Exhaustion of Domestic Remedies
last updated 10 June 2013
It is a principle of international law that protection of human rights should be carried out by national governments. National remedies are viewed as more effective than international ones because they are easier to access, proceed more quickly, and require fewer resources than what is needed to make a claim before an international body. Access to international enforcement mechanisms is seen as a last resort, to be sought only after a state has failed to correct the violation or to carry out justice.
Before submitting a complaint to any international body, such as one of the United Nations treaty bodies or the European Court of Human Rights, an individual or NGO must first attempt to remedy the violation using national law.

Exhaustion of domestic remedies requires use of all available procedures to seek protection from future human rights violations and to obtain justice for past abuses. This includes bringing the complaint to the attention of relevant State authorities, up through the authority of highest instance.[1] A complaint to an international body should include proof that domestic remedies have been exhausted, including any administrative or judicial decisions issued on the claim.
There are limited exceptions to the requirement that domestic remedies be exhausted. International law recognizes that domestic remedies may be unavailable, ineffective (i.e. a sham proceeding) or unreasonably delayed. In these cases, it may not be necessary to first exhaust the national mechanisms if it can be convincingly demonstrated that there are, in effect, no local remedies available. Complaints should be submitted as soon as possible after domestic remedies have been exhausted or determined to be unavailable.

[1] Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 23 Frequently Asked Questions about Treaty Body Complaints Procedures (2007), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/TB/23FAQ.pdf; UN OHCHR, Human Rights Treaty Bodies – Individual Communications, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/TBPetitions/Pages/IndividualCommunications.aspx.