United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Treaty Bodies

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What Is the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) is a body set up by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.  The UNHCHR seeks to encourage the international community and its member states to uphold universally agreed human rights standards.  The main role of the UNHCHR is to alert State governments and the world at large when these standards are either ignored or unfulfilled.  The UNHCHR aims to be a voice for human rights abuse victims. 

How Is the UNHCHR Structured?

The UNHCHR has six treaty-monitoring bodies (committees).  These committees were created by international treaties to monitor the implementation of those treaties, including: 

What Do these Committees Do?

When a country ratifies an international treaty, it is obligated to implement the provisions of the treaty at the national level.  It must also submit periodic reports to the treaty bodies on the steps it has taken to ensure the provisions of the treaty.  The committees examine these reports, along with information from other sources, in the presence of a delegation from the country.  The committee will then present its concerns and recommendations to the government for further action.  The state must then try to implement those recommendations. 

What Do I Do if I Believe My Rights under an International Human Rights Treaty Have Been Violated?

Four of the treaty bodies have procedures under which individuals may submit complaints to be evaluated.  However, only those individuals under the jurisdiction of a State that has formally accepted these procedures may submit a complaint.  Those states that have formally accepted these procedures may be found at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ website.  Before a complaint may be lodged, certain criteria must be fulfilled.  These include: 

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced in the Field of International Law?

The field of international law is, at times, confusing.  A lawyer experienced with issues of international law may be able to help you decide if you have a case.  If you believe your human rights under an international treaty has been violated, a lawyer can help inform you on whether you even have rights under an international treaty in your country. 

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Last Modified: 08-30-2011 03:31 PM PDT

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