Law - 1503 Procedure
This procedure is named after the resolution
of ECOSOC, which set it up. It mandates the commission to
consider communications by any person or group of people alleging
that governments have committed a "consistent pattern
of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights
and fundamental freedoms". All communications about alleged
human rights violations received by the UN are processed by
the UN Secretariat under this procedure, unless the communication
is addressed to a particular special rapporteur or working
However, communications concerning individual cases under
the jurisdiction of a state which has ratified the First Optional
Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights will be channelled to the appropriate committee, rather
than being examined under procedure 1503. The same applies
where the particular communication alleges human rights violations
in a country which falls in the mandate of a country mandate
The entire procedure is confidential except from a short public
announcement by the chairperson at the end of the closed session
simply indicating which countries were dropped from the procedure,
and which were kept under review. Another important characteristic
of this procedure is that it is only concerned with the country
situation, and is not designed to redress individual grievances.
When should I consider using it?
Although it has rarely been used by children's
organisations, the 1503 procedure can be used when you seek
to redress widespread children's rights abuses, or a consistent
practice of violations of children's rights within a country.
Information on violations of children's rights, civil and
political and economic, social and cultural, would be welcomed
within this procedure.
It is essential to have sufficient, reliable and up-to-date
information. If admissible, a confidential examination of
the country concerned will be carried out. The 1503 procedure
is not appropriate if your primary objective is public exposure
of violations of children's rights, speedy action by the UN,
or a decision on an individual case. As the procedure is confidential,
you will not be informed directly at any stage whether your
complaint has been taken up, and will not be given the chance
to update the information first submitted.
Although the 1503 can be a frustrating procedure from the
point of view of the complainant, it is taken very seriously
within the UN, and governments prefer not to be under investigation,
fearing the adverse publicity and the potential power of world
More detailed information on how the procedure
functions, and what type of measures the commission may take,
can be found in Fact Sheet (No. 7) on Communications Procedures
issued by the Office of the High Commissioner/Centre for Human
Rights. These are available from the Office of the High Commissioner
on Human Rights website (http://www.unhchr.ch).
Click on Publications and then Fact sheets.
The same fact sheet includes also a list of admissibility
requirements, guidelines on the contents of communications
and a model questionnaire. However, it is not necessary to
follow the model questionnaire and information may be sent
via E-mail as well.
Communications should be sent to: Support Services Branch,
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Office,
Palais Wilson, 51 Rue des Paquis, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland,
Fax. +41 22 917 9011, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Interventions at the commission or the
Another avenue for drawing attention to your concerns about
children's rights at the UN is to make an oral or written
statement at the commission or the sub-commission. Such statements
may be made by NGO representatives only if they have been
granted consultative status with ECOSOC. This is the case
for Save the Children.
When making a statement, it is important to do it under the
relevant agenda item. Therefore, when preparing your statement,
you should consult the provisional agenda. This document can
be obtained from the UN NGO Liaison Office a few weeks before
The question of 'the rights of the child' is one of the fixed
agenda items considered by the commission. In this connection
the commission considers the secretary-general's annual report
on the rights of the child, current special rapporteurs' reports
(for example, the report from the Special Rapporteur on the
Sale, Pornography and Prostitution of Children) and information
on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The commission also adopts a resolution on the rights of the
child. For instance, the issues addressed in the last commission
resolution are: the girl child, prevention and eradication
of the sale of children and of their sexual exploitation and
abuse, including child prostitution and child pornography,
protection of children affected by armed conflict, protection
of refugee and internally displaced children, elimination
of the exploitation of child labour, the plight of children
working and/or living on the street, and children with disabilities
(CHR 1998/76). However, there is no reason why a children's
NGO could not make a statement under another agenda item,
provided the information is relevant to that particular item.
In the agenda of the fiftieth session of the sub-commission,
there were specific references to children's issues under
the various subject headings, such as, for example, traditional
practices affecting the health of women and the girl child;
the application of international standards concerning the
human rights of detained juveniles. In addition, there was
one specific subject heading: "situation regarding the
promotion, full realisation and protection of the rights of
children and youth".
When making a statement, the preferred approach is to address
a particular theme related to children's rights and to use
country examples to support your recommendations, unless a
country deserves special attention because of systematic violations.
However, it is not recommended that you criticise a particular
country that has not been identified in the public commission
or sub-commission agenda. This must normally be addressed
in the 1503 procedure.
