The Individual communication procedure is a mechanism for individuals to submit claims to the HR Committee alleging that their rights under the Covenant have been violated. The Committee can receive communications from any individual within, or subject to the jurisdiction of, a State party that has ratified the OP1 to the ICCPR.
When an Individual communication is submitted, the Committee will first examine its admissibility. Once a communication is considered admissible, the Committee will assess its merits.
Before assessing the facts of the case, the Committee first checks whether the procedural requirements are met, including:
If one of these conditions is not fulfilled, the Committee will declare the case inadmissible and will not proceed with an examination of the facts.
Note: Even before examining its admissibility, the Committee can discontinue a case, when the applicant fails to respond to the Committee despite multiple reminders or when the communication has been withdrawn, for example.
If the case is declared admissible, the Committee analyses the actual content of the case and decides on the following:
Appealing the final decision of the Committee on the merit of the case is not possible.
The whole procedure takes place in written form, with both parties having to submit all the documents by email or post. The considerations of these cases takes place in closed sessions, while the Committee’s decision and the outcome of the follow-up procedure are made public.On average, the whole procedure takes between three and seven years.
The follow-up procedure for Individual communications is very similar to the one for Concluding observations: the Committee checks whether the remedies have been implemented, and gives the grading from A to E. The Committee will also decide whether to end the procedure there or to keep the follow-up dialogue ongoing.
For more information about the procedure, check the guidance prepared by the Committee Secretariat.
Any communication sent to the Committee must be in a written form. On behalf of the individual victims of a violation of the rights under the ICCPR, civil society actors can bring a case against States parties to the ICCPR OP1, provided that written consent is given by the victim, or in exceptional cases, with proof that the victim cannot file a communication on its own.
It is strongly encouraged to use a prescribed format, representatives are strongly encouraged to use the model form for the Individual communication under the ICCPR and the guidance prepared by the Secretariat, in order to ensure that all necessary and relevant information is provided. The communication needs to be signed by the author, manually or electronically, and those sent by email need to be scanned and attached.
The communication must also be written in one of the working languages of the Committee Secretariat (English, French, Russian or Spanish). Copies of supporting documents, e.g., official decisions and court documents, can be submitted as annex to the communication, if necessary with summary translation into one of the above languages.
It is also important to submit the communication as soon as possible after domestic remedies have been exhausted. The HR Committee accepts communications submitted within 5 years from the moment of exhaustion of domestic remedies.
As the author of the communication will be given the opportunity to submit a response within a set time, if any observations are submitted by the State party concerned, civil society actors can help victims throughout the process to interact with the Committee.
The Committee can request that the State take “interim measures” in order to avoid irreparable damage to the alleged victim, while the case is still pending consideration by the Committee. Such measures include, for example, suspension of the execution of a death sentence or of the deportation to a country where the author faces a risk of torture or ill treatment. A failure to adopt interim measures by the State is considered a violation of the ICCPR. If any request is made by the Committee to the State party concerned to take interim measures, civil society actors can monitor their implementation.
Moreover, protection measures can be requested, at any stage of the process, to protect individuals involved in the communication from reprisals, including lawyers, witnesses and family members, as long as the risk relates to the filing of the communication. This request may even be submitted in the context of the follow-up procedure.
The final decisions adopted by the HR Committee on cases are made public, but authors of the communication can request the Committee, preferably when sending the communication, not to make the identity of the author and/or the victims public.
The signed communication should be scanned and sent as an email attachment to:
Note: communications submitted in paper will not be processed, unless it is justified that electronical submission is not possible. In case the communication needs be sent in paper, it should be addressed to:
OHCHR Petitions and Urgent Actions Section (PUAS) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva 1211 Geneva 10, SwitzerlandYou can find more information on OHCHR’s website.