The Human Rights Committee is a quasi-judicial body, established by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its First Optional Protocol. It convenes in New York and Geneva.
The Human Rights Committee is composed of eighteen experts:
No more than one national of the same state (Article 31(1) ICCPR).
Equitable geographical distribution and representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems (Article 31(2) ICCPR).
National experts: A Committee member shall not take part in the examination of a communication by the Committee if the state party in respect of which he or she was elected to the Committee is a party to the case (Rule 84, Rules of Procedure).
Who may file a complaint?
Article 1 First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR (OP). Complaints may be filed by individuals subject to the jurisdiction of a state party to the OP ‘who claim to be victims of a violation by that state party of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant. No communications shall be received by the Committee if it concerns a state party to the Covenant which is not a party to the present Protocol’. Exceptionally, a communication submitted on behalf of an alleged victim may be accepted when it appears that the individual in question is unable to submit the communication personally (Rule 90, Rules of Procedure). Legal persons, including NGOs, cannot act as victims but can represent one or more individuals who claim violations of their rights.
Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Article 5 OP. The Committee shall not consider any communication unless ‘[t]he individual has exhausted all available domestic remedies. This shall not be the rule where the application of the remedies is unreasonably prolonged.’
Time period: No time limit.
Duplication of procedures at the international level: Article 5(2) OP. ‘The Committee shall not consider any communication from an individual unless it has ascertained that: (a) The same matter is not being examined under another procedure of international investigation or settlement.’ This shall not be the rule where the application of the other procedure is unreasonably prolonged.
Article 3 OP. ‘The Committee shall consider inadmissible any communication under the present Protocol which is anonymous, or which it considers to be an abuse of the right of submission of such communications or to be incompatible with the provisions of the Covenant.’
Amicus curiae briefs
The Committee does not consider briefs provided by third parties.
Rule 86 Rules of Procedure. The Committee may adopt interim measures when ‘desirable to avoid irreparable damage to the victim of the alleged violation’.
Written procedure, official and working languages are set out in Rule 28 Rules of Procedure. ‘Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish shall be the official languages, and Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish the working languages of the Committee.’
Address for submitting petitions/communications
Human Rights Committee
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson, 52 Rue des Pacquis
1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Fax: (41) (22) 917-9022