Seeking a commission or sub-commission
One of the things you may be seeking when making an intervention
is the adoption of a public resolution on a particular country,
or on specific aspects of the human rights situation in a
particular country. For example, at its last session, the
commission adopted a resolution on the abduction of children
from Northern Uganda by the Lords Resistance Army.
Draft resolutions at the commission may be introduced only
by governments, and, at the sub-commission, only by members
of the sub-commission. Therefore, NGOs seeking to encourage
a resolution need to consider discussing the matter with a
government or with a sub-commission member who may share the
NGO activity outside the plenary
Besides submitting a written statement or making an oral statement
at the public meetings of the commission or sub-commission,
there are a number of other things you may want to do whilst
you are in Geneva, such as:
• Attending a working group meeting. Participation in
a sessional or pre-sessional working group is less formal
and may prove more effective than an intervention at the plenary
meeting. One working group of particular importance for children's
issues is the sub-commission's Working Group on Contemporary
Forms of Slavery (link to this particular mechanism before
in the thematic mandates section).
• Speaking informally to the members of the commission
or sub-commission or to government delegates, particularly
those who you know will be sympathetic to your case.
• Liaising with other NGOs pursuing similar objectives.
For practical advice on any of the above procedures, you can
contact the International Service for Human Rights, P.O. 16,
1, rue Varembé, 1211 Geneva, 20 CIC, Switzerland, tel.
+41 22 733 5123; fax +41 22 733 0826. It has published an
orientation manual helping you to find your way around at
the UN in Geneva.
II.2 THE UN SUB-COMMISSION
ON THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
This Sub-Commission (the name was changed from the Subcommission
on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
by a decision of the ECOSOC of July 1999) was established
by the Commission on Human Rights to undertake studies, particularly
in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
and to make recommendations to the Commission concerning the
prevention of discrimination of any kind relating to human
rights and fundamental freedoms and to the protection of racial,
national, religious and linguistic minorities, and to carry
out any other functions entrusted to it by ECOSOC or the Commission
on Human Rights (E/1371 of 1949). It meets at least once per
year; the meetings are held in Geneva for a period of four
weeks, beginning early August.
The Sub-Commission is composed of initially 12, now 26 members
nominated by governments and elected for four-year terms by
the Commission on Human Rights. In order to ensure adequate
representation of different regions, legal systems and cultures,
members are elected on the following basis: seven from African
states; five from Asian states; six from Western Europe and
Other states; five from Latin American and Caribbean states;
and three from Eastern European states. The members are elected
to serve in their individual capacity as independent experts
rather than to represent their governments' policies. Half
of the members of the Sub-Commission are elected every two
Sub-Commission Working Groups
Besides the working group on communications in connection
with the "1503 procedure" as explained below, there
exist four other working groups established by the Sub-Commission,
• since 1974 a five-member working group to review developments
in the field of slave trade, including slavery-like practices
of apartheid and colonialism, the traffic in persons and the
exploitations of the prostitution of others; in 1988 the name
of the Working Group on Slavery was changed into the Working
Group of Contemporary Forms of Slavery.
• In 1982, the Sub-Commission established a working
group on indigenous populations in order to review developments
pertaining to the promotion and protection of the human rights
and fundamental freedoms of indigenous populations.
• In 1994, the Sub-Commission established a sessional
working group on the administration of justice and the question
of compensation in place of a sessional working group on detention.
In 1997, the Sub-Commission decided to change its title to
Working Group on the Administration of Justice.
• In 1995, the Sub-Commission established, initially
for a three-year period, an intersessional working group on
minorities which consists of five of its members; its major
task is to recommend further measures for the promotion and
protection of the rights of persons belonging to national
or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
The "1503 procedure"
The annual meetings of the Sub-Commission are public, except
for the days when it meets in closed sessions to discuss the
"1503 procedure" adopted in 1970. This procedure
is based upon the Universal Declaration on Human Rights relating
to the ECOSOC resolutions 728 F (XXVIII), 1235 (XLII) and
1503 (XLII) and the resolution 1 (XXIV) of the Sub-Commission
on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
Chart 4 offers a detailed description of the procedure; all
communications received by the UN, with the exception of those
which fit under a more specific UN procedure, are processed
under this "1503 procedure". Communications concerning
all Member States can be submitted; admissible communications
may originate from a person or group of persons who are victims
of violations and any person or group of persons who have
direct and reliable knowledge of those violations. The conditions
of admissibility are the following: (a) no political motivation;
(b) exhaustion of all available domestic remedies; (c) no
condition for the submission of a communication under the
resolution 728 F (XXVIII); (d) not anonymous.
