Special Rapporteur on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy and Their Family Members


The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Although leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is curable with early treatment, many individuals affected by the disease face discrimination, isolation, and other human rights abuses. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on leprosy includes raising awareness of the rights of individuals with leprosy and their families, as well as combating the stigma and prejudices that lead to discrimination against those with leprosy. The Special Rapporteur does this through reporting on the status of States’ implementation of principles on eliminating discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their families; conducting country visits; engaging in dialogues with States, UN bodies and agencies, regional human rights bodies, national human rights institutions, and nongovernmental organizations to promote best practices; and reporting annually to the Human Rights Council.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly qualified individual.

The UN Human Rights Council established the Special Rapporteurship in 2017 with Resolution 35/L.14.

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, engages in dialogue with relevant stakeholders, and submits annual reports on the situation of persons with leprosy to the UN Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to help governments find solutions to eliminate discrimination against persons with leprosy within that country. Country visits also allow the Special Rapporteur to develop a relationship with governments, making it more likely that States will cooperate with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations for improvement. The Special Rapporteur undertakes visits to States that have extended an invitation.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Receiving Information & Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives complaints about alleged discrimination against persons with leprosy, and may, on behalf of the complainant, contact the infringing government (or in some cases intergovernmental organization or non-state actor). Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State. The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment on the allegation, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.

The Special Rapporteur generally keeps confidential all communications to and from the government. The communications sent by the Special Rapporteur and other special procedures, though, are later compiled in periodic reports submitted to the UN Human Rights Council at each of its regular sessions.

In all communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to ensure that the right to development is not violated.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.

Urgent Appeals

The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person’s right to development will be violated and that the situation is time-sensitive. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to the mandate. These reports will be available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage when the Special Rapporteur submits his or her first report.


Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form, or via email at [email protected]:

  • Information on the alleged violation(s), including date, place, and time of the incident
  • Identity of the alleged victim(s), such as their name, sex, age, and nationality
  • Information on the alleged perpetrator(s), if known
  • Steps taken by the victim(s) or on their behalf, steps taken by authorities, and any other steps that have been taken and their outcomes
  • Identity and contact information of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, if different from the victim

Complaints may also be submitted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10

To contact the Special Rapporteur on a matter not related to a complaint, use the fax number or address listed above.