The United Nations plays a pivotal role in strengthening the protection of human rights nationally. There are two key human rights monitoring mechanisms in the United Nations system: UN Charter bodies and UN Treaty bodies. Charter-based bodies seek to uphold international human rights generally, while treaty bodies address compliance with human rights in the particular treaty under which they were established.
What are UN human rights treaty bodies?
The UN has nine core international human rights treaties which are monitored by human rights treaty bodies, who monitor implementation of the relevant treaty by reviewing reports submitted periodically by States parties. When a State accepts a human rights treaty through ratification or accession, it becomes a State party to that treaty and assumes the legal obligation to implement the rights set out in it.
The aims of the UN treaty system include to encourage a culture of human rights and a national process of review and reform; to focus the human rights system on standards and obligations and identify benchmarks, and to mainstream and progress human rights internationally and in the UN system.
There are ten human rights treaty bodies composed of independent experts of recognised competence in human rights, who are nominated and elected for fixed renewable terms of four years by State parties. They are mandated to monitor State parties' compliance with their treaty obligations.
Which are the international human rights treaties that the UK is signed up to?
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989) and two of its optional protocols. The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors its implementation.
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) (1965). The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitors its implementation.
- The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) (2006). The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities monitors its implementation.
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979). The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors its implementation.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (1966). The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights monitors its implementation.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966). The Human Rights Committee monitors its implementation.
- The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT) (1984). The Committee against Torture monitors its implementation.
It is important to note that although the UNCRC is specifically for children, children are entitled to enjoy the rights included in all of the treaties that are of relevance to them.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world's commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. It has a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.
The OHCHR works to offer the best expertise and support to the different human rights monitoring mechanisms in the United Nations system, including the human rights treaty bodies mentioned above. The OHCHR also offers expertise and support to UN Charter-based bodies.
What are UN Charter-based bodies?
UN Charter-Based Human Rights bodies are mechanisms derived from the UN Charter. The UN Charter is a constituent treaty and all members are bound by its articles. It is the foundational treaty of the UN and most countries in the world have now ratified the Charter.
Charter bodies include the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures.
The Human Rights Council is a forum empowered to prevent abuses, inequity and discrimination, protect the most vulnerable, and expose perpetrators. Itreplaced the Commission on Human Rights and is an intergovernmental body composed of 47 elected United Nations Member States.
Special Procedures is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Commission on Human Rights to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures are either an individual -a special rapporteur or independent expert -- or a working group. They are prominent, independent experts working on a voluntary basis, appointed by the Human Rights Council.
As of 1 November 2014, there are 39 thematic mandates and 14 country mandates.
UN Charter based bodies also include the Universal Periodic Review (UPR): a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. It reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
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