Every month, members of the Sub-Commission, experts who serve
in their personal capacity, receive from the UN Secretary-General
a list of communications together with short descriptions
of each case and any replies sent in by governments. This
list is also supplied to the members of the CHR (for the system
at work cf. chart 4).
A five-member Working Group on Communications of the Sub-Commission
meets privately for two weeks each year immediately prior
to the Sub-Commissioner’s annual session to consider
all the communications and any replies of governments and
to select for the attention of the Sub-Commission cases where
there seems to be reliable evidence of a consistent pattern
of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
A majority of the members of the Working Group is needed to
refer a communication to the Sub-Commission. No further action
is taken on communications which the Working Group does not
pass on to the Sub-Commission.
The Sub-Commission then considers the received communications
and has to decide whether to refer to "situations"
where there appears a consistent pattern of gross and reliably
attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms
to the Commission on Human Rights.
Then, it is the turn of the CHR and its Working Group on Situations
which drafts recommendations as to how each situation should
be handled by the Commission to decide whether a thorough
study of a particular situation is needed, with a report and
recommendations to the ECOSOC. The Commission may also decide
to appoint an Ad hoc Committee to make an investigation; this,
however, requires the consent of the State concerned.
All actions taken under the "1503 procedure" remain
confidential unless the Commission reports thereon to the
ECOSOC. Until that stage is reached, the meetings of all human
rights bodies involved are held in private and the confidentiality
of their records and the documents they handle is preserved.
However, since 1978 the Chair of the CHR has announced the
names of countries which have been under examination, thereby
making a distinction between countries where the Commission
continues to keep a human rights situation under review, and
those where it has been decided to take no further action.
Each communication must describe the facts, the purpose of
the petition, and the rights that have been violated.
Communications intended for handling under
the "1503 procedure" may be addressed to:
The many critics of the 1503 procedure neglect the fact that
it was developed prior to the adoption of the two human rights
covenants. It must be stressed that the goal of this procedure
is not to provide legal protection for the individual victims
of human rights violations but to gather information on systematic
and gross violations of human rights.
During the public meetings - besides government representatives
- NGOs which have consultative status with ECOSOC may attend
as observers and make written and oral statements concerning
issues on the agenda. The NGOs have gradually expanded the
scope of their influence; for them, the Sub-Commission has
often been a more accessible forum for new ideas than other
As mentioned above, communications may be admitted when they
come from individuals or groups who claim to be victims of
human rights violations; they may also be admitted when they
come from any person or group of people which has direct,
reliable knowledge of violations. When NGOs present communications
on violations, the conditions are that the NGOs are acting
in good faith in the accordance with recognized principles
of human rights and that they have direct, reliable evidence
of the situation described.
The Sub-Commission annually presents a public report to its
parent body, the UN Commission on Human Rights, which summarizes
the results and includes the text of all adopted resolutions.
More detailed summary records of the proceedings are also
Weissbrodt, David, Parker, Penny: The U.N. Commission on Human
Rights, Its Sub-Commission, and Related Procedures: An Orientation
Manual. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minnesota Advocates for Human
Rights; Geneva: International Service for Human Rights, 1993,
This practical Manual is designed for use by first-time participants
and observers of the proceedings of the Commission on Human
Rights. A French version is also available. Periodic supplements
to this Manual are prepared by the International Service for
Human Rights in Geneva.
Copies of the Manual can be obtained from the
International Service for Human Rights
P.O. Box 16 1,
rue de Varembé
CH-1211 Geneva, 20 CIC
Phone: x 41-22-7335123
Fax: x 41-22-7330826
The United Nations and Human Rights
The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major
preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the
Organization's founding nations resolved that the horrors
of The Second World War should never be allowed to recur.
Respect for human rights and human dignity "is the foundation
of freedom, justice and peace in the world", the General
Assembly declared three years later in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Over the years, a whole network of human
rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure
the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations
wherever they occur.
United Nations intergovernmental bodies dealing with human
The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the
United Nations. Made up of 185 Member States, it reviews and
takes action on human rights matters referred to it by its
Third Committee and by the Economic and Social Council.
