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The UN Human Rights Treaty System: Universality at the Crossroads (A Report). minimal individual complaints from vast numbers of potential victims. and 1 Humphrey. an effective remedy is needed. There are overwhelming numbers of overdue reports. administrative or legislative authorities ”.1 This amplifies Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which explicitly states: “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted by him by the constitution or by law ”.HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES & LAWS REMEDIES AND ENFORCEMENT It has been said that for every right violated. untenable backlogs. International Law BERAYE JOQUINO MUYUELA PALMAIRA Association. 2 Remedies under UN Treaties Remedies for the enforcement of human rights may be through international bodies and tribunals or through national or domestic agencies. • state-to-state complaints. notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity. Article 2 [3] of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights asserts that the “State parties shall ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an affective remedy. “ Human rights without effective implementation are shadows without substance” . threatening the integrity of the international human rights legal regime. International Committee on Human Rights. the gap between universal right and remedy has become inescapable and inexcusable. Anne. Buenos Aires. But there is no definite international organ or tribunal to enforce human rights. and widespread refusal of states to provide remedies when violations of individual rights are found. There are three main procedures for bringing complaints of violations of the provisions of the human rights treaties before the human rights treaty bodies: • individual communications. 2 Bayefsky. The ability of individuals to complain about the violation of their rights in an international arena brings real meaning to the rights contained in the human rights treaties. 1968. Further. and to ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial. Nevertheless. 2001 .

where an individual may file a complaint for the violation of human right protected by Human Rights Treaties. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel. It consists of 18 independent human rights experts. States that have become a 3 Coquia. CERD. 14 have led to a finding of no violation. initiated soon after the adoption of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel. 3. receive and consider individual complaints or communications from individuals There are three special cases. CESCR and CRC) may. Human Rights. CERD.. CMW. CED. communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant. 14 Procedure". As of June 2013. consider individual complaints or communications from individuals. There are also procedures for complaints which fall outside of the treaty body system through the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure. the State party must have recognized the competence of the Committee monitoring the relevant treaty to receive and consider complaints from individuals. elected for four-year terms. a separate treaty open to States parties to the Covenant. The Optional Protocol to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: This was adopted on December 16. There are nine core international human rights treaties. Four cases are still pending4. with half the members elected every two years. Jorge. UN CERD. under certain conditions. comprising Part III of the Covenant. Each of these treaties has established a “treaty body” (Committee) of experts to monitor implementation of the treaty provisions by its States parties. with each party allowed to nominate one of its nationals to the Committee 1. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 1966 and was ratified by the Philippines on August 22. Inc. Central Book Supply. seven of the human rights treaty bodies (CCPR. CRPD. Currently. 276. 1989. 4 "Status of communications dealt with by CERD under Art. it must be a party (through ratification or accession) to the treaty in question providing for the rights which have allegedly been violated. Members are elected by secret ballot of the parties.inquiries. to receive and consider. 2012. The essence of the Protocol is expressed in its Preamble: to enable the Human Rights Committee . however. and as such. is only open to States bound by the substantive obligations set forth in the Covenant. CAT. as provided in the present Protocol. The Protocol is a procedural measure for implementing the Covenant. under certain conditions. Treaty bodies (CCPR. Article 14 of the Convention establishes an individual complaints mechanism similar to that of the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. CED and CESCR) may. Parties may at any time recognise the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to consider complaints from individuals or groups who claim their rights under the Convention have been violated. But not all treaty body based complaint mechanisms have entered into force. The complaint mechanism for alleged violations of those articles is contained in the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant. and entered into force on 4 January 1969. The individual complaints mechanism has led to a limited jurisprudence on the interpretation and implementation of the Convention. . The International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: This was adopted and opened for signature by the United Nations General Assembly on 21 December 1965. p. 5 ICERD. 5 The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is a body of human rights experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention. The Convention entered into force on 26 June 1987 after it had been ratified by 20 States. Individual rights that may be invoked before the Committee are set out in Articles 6 to 27 inclusive. The Torture Convention was the result of many years’ work. 17 of these have been deemed inadmissible. CRPD. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. So far 45 complaints have been registered with the Committee. Second. Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the “Torture Convention”): This was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1984 (resolution 39/46). 3 These are: • party to the Optional Protocol recognize the competence of the Human Rights Committee – a panel of 18 independent experts who meet three times a year – to receive complaints from persons within their jurisdiction alleging violations of their rights under the Covenant 2. 22 July 2010.. CEDAW. Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the “Torture Declaration”) by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975 (resolution 3452 (XXX)). CAT.. and in 10 cases a party has been found to have violated the Convention. CEDAW. A complaint under one of the nine treaties can be brought only against a State that satisfies two conditions: First. it has 86 signatories and 176 parties. Article 14 (1).

