“All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.”
- Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, 12 March 2007, Opening of the 4th Human Rights Council Session
Background information on the Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva. The Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly.
The Human Rights Council replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the UN’s widely-discredited Human Rights Commission. Unfortunately, the present council has also faced similar criticism to the commission, with the election of countries with questionable track records in human rights.
The Council was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251. Its first session took place from 19 to 30 June 2006. One year later, the Council adopted its “Institution-building package” to guide its work and set up its procedures and mechanisms. Among them were the Universal Periodic Review mechanism which serves to assess the human rights situations in all United Nations Member States, the Advisory Committee which serves as the Council’s “think tank” providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues and the Complaint Procedure which allows individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the Council.
The Human Rights Council also works with the UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and now assumed by the Council. These are made up of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and working groups that monitor, examine, advise and publicly report on thematic issues or human rights situations in specific countries
Resolution adopted by the General Assembly
Reaffirming the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, including developing friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and achieving international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all …Read full text: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 Human Rights Council (pdf 116 KB)
Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Acting in compliance with the mandate entrusted to it by the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Adopts the draft text entitled “United Nations Human Rights Council: Institution Building”, as contained in the annex to the present resolution, including the basis of the review is:
(a) The Charter of the United Nations;
(b) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
(c) Human rights instruments to which a State is party;
(d) Voluntary pledges and commitments made by States, including those undertaken when presenting their candidatures for election to the Human Rights Council (hereinafter “the Council”).
In addition to the above and given the complementary and mutually interrelated nature of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, the review shall take into account applicable international humanitarian law. Read more The Principles and objectives at: Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council (pdf 160 KB)
Review of the Council
When creating the Human Rights Council in March 2006 the United Nations General Assembly decided that the Council’s work and functioning should be reviewed five years after it had come into existence at the level of the General Assembly. More information about the review and its 2011 outcome are available here.
Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council
Special procedures is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special procedures’ mandates usually call on mandate holders to examine, monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories, known as country mandates, or on major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide, known as thematic mandates.
Several special procedures mechanisms intervene directly with Governments on specific allegations of violations of human rights that come within their mandates. The intervention can relate to a human rights violation that has already occurred, is ongoing, or which has a high risk of occurring. The process, in general, involves sending a letter to the concerned State requesting information and comments on the allegation and, where necessary, asking that preventive or investigatory action be taken. Communications may deal with individual cases, general trends and patterns of human rights violations occurring in a particular country, cases affecting a particular group or community, or the content of draft or existing legislation considered to be not fully compatible with international human rights standards. Visit http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Communications.aspx
The Human Rights Council replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the UN’s widely-discredited Human Rights Commission. Unfortunately, the present council has also faced similar criticism to the commission, with the election of countries with questionable track records in human rights.
About the Commission on Human Rights, United Nations
On 27 March 2006, the Commission on Human Rights concluded its sixty-second and final session (62nd Session, Geneva). The United Nations Commission on Human Rights was established in 1946 to weave the international legal fabric that protects our fundamental rights and freedoms. Composed of 53 States members, its brief expanded over time to allow it to respond to the whole range of human rights problems and it set standards to govern the conduct of States. It also acted as a forum where countries large and small, non-governmental groups and human rights defenders from around the world voiced their concerns.
During its regular annual session in Geneva, for which over 3,000 delegates from member and observer States and from non-governmental organizations participated, the Commission adopted about a hundred resolutions, decisions and Chairperson’s statements on matters of relevance to individuals in all regions and circumstances. It was assisted in this work by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a number of working groups and a network of individual experts, representatives and rapporteurs mandated to report to it on specific issues.
On 18 June 2007, the Human Rights Council adopted the President text entitled “UN Human Rights Council: Institution Building” (resolution 5/1) by which a new Complaint Procedure is being 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 new Complaint Procedure is established in compliance with the mandate entrusted to the Human Rights Council by General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, in which the Council was requested to review and, where necessary, improve and rationalize, within one year after the holding of its first session, all mandates, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities of the former Commission on Human Rights, including the 1503 procedure, in order to maintain a system of special procedures, expert advice and a complaint procedure. Accordingly, ECOSOC resolution 1503 (XLVIII) of 27 May 1970 as revised by resolution 2000/3 of 19 June 2000, served as a working basis for the establishment of a new Complaint Procedure and was improved where necessary to ensure that the complaint procedure be impartial, objective, efficient, victims-oriented and conducted in a timely manner.
The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV)
The Trust Fund for Victims is the first of its kind in the global movement to end impunity and promote justice. The Trust Fund is capable of transforming Court-ordered reparations into credible and tangible forms of redress for victims of crimes adjudicated by the ICC. The Trust Fund for Victims
Where to send communications?
Communications intended for handling under the Council Complaint Procedure may be addressed to:
For more information, visit website pages/links:-
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 Human Rights Council (pdf 116 KB)
Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council (pdf 160 KB)
Feature stories on Special Procedures
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