Complaint Mechanism - UN Human Rights Committee
last updated 12 June 2013 – Information is subject to change. Please check the Committee’s website for updates.
Type of Mechanism
Complaint Procedure under the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Scope of the Procedure
The rights enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Who Can Submit a Complaint
Individuals or groups of individuals, under the jurisdiction of a State party to the Optional Protocol, claiming to be victims of violations of any rights contained in the Covenant; or NGOs acting on the behalf of a victim or group of victims.
Role of Advocates[1]
NGOs can submit communications on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals claiming to be victims of violations of the Covenant. NGOs submitting complaints on behalf of individuals must show proof of consent to the submission of the complaint or justification for not obtaining consent. Because the Committee meetings in which the communication is considered are closed, advocates are not able to participate in the examination process. However, once the Committee adopts its “views,” NGOs are encouraged to submit follow-up information on State implementation.
Available Remedies[2]
The Committee may at any time request that the State issue interim measures to protect the victim(s). Once a determination of the merits has been reached, the Committee may issue its “views” on behalf of the victim(s). The Committee’s views are transmitted to the State party and the victim. Where the Committee has found violation, it requests that the State party provide effective remedy. Remedies may include, but are not limited to, compensation or repeal or enactment of relevant legislation. Victims and NGOs should recognize that it may take years for a complaint to be fully addressed (from initial submission to the Committee’s final decision).  
What the Complaint should Include
The subject of the complaint must indicate a violation of the provisions of Covenant, must be substantiated (including relevant facts and any supporting documentation where available), must not be incompatible with the treaty, must not be anonymous, and must not have occurred prior to the entry into force of the Protocol for the State party. The complaint must include information showing that the victim has exhausted domestic remedies. The complaint should also indicate whether the matter is or has been a subject of international investigation or settlement.
Complaints which have been previously examined by the Committee or are the subject of any other international investigation will not be considered (this does not include complaints to the UN Human Rights Council or special rapporteurs). The UN provides model complaint forms for individuals wishing to make complaints. Additional information is available from the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
Articles Concerning Violence Against Women[3]
Article 3 ensures the equal right of men and women to enjoy all rights of the Covenant.
Article 6 requires that States protect the inherent right to life. This is a non-derogable right, under which NGOs may call attention to State laws and policies that fail to protect the lives of women in cases of domestic or other forms of violence, including, but not limited to, the burning of widows, and dowry killings (General Comment 28).
Article 7 prohibits torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee has recognized article 7 to include domestic and other types of violence against women, including rape, forced sterilization, and female genital mutilation (General Comment 28).[4] This is also a non-derogable right, which cannot be suspended in a state of emergency.
Article 8 prohibits slavery, servitude, and forced compulsory labor. In General Comment 28, the Committee compels State parties to report on measures taken to eliminate trafficking of women and children and forced prostitution.
Article 24 assures rights to children. Although the rights are not enumerated in the Covenant, the Committee stated in General Comment 17 that State parties should take every possible measure to prevent children from being subjected to acts of violence, trafficking, and forced prostitution.[5] 
The Committee requests that all State parties, when reporting under each Covenant right, provide information regarding specific protections for women, including issues of domestic violence, rights in marriage, rape, in accordance with Article 3 of the Covenant; and legal and other measures taken to prevent and combat all forms of human trafficking, in accordance with Article 8.[6]   
Where to Send Communications
The complaint must be submitted in writing in one of the six official UN languages to:
Petitions Team
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
The Committee decisions are made public, which may be important for advocacy, but may not be in the victim's best interests.
It may take 2-3 years for a complaint to be fully addressed (from initial submission to the Committee’s final decision).  

[1] Human Rights Committee, Fact Sheet No. 15 (Rev. 1), available at  
[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.
[5] Human Rights Committee, Guidelines for the treaty-specific document to be submitted by States parties under article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN Doc. CCPR/C/2009/1, 22 Nov. 2010, accessed at