Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council


19th session of the Human Rights Council, Room XX © UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre
19th session of the Human Rights Council, Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva
© UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. The system of Special Procedures is a central element of the United Nations human rights machinery and covers all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political, and social. As of 7 October 2020, there are 44 thematic and 11 country mandates.

With the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), special procedures undertake country visits; act on individual cases and concerns of a broader, structural nature by sending communications to States and others in which they bring alleged violations or abuses to their attention; conduct thematic studies and convene expert consultations, contribute to the development of international human rights standards, engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation. Special procedures report annually to the Human Rights Council; the majority of the mandates also reports to the General Assembly. Their tasks are defined in the resolutions creating or extending their mandates.
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What special procedures have accomplished in 2018 at a glance

The annual report of special procedures for 2018 provides information on the system as a whole and its achievements during the year. An addendum to the report contains ‘facts and figures’ for the period with infographics and pertinent analysis. While containing a comprehensive overview of activities undertaken during 2018 including country visits, communications, thematic reporting, follow-up activities, and engagement with other actors including through its Coordination Committee, the report goes beyond. It highlights contributions made both individually and as a system towards the development of international standards and advocacy, the prevention and early warning capacity of special procedures as well as their engagement with the General Assembly, Security Council or Peacebuilding architecture of the United Nations. It informs on the degree of cooperation by the States with the Special Procedures system, noting some encouraging trends while expressing concerns about reprisals against those who cooperated with the system and ad hominem attacks against some Mandate Holders for carrying out their work. The report also reflects the work of the Coordination Committee as well as covers the main issues discussed at the twenty-fifth annual meeting of special procedures of the Human Rights Council, held in Geneva from 4 to 8 June 2018.

Cooperation with the special procedures and acts of intimidation and reprisals

Engagement of individuals and groups with the special procedures without fear of reprisal is essential for the fulfilment of their mandates, as established by the Human Rights Council. Therefore addressing acts of intimidation and reprisal against those who seek to cooperate, cooperate or have cooperated with the special procedures or any other part of the United Nations system in the field of human rights is a priority for mandate holders. As a result of the growing attention given to this phenomenon and the increasing instances of intimidation and reprisals observed by mandate holders, they agreed during the 22nd Annual Meeting of Special Procedures, held in June 2015, to consolidate and enhance special procedures' response to this unacceptable practice by establishing a coherent framework for action. More information on the issue of reprisals and this framework can be found here.

Visual Directory

Directory of Special Procedures Mandate Holders

July 2020
English [Version to print]
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Annual Fact and Figures 2013

Annual Fact and Figures 2013

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Civil Society Handbook

Civil Society Handbook

Click here Chapter VI - Special Procedures and the Full handbook here (PDF, 1,28MB)

UPR recommendations relating to the Special Procedures (2008-2013)

UPR recommendations relating to the Special Procedures (2008-2013)

UPR recommendations  (PDF, 1,73MB)


21st Century Episode 111 - Human Rights in North Korea; and a holocaust survivor tells his story,
13 May 2016



Human rights… Who is watching?

The UN Human Rights Council has a group of experts who carry out visits worldwide to monitor and report on a wide range of human rights violations, reflect on different human rights issues and advocate for protection. They are the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, and for them it’s all about the people.

Transcript in Word


Film on Juan Mendez

I am a survivor of torture myself.

As a human rights lawyer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, has dedicated over 40 years to ending torture.

Transcript in Word


Visit of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Central African Republic -- Central African Republic, February 2015


Visit of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation -- Brazil, December 2013


Visit of the Special Rapporteur on truth -- Uruguay, October 2013


Visit of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children -- Italy, September 2013


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Feature stories


Feature stories about the Special Procedures of the
Human Rights Council.
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Contact us

Postal address:
Special Procedures Division
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10

Fax : +41 22 917 90 08

In Focus :

> Human rights experts warn of damaging impact on Special Procedures from UN funding crisis

> Letter of the Coordination Committee to the Consultative Group on the selection process of special procedures mandate holders, 26 August 2020.

> HRC urgent debate current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protest today – joint statement by the Coordination Committee and other mandate holders.

> Letter of the Coordination Committee to the Consultative Group on the selection process of special procedures mandate holders, 26 April 2020

> COVID-19 and SP: calls and guidance for a human rights approach in addressing the crisis

> A member of the Coordination Committee presents the Annual Report of SP to the 43rd session of the HRC, 11 March 2020 - Statement / Report and addendum

> Letter of the Chair of the Coordination Committee to States – 10 March 2020

> Letter of the Chair of the Coordination Committee to States – 18 September 2019

> The Coordination Committee writes to the NGO Committee – June 2019

> Special procedures mandate holders elected a new Chair of the Coordination Committee, Mrs. Anita Ramasastry, during their 26th Annual Meeting

> The Coordination Committee of SP shared information about the work of SP with the Security Council – April 2019

>  The Chair of the Coordination Committee explains the prevention role of SP – April 2019

> The Chair of the Coordination Committee presents the Annual Report of SP to the 40th session of the HRC, 13 March 2019 Statement / Report and addendum

> Statement of special procedures on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2018 on the resilience and relevance of  the UDHR in a time of closing borders and closing civic space

> Forthcoming country visits


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For further information on how to submit communications on alleged human rights violations, please read the webpage on Communications and send your submission to: submissions to Special Procedures.