or the person you represent. complainants can consider submitting also complaints before the organizations forming part of the wider United Nations family such as the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Educational. It does not examine individual cases.un1503petition. the 1503 procedure is not for you. Scientific and Cultural Organization. Individuals or NGOs which submit complaints are not informed of any action taken regarding their complaint. It applies in respect of all countries in the world. (ii) To initiate an investigation when there is reliable information which appears to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State A considerable number of other avenues exist for bringing individual complaints.6 Main features and usefulness of the UN 1503 procedure 1. the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. and the Committee on Enforced Disappearance. It enables 2 bodies of the UN (the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection on Human Rights and the Commission on Human Rights) to examine complaints which appear to show consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested human rights violations received from individuals or NGOs. It was finally decided that a Committee against Torture would be set up (article 17 of the Torture Convention) with the following tasks: (i) To receive. This procedure is not useful if you.As the effectiveness of the Torture Convention. would depend to a large extent on the supervision system. seem to show a pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights. the only communication they receive from the UN is a letter acknowledging receipt of their complaint. Examination of the human rights ‘situation’ in a country This procedure examines the human rights situation in countries. the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Moreover. When a large number of individual cases are received which. correspondence and inquiries may be directed to: Mail Petitions and Inquiries Section Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva 1211 Geneva 10. Remedies Not Covered by UN Treaty The United Nations 1503 procedure is a universal mechanism.htm (iii) To receive and examine complaints by one State party of violations of the Convention by another State party (article 21). the competences of the Committee against Torture under (ii). Switzerland + 41 22 917 90 22 (particularly for urgent matters) petitions[at]ohchr. the Committee against Torture. the UN may decide to examine the situation in that country. (iii) and (iv) were not made compulsory but apply with the following modifications:  A State party may “opt out” and declare that it does not recognize the Committee’s competence to initiate investigations under article 20 (article 28). the implementation at the international level gave rise to extensive discussions. The 1503 Procedure is named after the resolution of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights which established it. For complaints to the Human Rights Committee. It involves communications between the UN and the state under examination which are not made public. the 1503 procedure is confidential. If you are looking for such a mechanism.org Fax Email . like that of many other human rights conventions. taken together. (iv) To receive and examine applications by individuals claiming to be victims of a violation of the Convention by a State party (article 22). Usually. has been the victim of a violation of human rights and you want an international mechanism to investigate the case. the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Under the United Nations Secretariat.  The Committee’s competence to examine inter-State complaints only applies when a State party has specifically recognized this competence (article 21).com/vP/whatIsTheUN1503. 2.  The Committee’s competence to examine applications by individuals only applies when a State party has specifically recognized this competence (article 22). However. and party (article 20). 6 http://www. Confidentiality In its early stages. study and comment on periodic reports from the States parties on the measures they have taken to give effect to their undertakings under the Convention (article 19). complainant can consider submitting a complaint before the Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure (previously known as 1503 procedure) and the mandate-holders (special rapporteurs and working groups) of the Human Rights Council.

and is not part of the United Nations system. governed by the Rome Statute. it also receives voluntary contributions from governments. . between 1 January and 31 December 1994. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands. These are binding on the countries concerned and have led governments to alter their legislation and administrative practice in a wide range of areas. treaty based. The maximum sentence it can impose is life imprisonment. violations of the laws and customs of war. In addition. individuals. Since 1998 it has sat as a full-time court and individuals can apply to it directly. is a body of the United Nations established to prosecute serious crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The ICC is a court of last resort. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is an international court established in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 955 in order to judge people responsible for the Rwandan Genocide and other serious violations of international lawin Rwanda. which was passed on 25 May 1993. and to try their perpetrators. In all of its activities. international organisations. From here. National Human Rights Institutions National human rights institutions (NHRI) are State bodies with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights.7 The European Court of Human Rights The European Court of Human Rights is an international court set up in 1959.000 judgments. It has jurisdiction over four clusters of crimes committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991: grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.icc-cpi. In almost fifty years the Court has delivered more than 10. Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties. is the first permanent. more commonly referred to as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY. The Court is based in Strasbourg. corporations and other entities. and crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court The International Criminal Court (ICC). It rules on individual or State applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. genocide.aspx Universal Jurisdiction on Gross Violations of Human Rights The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991. The Court’s case-law makes the Convention a powerful living instrument for meeting new challenges and consolidating the rule of law and democracy in Europe. The ICC is an independent international organisation. The Court was established by Resolution 827 of the United Nations Security Council. the Court monitors respect for the human rights of 800 million Europeans in the 47Council of Europe member States that have ratified the Convention. the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/icc%20at%20a %20glance/Pages/icc%20at%20a%20glance. international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. The tribunal is an ad hoc court which is located in The Hague. It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine. the Netherlands. 7 http://www. Various countries have signed agreements with the UN to carry out custodial sentences.Remedies NOT Binding: The remedies provided for are not legally binding. They are part of the State apparatus and are funded by the State. The jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC are governed by the Rome Statute. in the Human Rights Building designed by the British architect Lord Richard Rogers in 1994 – a building whose image is known worldwide. the ICC observes the highest standards of fairness and due process. or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states. The reports have only persuasive effect on the offending state.

