MANDATE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The mandate holder supports the implementation of the 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and gathers information about the situations of human rights defenders globally. The Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits and communicates with governments, which makes it possible to understand broader trends and to identify best practices for protection of the rights of human rights defenders.
The Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective throughout the work of his or her mandate.
COMPOSITION AND WORKING METHODS
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly qualified individual.
The UN Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteurship in 2000 with Resolution 2000/61. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2008 (Resolution 7/8), 2011 (Resolution 16/5), and 2014 (Resolution 25/18).
In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, and submits activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.
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 gain first-hand knowledge about the situation for human rights defenders and to identify both challenges to and best practices for their protection.
The Special Rapporteur undertakes one to three country visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. View the list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports here.
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 information and complaints about alleged violations of the rights of human rights defenders. 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 keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until it includes them in the joint 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 rights of human rights defenders are not violated.
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.
The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a human rights defender’s rights might be violated and that the situation is time-sensitive in terms of loss of life, life-threatening situations, or imminent or ongoing damage of a grave nature. 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 so that it can intervene to end or prevent violations.
Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council
The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.
SUBMITTING INFORMATION OR COMPLAINTS
Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form. Complaints and other information submitted the Special Rapporteur should comply with its guidelines, and include the following minimum details:
- identity of the alleged victim(s) or community(ies) affected,
- identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation,
- the date, place, time, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation, and
- the identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential.
The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10
- Email: email@example.com
- Fax: +41 22 917 90 06