A subsidiary body of the General Assembly concerned with human
rights is the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices
affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other
Arabs of the Occupied Territories.
The Economic and Social Council, composed of 54 member Governments,
makes recommendations to the General Assembly on human rights
matters, and reviews reports and resolutions of the Commission
on Human Rights and transmits them with amendments to the
General Assembly. To assist it in its work, the Council established
the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on the Status
of Women and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal
Justice. It also works closely with agencies of the United
Nations system which have a special interest in human rights
The Commission on Human Rights is the main policy-making body
dealing with human rights issues. Composed of 53 member Governments,
it prepares studies, makes recommendations and drafts international
human rights conventions and declarations. It also investigates
allegations of human rights violations and handles communications
relating to them.
The Commission has established a number of subsidiary bodies,
including the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination
and Protection of Minorities.
The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination
and Protection of Minorities undertakes studies and makes
recommendations to the Commission concerning the prevention
of discrimination against racial, religious and linguistic
minorities. Composed of 26 experts, the Sub-Commission meets
each year for four weeks. It has set up working groups and
established Special Rapporteurs to assist it with certain
The Commission on the Status of Women, composed of 32 members,
prepares recommendations and reports to the Economic and Social
Council on the promotion of women's rights in political, economic,
social and educational fields. It makes recommendations to
the Council on problems requiring attention in the field of
The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, composed
of 40 members, is the main United Nations policy-making body
on criminal justice. It develops and monitors the United Nations
programme on crime prevention.
To enhance respect for fundamental human rights and to further
progress towards their realization, the United Nations adopted
a three-pronged approach: (a) establishment of international
standards, (b) protection of human rights, and (c) United
Nations technical assistance.
Establishment of international standards
International Human Rights standards were developed to protect
people's human rights against violations by individuals, groups
The following declarations adopted by the international community
are not legally binding: the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (1948), the Declaration on the Right to Development
(1986) and the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons
from Enforced Disappearance (1992). Many countries have incorporated
the provisions of these declarations into their laws and constitutions.
International covenants and conventions have the force of
law for the States that ratify them.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights are legally binding human rights agreements. Both were
adopted in 1966 and entered into force 10 years later, making
many of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights effectively binding. Conventions include the Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
(entered into force in 1951); the International Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (entered
into force in 1969); the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women (entered into force
in 1981); the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (entered into
force in 1987); the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(entered into force in 1990); and the International Convention
on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and
Members of their Families (adopted in 1990, not yet in force).
Conventional mechanisms (treaty bodies), and extra-conventional
mechanisms (United Nations special rapporteurs, representatives,
experts and working groups) have been set up in order to monitor
compliance with the various international human rights instruments
and to investigate alleged human rights abuses.
Under the conventional mechanisms the following treaty bodies,
composed of experts serving in their personal capacity, were
established to monitor compliance with United Nations human
rights instruments: the Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the
Rights of the Child (CRC); the Committee against Torture (CAT),
the Human Rights Committee (Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights) and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
It should be noted that these Committees are established under
the respective instruments, with members elected by the States
parties, with the exception of the Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights, whose membership is elected by
To monitor the implementation of treaty obligations at the
national level, the treaty bodies examine reports of States
parties. Each year they engage in dialogue with approximately
100 national Governments and issue concluding observations,
commenting on the situtations of the countries and offering
suggestions and recommentations for improvement. In addition,
the Committees are entitled to hear and consider certain individual
Under the extra-conventional mechanisms, a number of procedures
have been established to monitor compliance with human rights
norms. Thematic procedures include the Representative of the
Secretary-General on internally displaced persons; working
groups on enforced or involuntary disappearances and on arbitrary
detention; and special rapporteurs dealing with extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions; torture; the independence
and impartiality of the judiciary; jurors and assessors and
the independence of lawyers; religious intolerance; the use
of mercenaries; freedom of opinion and expression; racism,
racial discrimination and xenophobia; the sale of children,
child prostitution and child pornography; and the elimination
of violence against women.
In addition, there exists a procedure, established by the
Economic and Social Council in 1970 (the so-called 1503 Procedure),
for dealing with communications relating to gross and attested
violations of human rights. If considered admissable, communications
are reviewed by a Working Group of the Sub-Commission on Prevention
of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, which decides
whether to transfer the communication to the Working Group
of the Commission on Human Rights. Communications remain confidential
until such time as the Commission may decide to make recommendations
to the Economic and Social Council.
