Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation



Complaint Procedure

On 18 June 2007, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution entitled “Institution-Building of the United Nations Human Rights Council” by which a new complaint procedure was established to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and all fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances.  

The complaint procedure addresses communications submitted by individuals, groups, or NGOs that claim to be victims of human rights violations or that have direct, reliable knowledge of such violations.

How does the complaint procedure work?

The Chairperson of the Working Group on Communications, together with the Secretariat, undertake an initial screening of communications. Ill -founded and anonymous communications are screened out. Communications not rejected in the initial screening are transmitted to the State concerned to obtain its views on the allegations of violations. Both the author of a communication and the State concerned are informed of the proceedings at each stage.  

Two distinct working groups - the Working Group on Communications and the Working Group on Situations – are responsible, respectively, for examining written communications and bringing consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms to the attention of the Council.  

What are the criteria for a communication to be accepted for examination?

A communication related to a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms is admissible, provided that:  

  •  It is not manifestly politically motivated and its object is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other applicable instruments in the field of human rights law
  • It gives a factual description of the alleged violations, including the rights which are alleged to be violated
  • ts language is not abusive. However, such a communication may be considered if it meets the other criteria for admissibility after deletion of the abusive language;
  • It is submitted by a person or a group of persons claiming to be the victims of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, or by any person or group of persons, including non‑governmental organizations, acting in good faith in accordance with the principles of human rights, not resorting to politically motivated stands contrary to the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and claiming to have direct and reliable knowledge of the violations concerned. Nonetheless, reliably attested communications shall not be inadmissible solely because the knowledge of the individual authors is second-hand, provided that they are accompanied by clear evidence;
  • It is not exclusively based on reports disseminated by mass media;
  • It does not refer to a case that appears to reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights already being dealt with by a special procedure, a treaty body or other United Nations or similar regional complaints procedure in the field of human rights;Domestic remedies have been exhausted, unless it appears that such remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged.

What can Civil Society do?

NGOs, may serve as effective means of addressing individual human rights violations. In cases that meet the abovementioned criteria Scales for Justice (S4J) will study the case, draft a communication to the Complaint Procedure and follow-up with the mechanism. It will further publish its findings on the website and advocate for the case during the relevant meetings at the UN.

Source: OHCHR