UN Human Rights Committee
last updated 3 June 2013
The Human Rights Committee is the UN body that monitors State compliance with obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).[1]  The Committee consists of 18 independent experts elected by State parties. The Committee carries out its mandate through the reporting/monitoring process and the receipt of individual communications (complaints),
States that have ratified the ICCPR are required to submit periodic reports (on a schedule set by the Committee) documenting compliance with the provisions of the treaty. They are also invited to present their report at a scheduled Committee session and engage in constructive dialogue with the Committee to address a list of issues developed by a Country Report Task Force of the Committee and submitted to the State party for response in advance of the reporting session. In 2009, an optional reporting procedure was adopted to allow State parties to focus written reports solely on the list of issues, in lieu of reporting on each provision of the Covenant.[2] In 2010, a five-year pilot study was initiated to evaluate the new procedure.
The Committee and Country Report Task Forces currently meet three times a year (March, October, and July) in Geneva, Switzerland. The list of issues is generally adopted two sessions prior to the session in which the State presents its report to the Committee. All information, including the State party report, list of issues, and the State party’s response is made publicly available on the Committee’s website.
At the conclusion of the session, the Committee prepares concluding observations, which may include recommendations for specific measures to be taken. The recommendations of the Committee may have persuasive value, but are not legally binding. However, State parties are requested to inform the Committee in their next periodic report of steps taken to implement the concluding observations and recommendations, and the Committee may ask the State party to respond to pressing issues more promptly.
The Committee relies on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the monitoring process and encourages NGOs to submit “shadow” or alternative country reports in advance of the sessions to inform the Committee and Task Force members of issues of principal concern. Time is also allotted for NGOs to present specific concerns to members of the Task Force in the pre-session proceedings and to the Committee during the session. NGOs may also observe many of the Committee’s proceedings.  
In its updated general comment to article 3 of the ICCPR regarding non-discrimination, the Committee noted that in order to assess compliance with articles relating to torture (art. 7) and the protection of children (art. 24), State parties must provide information on national laws and practices related to domestic and other types of violence against women as well as measures taken to eliminate trafficking of women and children and forced prostitution.[3] Given the Committee’s interest in addressing violence against women, NGOs are encouraged to submit shadow reports documenting State violations of the Covenant. In its 107th session (the most recent session at the time of this update), the issue of violence against women was included in the concluding observations for each State party under review. The Committee’s recommendations included strengthening efforts to prevent all forms of violence against women, criminalizing all forms of domestic violence, facilitating complaints from and providing protection for victims, and ensuring proper investigation of all reports among others.[4] Shadow reports submitted to the Committee are available on the Committee’s website within the “Sessions” section. The Universal Human Rights Index Database also provides country-specific human rights information, including concluding observations by topic.
In addition to the reporting mechanism, the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR allows the Committee to hear individual complaints of human rights violations committed by State parties to the Optional Protocol. [5]  NGOs may assist in the development of complaints or submit complaints on behalf of victims with their consent. While the complaint procedure may provide resolution or remedy, given the high volume of complaints received by the Committee each year, it may take years for a complaint to be fully addressed (from initial submission to the Committee’s final decision). In special circumstances of urgency, the Committee may request that the State party take interim measures to prevent irreparable harm to the victim. The Committee will not consider individual complaints that are being examined under another procedure of international investigation or settlement or that have been submitted without first exhausting domestic remedies (unless the application of domestic remedies is unreasonably prolonged).

[1] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), 16 Dec. 1966, entry into force 23 Mar. 1976.
[2] Human Rights Committee, Optional Reporting Procedure (LOIPR), http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/loipr.htm.
[3] ICCPR General Comment 28: Equality of rights between men and women (art. 3), UN Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.10, March 29, 2000.
[4] Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of Peru, adopted by the Committee at its 107th session (11-28 March 2013), UN Doc. CCPR/C/PER/CO/5; Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations of Belize in the absence of a report, 26 Mar. 2013, UN Doc. CCPR/C/BLZ/CO/1; Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the initial report of Macao, China, adopted by the Committee at its 107th session (11-28 March 2013), UN Doc. CCPR/C/CHN-MAC/CO/1.