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The Human Rights Council mechanisms and entities

The Human Rights Council uses a variety of subsidiary bodies, expert mechanisms, working groups and forums to make its work come to life.

Main bodies

The role, principles, objectives, and methods of the Council’s main subsidiary bodies are outlined in its “Institution-building package” (resolution 5/1), which it adopted in June 2007, one year after its first meeting. The main subsidiary bodies of the Council are:

  • Universal Periodic Review: The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council that calls for each UN Member State to undergo a peer review of its human rights records every 4.5 years. Since its first cycle in 2008, all 193 UN Member States have been reviewed three times. The fourth cycle of the review began in November 2022, at the 41st session of the UPR Working Group.
  • Special Procedures: The Council also establishes independent experts known as Special Procedures. The Council mandates, nominates, selects, and appoints the respective mandate holders – be they individuals or groups of individuals. These independent experts report annually to the Council from both thematic and country-specific perspectives.
  • Advisory Committee: Composed of 18 independent experts, the Committee functions as the Council’s think tank and helps set its directions on thematic issues.
  • Complaint Procedure: The complaint procedure of the Human Rights Council addresses consistent patterns of gross and reliably-attested violations of all human rights and fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances. Complaints may be submitted by individuals, groups, or non-governmental organizations that claim to be victims of such violations, or who have direct, reliable knowledge of them.

HRC-mandated investigations

United Nations-mandated investigative bodies serve as crucial tools for addressing serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, whether arising suddenly or from protracted conflicts. These independent mechanisms, established by various entities including the Security Council, General Assembly, Secretary-General, and Human Rights Council, aim to promote accountability and counter impunity.

Investigative bodies mandated by the Human Rights Council have taken numerous forms since the Council was created in 2006, including fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry. Most have been established to investigate alleged violations in specific countries. However, one – the Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement – is thematic in nature. Learn more.

Designated Experts of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Through a resolution, the Human Rights Council can request the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to designate experts who document and report on human rights situations. To date, the Council asked the High Commissioner to designate experts for three countries: Sudan, Haiti, and Colombia. Learn more.

Open-ended intergovernmental working groups

Open-ended intergovernmental working groups elaborate and/or negotiate and finalize new draft legal instruments. They also make recommendations on the effective implementation of existing instruments. Learn more.

Current groups include:

Expert mechanisms

Subsidiary expert mechanisms provide the Council with thematic expertise, focused mainly on studies, research-based advice or best practices. Supported by the thematic division of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, they meet and report annually to the Council. Learn more.


The Council establishes forums as platforms for dialogue and cooperation. There are five of these events, all of them organized yearly except for the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, which is held every two years. Learn more.