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Individual Complaints

The Special Rapporteur is mandated to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences from Governments, treaty bodies, specialized agencies, other special rapporteurs responsible for various human rights questions and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including women's organizations, and to respond effectively to such information.

The Special Rapporteur transmits urgent appeals and allegation letters (communications) to States regarding alleged cases of violence against women which she receives. Allegations may concern one or more individuals or may convey information relating to a general prevailing situation condoning and/or perpetrating violence against women. It should be emphasized that, in accordance with her mandate, the Special Rapporteur is in a position only to process cases of alleged violence or threats of violence directed against women because of their sex. The definition of gender-based violence used by the Special Rapporteur is taken from the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 48/104 on December 1993.

The dialogue established with governments by the Special Rapporteur and the transmission of allegations concerning their countries in no way implies any kind of accusation or value judgment on the part of the Special Rapporteur, but rather a request for clarification with a view to trying to ensure, along with the government concerned, the effective prevention, investigation, and punishment of acts of violence against women and compensation for victims of such violations.

Urgent Appeals

Urgent transmissions may be sent by the Special Rapporteur to concerned Governments when reliable and credible information is received concerning cases which involve an imminent threat, or fear of threat, to the right to personal integrity or the life of a woman. When transmitting urgent actions, the Special Rapporteur appeals to the Governments concerned to ensure effective protection of those under threat or at risk of violence.

Allegation Letters

For those communications that do not require urgent action but relate to violations that already occurred and/or to general patterns of violations - including the legal framework and its application as regards violence against women – the Special Rapporteur may send allegation letters requiring Governments to clarify the substance of the allegations received.

How to submit cases to the Special Rapporteur

It is important to provide as much information as possible. The individual complaint form can be used to document cases of violence against women.

It would be helpful to receive a summary of the main points of the case. The summary could identify the rights that have been or may be violated. If your government has ratified human rights treaties, you could refer to the specific provisions of the treaties you believe have been violated.

If your submission is in regard to a law, practice or policy which affects women in general or women in a specific group, explain how other women are affected or describe the group. A consistent pattern in individual cases can be used to demonstrate a general failure to prevent and respond to private abuses.

If you submit information about violations committed by private individuals or groups (rather than government officials), include any information which might indicate that the government failed to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish, and ensure compensation for the violations. For example information on:

  • whether or not there is a law which addresses the violation
  • any defects in existing laws such as inadequate remedies or definitions of rights
  • the refusal or failure by authorities to register or investigate your case and other similar cases
  • the failure by the authorities to prosecute your case and other similar cases
  • patterns of gender discrimination in the prosecution or sentencing of cases
  • statistics and other data concerning the prevalence of the type of violation described in the submission.


The identity of an alleged victim will always be included in any contact between the Special Rapporteur and State authorities. The Special Rapporteur cannot intervene without revealing the victim’s identity. If the victim is a minor (below 18 years of age), the Special Rapporteur will include his or her identity in contact with the State, but will not include it in any subsequent public report. Similarly, if there are grounds to believe that revealing the identity of the victim in a public report might put the victim at further risk, they will not be included in any public report. The source of the information provided or the victim may also request that the victim’s name not be included in public reports. The name of the victim will be made public in the joint communications report of special procedures mandate holders, issued three times per year (March, June and September), unless the victim requests not to have his/her identity revealed in the said report. The identity of the source of information on the alleged violation is always kept confidential, unless the source agrees that it may be revealed. When submitting information you may indicate whether there are any other details which you would like to remain confidential.


Communications from the Special Rapporteur to the government are confidential at an initial stage until the summary of the letters and the answer of the government are included in the joint Communications Report of Special Procedures submitted periodically to the Human Rights Council. It is important for the Special Rapporteur to receive updated and relevant information on the situations referred to in the complaints submitted to enable him/her to continue to follow-up on the issue through his/her dialogue with the involved Parties. Person(s) or organization(s) that have submitted information and complaints are urged to consider the response made by Government and to submit their comments, if necessary, to the Special Rapporteur. Also note that several other individual complaint mechanisms have been established as part of the international human rights system. For more information please visit the Special Procedures page and the Human Rights Bodies-Complaints Procedures page.