As a flagship program of the Commission. BHRAC has been conceived so that the CHR will be within the reach of the people specially in the far flung areas. . Professional Training Series No. Local Remedies in the Philippines The Philippines has ratified major human rights treaties which. On the other hand. Complaints Referral: The BHRAO is primarily (at the very least) tasked to receive complaints of “alleged” human rights violations and refer the same to the nearest CHRP regional or sub-office for investigation. That said. Roles. they link the responsibilities of the State to the rights of citizens and they connect national laws to regional and international human rights systems. as a State Party. There is still no definite jurisprudence on human rights in the Philippines except the court decisions dealing on constitutional guarantees of Civil and Political Rights of the Philippine Constitution. If the Offender is a public official or employee. There is no human rights courts in the Philippines. the offended party can file a civil action for damages. In such cases. NHRIs often find themselves criticizing the actions of the very Governments that created and fund them. Most of human rights violations in the Philippines are now considered as criminal offenses. It is only an investigative body on civil and political rights but not on economic rights. Principles. 2010. The CHR recognized the need of their presence at the grassroots level. even if the country has a separate NHRI. which is not surprising since States are frequently the targets of human rights complaints. ombudsman institutions often have specific responsibility for human rights.8 There is no standard nomenclature for NHRIs. Only by carefully reading the enabling law and the mandate can it be determined if an institution is an NHRI. National Human Rights Institutions: History. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) was established as a constitutional. It should be noted that some NGOs also have the word “commission” in their name. guidelines and operating mechanisms. At the same time. the institutions should be encouraged to work together to avoid duplication or confusion. 4. but are not NHRIs. standards. There are many different kinds of “national institutions” in the broad sense of that term. The BHRAC has two functions/services: 1. depending on the region. it is under obligation to comply with. If the human rights violation is not a criminal offense. Hence. independent body to pursue state policy on the promotion and protection of human rights. national institutions that may touch on human rights issues in their work. just as there is no standard model. National human rights institutions have different names. easy access to the services of the Commission. the CHR launched the Treaties and Monitoring Program with the primary aim to formulate and be responsible for the application of policies. Responsibilities. The Commission believes a strong and effective BHRAC program will provide all individuals. and procedures on the conduct of major treaties monitoring. 8 United Nations. but an NGO is not an NHRI. advocating for the protection and promotion of the human rights of all people. from those living in the busiest city to those living in the most secluded barrio. legal tradition and common usage. the CHR refers the case to the administrative head of the agency for appropriate action. Auditors-general and “classic” ombudsmen with no human rights mandates in their enabling laws are autonomous. some ombudsman offices take the position that they can handle human rights matters in practice.National human rights institutions (NHRIs) are not only central elements of a strong national human rights system: they also “bridge” civil society and Governments. the Barangay Human Rights Action Center (BHRAC) project was launched. To fulfill this mandate. The BHRAC program will help spread awareness of human rights and fundamental freedom to all corners of the archipelago. The Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is mandated to monitor government compliance and undertake independent review and reporting of the different international treaties and agreements entered into by the Philippines.

. 2001. p. Recommendations: The United Nations possess no adjudicatory powers.170. but such bodies are not constitutional bodies. Efforts should be made by OHCHR and the treaty bodies to maximize the involvement of the agencies/organs in the treaty system. The culture of the UN should promote the genuine integration of human rights into the functions and operations of existing mechanisms. He/she is also tasked to mobilize community for the mobile education and develop human rights advocates within the barangay. # 9 Bayefsky.2.9 In the Philippines. Neither OHCHR. The UN agencies. training. symposia and other human rights information and education activities. even churches. In fine. There are some countries that have established quasi-judicial bodies to try and adjudicate human rights violations. has the capacity to engage as broad a constituency in the treaty system as these agencies/organs. Anne. as human rights watchdogs compel the national government with the CHR to observe UN treaties and commitments on human rights. the problem of a more effective enforcement of human rights as well as the speedy prosecution of violations of human rights cannot be solved by merely giving the CHR either prosecutor or quasi judicial powers. Awareness-Raising on Human Rights : The BHRAO is tasked to coordinate with the CHRP Regional offices in conducting for seminars. bodies and programmes are key partners in the effective functioning of the human rights treaty system.. A variety of methods has been developed by UN to stop human rights violations such as appealing to states to bring about changes in its foreign policy. there is still the increase in the number of human rights violation cases. The UN Human Rights Treaty System: Universality at the Crossroads. nor the treaty bodies. They derive their powers from statutory legislation or under a human rights code of conduct defining the jurisdiction of said quasi-judicial human rights bodies. The UNCHR conducts public discussions on situations in areas where gross human rights violations occur upon written information of special rapporteurs and NGOs using the ‘1503’ procedures. But the active role of various human rights advocacy groups and private institutions.