Dialogue between States and United Nations bodies has led
to concrete results, such as the suspension of executions,
release of detainees and medical treatment for prisoners,
as well as changes in the domestic legal system of States
parties to human rights instruments.
UN human rights advisory services and technical assistance
The United Nations advisory services programme began in 1955
on a small scale, providing institution-building assistance
and other services to Member States at their request. In 1987,
the Secretary-General established the Voluntary Fund for Advisory
Services and Technical Assistance in the field of Human Rights.
Over the last few years, the United Nations Centre for Human
Rights and Electoral Assistance Division have received increasing
numbers of requests for technical assistance, which is usually
offered in the following areas:
* Reforming national laws: Incorporation of international
human rights norms into national laws and constitutions is
a key element in the protection of human rights. Assistance
in drafting new constitutions and laws in line with human
rights conventions has been provided to, inter alia, Bulgaria,
Malawi and Mongolia.
* Supporting democratization and advising on electoral procedures:
Since democratization has been a priority issue for advisory
services, assistance has been provided to several nations
on holding elections and setting up national human rights
institutions. The Centre for Human Rights advised several
countries, including Romania and Lesotho, on the legal and
technical aspects of democratic elections.
* Assisting in the drafting of national laws and preparation
of national reports: Regional and subregional training courses
have been held in Africa, Latin America and Asia and the Pacific.
* Strengthening national and regional institutions: Assistance
has been provided to institutions in various countries to
strengthen human rights protection and promotion activities.
* Training criminal justice personnel--judges, lawyers, prosecutors
and police: Training in the field of human rights includes
seminars, courses, workshops, fellowships, scholarships, the
provision of information and documentation.
Good offices of the Secretary-General
The Secretary-General can use his "good offices"
confidentially to raise human rights concerns with Member
States, including issues such as the release of prisoners
and commutation of death sentences. Results of such communications
are reported to the Security Council.
Although the idea of creating a post of High Commissioner
for Human Rights dates back to the 1960s, the General Assembly
established the post of High Commissioner only in December
The High Commissioner carries out the "good offices"
function in the field of human rights on behalf of the Secretary-General
and is therefore now the United Nations official with principal
responsibility for human rights activities. He is responsible
for promoting and protecting human rights for all and maintains
a continuing dialogue with Member States. His functions may
be summarized as follows:
• Crisis management
• Prevention and early warning
• Assistance to States in periods of transition
• Promotion of substantive rights
• Coordination and rationalization of the human rights
The Centre for Human Rights in Geneva, part of the United
Nations Secretariat, in this connection implements the policies
proposed by the High Commissioner.
United Nations Office at Geneva
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel.: 41 22 917 3924
Fax: 41 22 917 0213
New York, NY 10017
Tel.: (212) 963-5930
Fax: (212) 963-4097
New York, NY 10017
Tel.: (212) 963-4475
Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information
This glossary contains descriptions of acronyms, bodies, procedures
and terminology used in For the Record: Bringing Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights Home.
CAT Committee Against Torture
CEDAW Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
CERD Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
CESCR Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
CHR Commission on Human Rights
CRC Committee on the Rights of the Child
CSD Commission for Social Development
CSW Commission on the Status of Women
DAW Division for the Advancement of Women (UN)
DDPA Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
ECOSOC Economic and Social Council
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
GA General Assembly
HIV/AIDS human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency
HRC Human Rights Committee, also known as the Committee on
Civil and Political Rights
ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
IE Independent Expert
IFI international financial institutions
ILO International Labour Organization
IMF International Monetary Fund
IOM International Organization for Migration
MDGs Millennium Development Goals
NGO non-governmental organization
NHRI national human rights institutions
OHCHR Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
PRSP poverty reduction strategy paper
SC Security Council
SR Special Rapporteur
SRep Special Representative
TRIPS Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UN United Nations
UNAIDS Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
UNFPA United Nations Population Fund
UNHCHR United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund
UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women
WG Working Group
WHO World Health Organization
WSSD World Summit on Sustainable Development
WTO World Trade Organization
: See Communications
:An entrance to an open
treaty by a state which did not sign it but is willing to
comply with it. The procedure more or less combines signature
and ratification in a single act. Also see Ratification.
procedure whereby groups or individuals may, under certain
conditions, appeal to a treaty body committee or a UN commission
concerning an alleged human rights violatioin, after all potential
domestic remedies have failed. Such a complaint is referred
to as "communication".
