The tasks we perform in relation to United Nations are, on the one hand, aimed at NGOs, and other individuals.
For NGOs and other interested parties, we prepare or revise parallel reports (shadow reports) to be presented to the various supervisory bodies of the UN treaty.
At a personal level, we’ve all heard about the United Nations, to a greater or lesser extent, but not everyone knows how the United Nations can help us directly.
Firstly, we will briefly explain the objectives of the United Nations and how it works, to finally clarify how it can help us individually.
The objectives and proceedings can be found in the United Nations Charter. You can find more information in this link: Charter of the United Nations.
Its purposes are found in Article 1. The purposes of the United Nations are to maintain international peace and security among countries, and to promote friendly relations and international cooperation for problem-solving.
In the task of fighting for the protection of human rights, a series of documents known as the International Bill of Human Rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) two optional protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and one of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.
Afterwards, different Conventions have been passed which have extended the protection to specific groups and situations. Currently, to monitor whether the various states comply with the different treaties on human rights, there are 9 different organs formed by experts who, through “final recommendations” and “general observations”, create international standards for interpreting the treaties, through periodic reports made about each state for each agreement.
The Committees are:
- Human Rights Committee.
- Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
- Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
- Committee against Torture.
- Committee on the Rights of the Child.
- CCommittee on migrant workers.
- Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
For more information on this topic, see the following link.
All committees (except the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families) allow access individually, and depends on the country that we believe has violated any law that we can access the Committees. That is, to allow people to access them individually, the State they want to sue has had to ratify each protocol, accepting this monitoring system.
Some of these committees are very recent, therefore the numbers of cases are few or none. For example, the Committee on the Rights of the Child accepts individual requests since April, 2014. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights accepts individual cases since May, 2013. The criteria for accessing the committees are the same, or very similar. The applicant must have exhausted all national remedies or prove that the existent ones are clearly inefficient. Some committees such as the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural establish a time limit of one year; however, the Committee on Human Rights does not set a time limit, although it is advisable to appeal before them as soon as possible.
It should be noted that the Committees issue concluding observations. They are not sentences, but recommendations. Despite being not binding, the experience from the oldest Committee, the Human Rights Committee, shows that states commonly follow the United Nations recommendations. This Committee is therefore the most settled and monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It accepts individual requests since 1976.
In general, cases that have been submitted to other international tribunals such as the European Court of Human Rights will not be examined by any United Nations Committee. Despite of this criterion, there are many cases that have been rejected in regional courts, as those previously mentioned, and have finally been accepted by the Human Rights Committee.
We have to go case by case to check if the previous requirements are met and if there is a possible violation of some rights protected by the Covenants and Conventions.
In this sense, Demandas Internacionales offers the possibility to assess whether a case is likely to be considered by any of the committees.