Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure

Applies to/Se aplica a

State practice
State law
Individual cases
For Urgent Action
Only under 18-s


The Complaint Procedure of the Human Rights Council is a confidential procedure to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested human rights violations. It is therefore not suitable for individual cases except when they are representative of a pattern of reliably attested human rights violations.
The Complaint Procedure is of confidential nature and the lodging of communications should not be made public. While the complainant might be informed whether a complaint has been taken up by the procedure, the steps taken and the outcome of the complaint remain confidential, unless the Human Rights Council decides to consider the complaint in public.
The Complaint Procedure was introduced by resolution 5/1 of the Human Rights Council - UN Human Rights Council: Institution Building – from 18 June 2007, and replaces the former 1503 procedure.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

If a complaint is taken up after initial screening by the Working Group on Communications, the allegation of human rights violations will be transmitted to the State concerned. A Working Group of the Human Rights Council (the Working Group on Situations) will then consider the complaint and the reply received from the State, and make a recommendation to the Human Rights Council, which will consider the report of the Working Group in a confidential manner, unless the Council decides otherwise.
The Human Rights Council can take one of the following measures:

  • to discontinue considering the situation, if no further action is needed;
  • to keep the situation under review, and request further information from the State concerned;
  • to keep the situation under review and appoint an independent expert to monitor the situation and report back to the Council;
  • to discontinue reviewing the situation under the confidential complaint procedure in order to take up a public consideration;
  • to recommend to the OHCHR to assist the State concerned.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

All States.

3. Who can submit information?

A complaint through the Complaint Procedure can be lodged by Individuals as well as NGOs with or without consultative status to the Human Rights Council. Anonymous complaints can however not be considered.

4. When to submit information?

A complaint can be lodged at any time. However, domestic remedies have to be exhausted, unless such remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged. The complaint should also not refer to a pattern of human rights violations already being dealt with by one of the Special Procedures, a treaty body or other United Nations or similar regional complaints procedure.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

The Complaint Procedure can only process complaints submitted in writing. It is advisable to limit the complaint to 10-15 pages to which additional information may be submitted at a later stage.
As anonymous complaints cannot be admitted it is crucial to include identification of the person(s) or organisation(s) submitting the communication (this information will be kept confidential, if requested).
Complaints submitted to the Complaint Procedure should include a description of the relevant facts in as much detail as possible, providing names of alleged victims, dates, location and other evidence.
They should also include the purpose of the complaint and the rights allegedly violated.
All communications found to be manifestly ill-founded or anonymous will be discarded.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

After an initial screening and a decision on the admissibility of a complaint by the Working Group on Communications, a request for information will be sent to the State concerned, which shall reply no later than three months after the request has been made. If necessary, this deadline may however be extended.
The Working Group on Situation will then prepare a report to the Human Rights Council, usually in the form of a draft resolution or decision on the situation referred to in the complaint. It may also decide to keep the situation under review and request further information.
The Human Rights Council will decide on the measures to take in a confidential manner as needed, but at least once a year. As a general rule, the period of time between the transmission of the complaint to the State concerned and consideration by the Council shall not exceed 24 months.
All material provided by individuals as well as the replies by the Governments remain of confidential nature during and after the consideration by the Complaint Procedure. This also applies to decisions taken at the various stages of the procedure.
Therefore it is important to do not publicly state that you have submitted a case to the Complaint Procedure.

7. History of the use of the mechanism.

To the knowledge of the authors, this mechanism has not yet been used for the issue of conscientious objection. However, it might have influenced the decision of the Human Rights Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Eritrea in 2012.

Contact Details: 
Communications intended for handling under the Council Complaint Procedure may be addressed to: Human Rights Council and Treaties Division Complaint Procedure OHCHR-UNOG  1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland  Fax: (41 22) 917 90 11  E-mail:
Further Reading: