PAKISTAN: Space for individuals in UN Human Rights Complain Mechanism 

Lack of public awareness is one the major reason of absence of watchful oversight of citizens on their rights, issues and concerned authorities. It has been appropriately said that informed citizenry is empowered citizenry; the more people are informed, the more they are vocal and critical on their issues and rights .In this way , Public education stands as per-requisite for any planned and desired change in society what unfortunately Pakistan by and large lacks.

UN Human rights system which provides considerable space for individual complains is also victim of same problem of lack of general awareness about it at various levels. This space provided the by UN human rights system stays by and large  untapped by victims of human rights abuses and human rights defenders  in Pakistan. The soul reason behind this stands lack of public education about this international complaint and redressal mechanism at wider level.

A deep probe into UN human rights systems reveals that this system provides considerable space to Human rights victims and defenders. If this space is utilized efficiently and effectively, various violations could be prevented and redressed if those have been done already.

Interestingly, UN Human Rights system provides space for individual complains at Charted based as well at Treaty based bodies  level  along with Special procedures

In general, an individual can file complain of violation his or her right under four of the six core human rights treaties. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Convention against Torture (CAT); International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ((ICERD); and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. (CEDAW). So far these treaties have established complain mechanisms for individual cases.

Everybody is entitled to lodge a complaint with concerned committee against a State that satisfies two conditions mentioned below.  Civil society organizations or other individuals may also file case on behalf of another person if they carry written consent of that person.

A complaint under these treaties can be brought against the country that is firstly party to the related treaty and secondly it has recognized the competence of the committee established under the relevant treaty to receive complaints from individuals.

According to UN document namely complain procedure, in the case of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, a State recognizes the Committee’s competence by becoming a party to a separate treaty: the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant or the Optional Protocol to the Convention. In the case of the Convention against Torture and the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, States recognize the Committee’s competence by making a declaration to that effect under a specific article of the Convention, articles 22 and 14 respectively.

To be noted that each case has to go through three stages: Registration, Admissibility and Merit. The “admissibility” refers to the requirements complaint must satisfy. And the “merits” of the case are the substance, on the basis of which the committee decides whether or not rights under a treaty have been violated. The opportunity of comments and replies is given to both petitioner and state against which case is registered at admissibility as well merit stage.

There are separate guidelines for preparation and registration of any case which be obtained from Website of Human rights Council. However important things are that before approaching the concerned UN committee, it must be ensured that petitioner have exhausted all domestic remedies. However petitioner can file compiles with committee in case he or she does not believe that existing remedies of his or her countries are able to bring justice him or her.

For complaints to the Human Rights Committee, the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, send your developed complaint and inquiries to Whereas, complaints to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should be sent to

Unfortunately Pakistan has not recognized the competence of the committees of all four providing complaints mechanisms for individuals.

Therefore, now Citizens of Pakistan have opportunity at remaining two channels: Special procedures and Human Rights Council until Pakistan recognizes competence of the treaties providing complain mechanism.

Human Rights council has two working groups: The Working Group on Communications and the Working Group on Situations. Both are mandated to examine the communications and to bring to the attention of the Council consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  All admissible communications and recommendations are sent to the Working Group on Situation by working group on Communications

Individuals or authorized civil society organizations enjoying consent of victim can file complain following the guidelines  at The process at Human Rights Council aswell of treaty based committees is very length that may take years. Therefore, Special procedures are relatively swift and quick mechanism. Special procedures are either individual (called “Special Rapporteur”; Independent Expert” and working group usually composed of five members . Currently, there are thirty six  thematicand twelve  country mandates.

The complaints about various human rights violations could be addressed to separate concerned Special rapporteurs. Please visit the Directory of Special rapporteurs developed by UN Human rights Council. The process and formats are complains are also given there.

To conclude, UN human rights complain mechanism provides space to individuals at various levels. Individuals and human rights defenders must use this space despite the fact the procedures are bit lengthy. The utilization of these spaces can indeed promote and protect human rights in Pakistan.

About the Author: Jamil  Junejo, Advocacy Manager, Pakistan Fisherfolk forum and can be reached at

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Document Type : Forwarded Article
Document ID : AHRC-FAT-049-2012
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Labour rights, Right to education, Right to life, Torture,