The Organization's work in human rights is carried out by a number of bodies. When researching human rights issues, a distinction must be made between Charter-based and treaty-based human rights bodies.
Nine UN human rights conventions have monitoring bodies to oversee the implementation of the treaty provisions. The treaty bodies are composed of independent experts and meet to consider State parties' reports as well as individual complaints or communications. They may also publish general comments on human rights topics related to the treaties they oversee. The treaty-based bodies tend to follow similar patterns of documentation.
Following the completion of the reform of the Charter-based human rights bodies and the establishment of the Human Rights Council, focus shifted to the reform of the treaty-bodies. On 9 April 2014, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on "Strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system" (A/RES/68/268).
The Secretary-General issues a "Compilation of guidelines on the form and content of reports to be submitted by States parties to the international human rights treaties" (HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6). This document provides details on the reporting requirements, including the core document, and treaty-specific documents.
The Committees may also issue general comments on thematic issues. These have been issued in "International human rights instruments: Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations adopted by human rights treaty bodies" (HRI/GEN/1/Rev.9 Vol.I and Vol.II).
In addition to the Committees composed of experts, there are also Meetings of the States parties for the human rights conventions.
A note on acronyms
The name of a human rights convention and its monitoring body are often very similar and may have the same acronym. Throughout this guide, the acronyms refer to the treaty-monitoring bodies, not the conventions.
The documents of the treaty-based bodies are available in several places.
General UN documents databases, such as the Official Document System (ODS) and the library’s catalogue, UNBISnet, provide access to the full-text.
Information about the treaties, including the texts and current status, is available from the UN Treaty Collection and from the OHCHR treaty-body websites. The historic archives section of the Audiovisual Library of International Law provides a growing number of scholarly essays on the human rights conventions, their impact, procedural history, and key documents from the drafting process.
The Human Rights Committee monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its optional protocols.
There are three main types of matters considered by the Human Rights Committee: State party reports, general comments on thematic matters related to the Covenant, and individual complaints. It may also consider inter-state complaints.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocol. The text of the Covenant was adopted by A/RES/2200A (XXI); the text of the Optional Protocol was adopted by A/RES/63/117.
The main types of matters considered by the Committee: State party reports and general comments on thematic matters related to the Covenant. The Committee also devotes one day of each session to general discussion. In addition, in accordance with the Optional Protocol, the Committee has the authority to review and consider communications from individuals and communications from State Parties regarding other State Parties.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) monitors the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
There are several procedures around which documents are issued by CERD: State party reports, early-warning, inter-state complaints, individual complaints, general comments, and thematic discussions.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its optional protocol.
There are several types of matters considered by the CEDAW: State party reports, individual complaints, inquiries into situations, and general recommendations.
The Committee against Torture (CAT) monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) monitors the optional protocol.
There are several types of matters considered by CAT: State party reports, individual complaints, inquiries into situations, and general comments. It may also consider inter-state complaints.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) monitors the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols.
The CRC considers State party reports, issues general comments, and holds general discussions. An Optional Protocol opened for signature in 2012 will allow the CRC to hear individual complaints.
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW) monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The CMW considers State party reports, issues general comments, and can hold general discussions. When 10 State parties have made the necessary declaration under article 77, the CMW may consider individual complaints.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol.
The CRPD considers State party reports, and holds general discussions. The CRPD may consider individual complaints in accordance with the optional protocol.
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) monitors the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The CED considers State party reports and individual complaints.