The Human Rights Committee (HR Committee) was established by Article 28 of the ICCPR. Its functions are outlined in Part IV of the Covenant. It has the role of monitoring and supervising the implementation by States Parties of their obligations under the ICCPR.
The HR Committee is composed of 18 members, often called ‘Experts’. Members “shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights” (article 28). Each member is nominated by his or her State Party, and is elected by the States Parties in a secret ballot. Each member serves a four year term, and may be re-elected if he or she is re-nominated. States Parties should ensure that there is an “equitable geographical distribution” of HR Committee members (article 31). A member serves in his or her personal capacity, not as a representative of his or her State.
The HR Committee meets three times a year, once at the main UN headquarters in New York City (usually in March) and twice at the UN headquarters in Geneva (usually in July and October). Each meeting lasts for three weeks.
Each session of the Committee is preceded by a one-week meeting of the Committee’s Working Group. The functions of the Working Group have evolved over the years and are currently devoted solely to handling, as an initial chamber, decisions on the admissibility of Individual Communications under the First Optional Protocol.
The HR Committee performs its function of supervising and monitoring the implementation of the ICCPR in four ways:
II. Considering Individual Communications
Under the First Optional Protocol the Committee can receive Individual Communications from any individual under the jurisdiction of a State that is party to the First Optional Protocol who claims that his or her rights under the Covenant have been violated by the State Party.
To be admissible the communication must:
- Be submitted by the individual whose rights have been violated or with the written consent of the individual. In exceptional cases where the individual is unable to give consent this requirement may be ignored. The Communication cannot be anonymous
- Show that domestic remedies have been exhausted
- Not be under consideration by another international investigation or settlement procedure
The Committee considers Individual Communications in closed session, but its Views (decisions) and the follow-up are public.
Detailed information on the process and how to use it is available from the OHCHR website.
III. Issuing General Comments
Article 40 establishes the possibility of producing General Comments. By the end of 2009 the Committee had issued 33 General Comments. These clarify the scope and meaning of various articles and the obligations of States Parties. All the General Comments can be found on the OHCHR website.
IV. Considering Inter-State Complaints
Under article 41 of the ICCPR a State Party may submit a communication to the Committee alleging that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Covenant. This provision is applicable only when both States Parties have specifically recognized the competence of the Committee in this area. To date, however, no Inter-State complaint has been submitted to the Committee.