For example, the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights provides for the establishment of a mechanism
that allow individuals who live in a State party to the Protocol
to submit a complaint to the Human Rights Committee (which
monitors the application of the Covenant) when they believe
their rights have been violated and they have exhausted all
A similar mechanism exists whereby the Commission on Human
Rights and the Sub-Commission can receive complaints concerning
"a consistent pattern" of gross human rights violations.
This is known as the "1503 Procedure", named for
ECOSOC Resolution 1503 (1978) which established the procedure.Under
the 1503 procedure, the deliberations of the Sub-Commission
and of the Commission are all confidential. However, the Commission
publicly announces the names of the countries which it is
considering under 1503, as well as countries dropped from
this list. Governments often go to great lengths to avoid
being put on this "black list" of gross violators.
: A set
of conclusions issued by UN treaty body committees after review
of a country's report on its implementation of a covenant
or a convention. These usually include critical comments and
recommendations for future action by the country in question.
: Also called covenant
or treaty, a convention is an agreement whereby countries
agree to bind themselves under international law to conform
to the convention's provisions. The convention becomes legally
binding once a country has ratified or acceded to it.
To facilitate the reporting process for States parties to
international human rights instruments, the treaty-bodies
have prepared consolidated guidelines for the development
of a "core document" or country profile. The document
is also referred to as "Land and people", the title
of the first section of the core document.
: In UN usage, a declaration
is a statement recognizing a universally valid principle,
or that expresses the agreement of signatories to given aims
and objectives. Unlike a convention, a declaration is a statement
of principle rather than an agreement by which countries bind
themselves under international law. Though not legally binding,
many declarations, such as the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, are considered to have an authoritative moral force.
The term is used to refer to articles in the United Nations
Charter which make reference to human rights, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocols.
generic term which designating conventions, covenants, treaties,
declarations, protocols, etc.
Optional Protocol (OP): An optional protocol to a treaty is
a multilateral agreement that States parties can ratify or
accede to, intended to further a specific purpose of the treaty
or to assist in the implementation of its provisions. The
principal OPs in force as of January 2003 were:
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights: Permits individuals who live in a State
party to the Protocol to submit a complaint to the Human Rights
Committee (which monitors the application of the Covenant)
when they believe their rights have been violated and they
have exhausted all domestic remedies
: Seeks the abolition
of the death penalty
Optional Protocol to the International Convention on the Elimination
of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Permits individuals
who live in a State party to the Protocol to submit a complaint
to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
Women (which monitors the application of the Convention) when
they believe their rights have been violated and they have
exhausted all domestic remedies
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
on the involvement of children in armed conflict
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
In addition, the General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol
to the Convetion Against Torture during its 57th session,
with the objective of establishing a system of routine visits
to detention centres in order to prevent torture and other
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
These terms all indicate that a State has formally become
a State party to a treaty. The primary difference in these
three terms has to do with the way that the treaty has been
approved. Ratification indicates that the treaty has been
approved by a State's governing bodies. A State is not bound
by a convention that it has signed but not ratified. Accession
means simply that a State has agreed to be bound by the terms
of the treaty. Succession means that a newly-formed State
has agreed to inherit the treaty obligations of its predecessor.
For example, when Czechoslovakia ceased to exist, its successor
States, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, each succeeded to
the human rights treaties that Czechoslovakia had ratified
Reservation: A reservation is a unilateral statement, however
phrased or named, formally made by a State upon signing, ratifying
or acceding to an agreement. A State makes a reservation when
it intends to exclude or modify the legal effect of certain
treaty provisions on that particular State. For example, a
State may ratify a treaty but also say that it refuses to
be bound by a specific provision in that treaty.
: A text adopted by
a deliberative body of the UN (or an other international organization)
by a majority of votes. The legal validity of resolutions
adopted by UN bodies is subject to different interpretations.
: A State party to
a treaty is a State which has formally consented to be bound
by the terms of the treaty.
: See Ratification.
: an international agreement
concluded between states in written form and governed by international
Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA): These were
the documents adopted by consensus at the World Conference
on Human Rights, Vienna, June 1993.