamentarians; members of the national human rights institution, if applicable; non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and victims of human rights violations; the UN and other inter-governmental agencies; and the press when giving a press-conference at the end of the mission. After their visits, special procedures' mandate-holders submit a mission report to the Human Rights Council including their findings and recommendations.
Mandate holders at times also visit various International Organizations that have cross-cutting themes with the mandates. For example, official visits were made to the World Bank, FAO, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization etc. and reports on recommendations arising from the visits have been issued.
Terms of Reference for Fact-finding missions by Special Procedures
The terms of reference for country visits were adopted at the fourth annual meeting of the special rapporteurs (E/CN.4/1998/45) and are intended to guide Governments in the conduct of the visit. During fact-finding missions, special procedures of the Human Rights Council, as well as of United Nations staff accompanying them, should be given the following guarantees and facilities by the Government that invited them to visit its country:
(a) Freedom of movement in the whole country, including facilitation of transport, in particular to restricted areas;
(b) Freedom of inquiry, in particular as regards:
(i) Access to all prisons, detention centres and places of interrogation;
(ii) Contacts with central and local authorities of all branches of government;
(iii) Contacts with representatives of non-governmental organizations, other private institutions and the media;
(iv) Confidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons, including persons deprived of their liberty, considered necessary to fulfil the mandate of the special rapporteur; and
(v) Full access to all documentary material relevant to the mandate;
(c) Assurance by the Government that persons, whether officials or private individuals, who have been in contact with the special rapporteur/representative in relation to the mandate, will not, as a result, suffer threats, harassment or punishment or be subjected to judicial proceedings;
(d) Appropriate security arrangements without, however, restricting the freedom of movement and inquiry referred to above;
(e) Extension of the same guarantees and facilities mentioned above to the appropriate United Nations staff who will assist the special rapporteur before, during and after the visit.