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.
The Human Rights Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, are called "Charter-based" as they were established by resolutions of principal organs of the UN whose authority flows from the UN Charter.
The current Charter-based bodies are the Human Rights Council and its subsidiaries, including the Universal Periodic Review Working Group and the Advisory Committee.
Previously, the Charter-based bodies were the Commission on Human Rights and its subsidiaries, including the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
The Special Procedures, such as Special Rapporteurs, have carried on their work since 1947, reporting first to the Commission, then to the Council.
During its 60th session, the General Assembly adopted the World Summit Outcome, resolution 60/1 of September 2005, which called, inter alia, for strengthening of the UN's human rights mechanisms. This led to the establishment, later in the session, of the Human Rights Council.
The Human Rights Council is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.
General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, which established the Human Rights Council, mandates a universal periodic review of each state's fulfilment of its human rights obligations and commitments. Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007, “Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council,” sets out the main elements of the universal periodic review.
The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee is an expert body that functions as a think-tank for the Council.
The Human Rights Council has responsibility for the special procedures, including those originally established by the Commission on Human Rights.
Special procedure mechanisms include:
The Commission on Human Rights was a subsidiary of the Economic and Social Council; it concluded its 62nd and final session on 27 March 2006; its work is continued by the Human Rights Council.
The Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was the key subsidiary of the Commission on Human Rights.
Over the years, various ad hoc working groups reported to the Commission and to the Subcommission.
Many reports were presented to the Commission and the Subcommission by special procedures, such as working groups and special rapporteurs. These carry on reporting to the Human Rights Council and its subsidiaries. See above for more detail.