The Human Rights Committee
In order to supervise that States fulfil the obligations they have assumed by ratifying international human rights Treaties, special bodies normally known as Committees are established. The Human Rights Committee is such a special body and it is established under article 28 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Human Rights Committee is made up of 18 independent experts with recognised competencies in the field of human rights. The experts are chosen by the States parties and they serve in their personal capacity, not as representatives of their Governments. Therefore, the proceedings of the Committee should be politically impartial.
The Human Rights Committee's task is to supervise and monitor the implementation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by States parties. Click here to read more about the Covenant. In carrying out its monitoring and supervisory functions, the Committee has a number of responsibilities:
- To receive and examine reports from the States on how they are implementing the obligations they have assumed by ratifying the Covenant.
- To receive and consider individual complaints, also known as "communications", made by individuals who claim violations of their Covenant rights by a State party.
- To consider certain complaints made by a State party that another State party is not abiding by the obligations assumed under the Covenant.
- To make general recommendations and comments.
- To inform the General Assembly of its activities.
The Committee also publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions, known as general comments on thematic issues or its methods of work.
The Human Rights Committee has contributed significantly to the progressive development of indigenous rights through a general interpretation of the application of the human rights conventions and in their reports and recommendations they have recognised and protected the collective rights of indigenous peoples.
Similarly, in the context of the reporting process, there are a number of instances where the
recommendations of the Human Rights Committee have led, directly or indirectly, to positive changes to law, policy and practice.
The Committee has been used by a relatively small number of indigenous people and organisations with very favourable results in terms of recognition of their rights. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of indigenous organisations, the procedures of the Committee and other treaty bodies are not well-known.
The Human Rights Committee convenes three times a year for sessions of three weeks' duration, normally in March at United Nations headquarters in New York and in July and November at the United Nations Office in Geneva. View past and next sessions and the different State reports here.
On OHCHR's website all documents, including State reports and Sessional/Annual Reports, of the Human Rights Committee are available: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf
In OHCHR's Fact Sheet No. 15: Civil and Political Rights: The Human Rights Committee you can find an elaborate description of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Human Rights Committee and how to use it (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet15rev.1en.pdf).
The following fact sheets also describe the Human Rights Committee and its work:
- Fact Sheet No. 9: The Rights of Indigenous Peoples (http://www.ohchr.org/english/about/publications/docs/fs9.htm),
- Fact Sheet No. 18: Minority Rights (http://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/factsheet18rev.1en.pdf)
- Fact Sheet No. 30: The United Nations Human Rights Treaty System: An introduction to the core human rights treaties and the treaty bodies (http://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/factsheet30en.pdf)
You can also visit OHCHR's website at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/