The term “exhaustion of domestic remedies” refers to the general requirement that victims first use the judicial or administrative complaint procedures available under national law before bringing a complaint to the international level. This requirement gives the country allegedly responsible for a human rights violation the opportunity to provide reparation on its own. It is a prerequisite to submitting a complaint to most supranational human rights bodies, meaning those bodies will reject a complaint if the complainant cannot show that he or she pursued domestic remedies to their final conclusion.
However, there are several exceptions to this rule. Generally, complainants are not required to pursue or exhaust domestic remedies where, for example: none exist, the procedure is unduly delayed, the procedure is not fair, or the available remedy cannot actually redress the alleged violation.
Each human rights system has distinct procedural rules and has interpreted the exhaustion requirement through its decisions or judgments. The following guides summarize what the exhaustion requirement means in each system.