The United Nations Human Rights Treaties

How To Complain About Human Rights Treaty Violations

Checklist for Submitting Complaints

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There is no page limit for a complaint submission.

If the details of the complaint are lengthy, it is useful to submit a short summary (approx. 1500 words) of the contents of the complaint.

The complaint will be handled more quickly if it is submitted in English, French or Spanish.


  • the name of the treaty body to which the complaint is directed

  • the name of the alleged victim(s)

  • the name of the complainant or author of the complaint, if different from the victim


    Any author lodging the complaint on behalf of another individual without their consent must establish for the Committee a close personal relationship with the alleged victim and that the alleged victim is incapable of bringing the complaint on his or her own behalf, or that they are justified in bringing the complaint in the absence of such consent.

  • the signature of the author of the complaint

  • contact information of the victim

  • contact information of the author of the complaint, and any person (such as legal counsel) authorized to act on behalf of the author of the complaint

  • the nationality, date and place of birth of the victim

  • the nationality, date and place of birth of the author of the complaint, if the author is not the victim

  • the name of the state against which the complaint is brought; the state must have ratified the individual complaint provision of the relevant treaty or protocol, (CEDAW Optional Protocol)

  • the rights and the specific articles in the treaty which are alleged to have been violated; keep in mind any relevant state reservations and respond to them if necessary

  • a statement that no complaint on the same matter has either been decided by another procedure of international investigation or settlement, or is pending before another such procedure

  • a description of the steps taken by or on behalf of the alleged victim to exhaust domestic remedies (descriptions of recourse to the courts, or to public authorities, the dates of such steps, and the details of the results; enclose copies of all relevant judicial or administrative decisions, if possible)

  • if domestic remedies have not been exhausted, evidence must be provided as to why such remedies are ineffective, unavailable or unreasonably prolonged

  • A detailed fact statement, including all available evidence supporting the claim; it is the complainant's responsibility to sufficiently substantiate his or her claim; include such evidence as
    • all relevant dates
    • a signed statement from the victim, setting out in as much detail as possible the factual basis of the complained violation
    • signed statements, where relevant, from available witnesses
    • in the case of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: medical reports or certificates, including both physical and psychological assessments that might support the allegation that torture has occurred, autopsy reports if applicable, photographs, general information about the country situation that might prove a practice of torture in the country

  • a request for interim measures pending a final decision on the merits, where such measures are necessary to ensure that irreparable harm is not done to the victim in the course of the treaty bodies' consideration of the complaint; irreparable harm does not include damage which can be compensated by a financial award

  • the remedy requested (as applicable), for example:
    • financial compensation to the victim or his or her family
    • a new trial
    • commutation of a sentence of death
    • release from police custody
    • the amendment of legislation
    • non-refoulement
    • investigation of reported cases of torture
    • punishment of persons responsible for torture and ill-treatment

Pitfalls to Avoid

Common grounds for failing to satisfy preliminary criteria for the registration and subsequent examination of the petition:

  • the state alleged to violate the rights of the petitioner is not a party to the relevant complaints procedure (Optional Protocol to CEDAW)

  • the state party has entered a reservation to the relevant treaty as a result of which the petition cannot be examined

  • the complaint is being examined by the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission or Court of Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights

  • the object of the petition, such as the rights violations cited, fall outside the scope of the relevant treaty

  • the events complained of occurred prior to the entry into force of the relevant treaty or treaty provision (Optional Protocol to CEDAW) for the state concerned

  • domestic judicial/administrative remedies do not appear to have been exhausted, and it has not been substantiated that the application of domestic remedies would be unreasonably prolonged or that the remedies would be otherwise unavailable or ineffective

  • the treaty bodies will not generally examine disputes between private individuals or alleged violations of human rights that have been committed by non-state actors

  • the individual petition has not been presented by the alleged victims themselves or by duly authorized representatives, or where the consent of the victim(s) is missing, justification for bringing the petition in the absence of such consent has not been made

  • the petition is anonymous

  • the petition does not provide sufficient details as to the facts of the case, and/or how the alleged victim's rights under the relevant treaty have been violated

  • correspondence has been submitted in a language which is not a working language of the Secretariat (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian)