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Each treaty body is composed of independent experts of recognized competence in human rights, who are nominated and elected for fixed, renewable terms of four years by States parties. The elections of half of the committees’ members are staggered every 2 years to ensure a balance between continuity and change in committee composition.

The committees with no limit on terms of membership are CERD, CMW, CAT, CESCR, HRC, CEDAW and CRC. The committees in which members can only be re-elected once are CED, CRPD and SPT.

Key documents

Treaty body membership requirements

Members of the treaty bodies are expected to meet a number of requirements:

  1. To be a national of a State party to the human rights treaty in question;
  2. To be elected by the States parties to the treaty in question (with the exception of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, whose members are elected by the Economic and Social Council upon nomination by States parties to the ICESCR;
  3. To be a person of high moral standing and recognized to have competence in the relevant field of human rights;
  4. To be available to regularly attend the sessions of the Committee in question;
  5. To serve in their personal capacity.

Nominating candidates for election

The States parties to the various international human rights treaties nominate and elect treaty body members from among their nationals. The nominations are compiled by the Secretary-General who submits them for consideration to all the States parties to a specific treaty.

In accordance with General Assembly resolution 68/268 [paragraph 13], when nominating independent experts for committee elections, States are encouraged to give due consideration to:

  • equitable geographical distribution;
  • the representation of different forms of civilization and the principal legal systems;
  • balanced gender representation;
  • the participation of experts with disabilities.

The resolution also reaffirms the importance of the independence and impartiality of members of the human rights treaty bodies [paragraph 35]. All elected members serve in their personal capacity.

Independence and expertise of treaty body members

As the need to safeguard the perception of independence and impartiality begins with the nomination process at the national level, a number of States parties have adopted national policies and processes for conducting the nomination process in a transparent, open and inclusive manner conducive to selecting candidates with the required expertise and independence.

In the same vein, since 1997 the chairpersons of treaty bodies through their Annual Meeting have repeatedly recommended that “States parties to human rights treaties should refrain from nominating or electing to the treaty bodies persons performing political functions or occupying positions which were not readily reconcilable with the obligations of independent experts under the given treaty”.

In June 2012, the Chairs of the treaty bodies discussed and endorsed the Addis Ababa Guidelines on the independence and impartiality of members of the human rights treaty bodies. 

The electoral process

Elections of treaty body members take place during meetings of States parties. Two thirds of the States parties constitute a quorum, and experts are elected by secret ballot. The persons elected to the various committees are those nominees who obtained the largest number of votes and an absolute majority of the votes of the representatives of States parties present and voting.

This procedure is common to all treaty bodies with the exception of CESCR, whose members are elected by the Economic and Social Council. In addition, procedures vary with regard to the number of candidates a State party can nominate.

Terminating a member’s mandate

The mandate of a treaty body member ends upon the expiry of the term for which they were appointed. Death, resignation, or any other cause that prevents a member from continuing to perform their Committee duties are justifications for early termination of a treaty body member’s mandate. (ICCPR, Art. 33; CAT, Art. 17(6); OP-CAT, Art. 8; CRC, Art. 43(7); CMW, Art. 72(6); CRPD, Art. 34(9); and CED, Art. 26(5).)