The Complaint Procedure of the Human Rights Council -1503 procedure
The objective of the so-called revised 1503 procedure is to enable the examination of individual communications regarding any consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of all Human Rights and all fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances. 1
Its potential impact is extremely wide. The individual communications submitted under the revised 1503 procedure may concern all Member States of the United Nations. Thus, in principle, no government may derogate from this procedure.
Who can file a communication?
The communication must come from a person or a group of persons alleging a violation of their Human Rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, a non-governmental organisation is permitted to lodge a communication provided they have direct and reliable knowledge of the violations at stake. NGOs must act in good faith and not resort to making politically motivated stands, or contrary to the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. If the evidence is sufficiently compelling, communications from authors with second-hand knowledge of the violations may be declared admissible.
Under what conditions?
Process and outcome
The complainant is informed when their communication is registered by the complaint procedure. If the complainant requests that their identity be kept confidential, it will not be transmitted to the state concerned. Both the complainant and the state concerned will be informed of the stages of the review procedure. 3
Two distinct working groups are responsible for examining the communications: the Working Group on Communications and the Working Group on Situations. They meet twice a year and work, to the greatest extent possible, on the basis of consensus. In the absence of consensus, their decisions must be taken by simple majority of the votes.
After having transmitted the communications to the States Parties concerned, the Working Group on Communications examines the admissibility and merits of the allegations. If it finds sufficient evidence to establish the existence of a consistent pattern of gross and systematic Human Rights violations, it transmits a file containing all admissible communications as well as recommendations to the Working Group on Situations.
The Working Group on Situations presents the Human Rights Council with a report on any consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms. It also makes recommendations to the Council on the course of action to take with respect to the situations referred to it (normally in the form of a draft resolution or decision).
If the Working Group requires further consideration or additional information, its members may keep the case under review until its next session. They may also decide to dismiss a case.
The Human Rights Council examines the violations of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms brought to its attention by the “Working Group on Situations” as frequently as is required. However the Council must review them at least once a year. The state concerned is expected to cooperate fully and promptly with the investigation procedure. 4
The reports are examined in a confidential manner, unless the Council decides otherwise. When the Working Group on Situations recommends to the Council that it consider a situation in a public meeting (in particular in case of manifest and unequivocal lack of cooperation by the state concerned), the Council shall consider such recommendations on a priority basis at its next session. In principle the period of time between the transmission of the complaint to the state concerned and consideration by the Council shall not exceed 24 months.
The Council may decide to: 5
- Cease considering the situation when further consideration or action is not warranted.
- Keep the situation under review and request the state concerned to provide further information within a reasonable period of time.
- End the review of the matter under the confidential complaint procedure in order to take up public consideration of the same.
- Recommend to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical cooperation, capacity-building assistance or advisory services to the state concerned.
- Keep the situation under review and appoint an independent and highly qualified expert to monitor the situation and report back to the Council.
This last option could be particularly interesting for communications relating to allegations of a state’s complicity in Human Rights abuses committed by multinational companies in its jurisdiction.
It is difficult to judge the effectiveness of this mechanism because, except for a very small proportion of communications, all measures taken by the Council under the 1503 procedure remain confidential, unless the Council decides to refer the situation to the economic and Social Council.
The “revised 1503” procedure: summary scheme 6