Human rights violations are instances where individuals or groups are denied or harmed by their basic constitutional or international human rights. These claims can involve a range of abuses, including physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment, as well as discrimination based on race, gender, or other factors. Going forward, it’s important to remember that everyone is entitled to certain fundamental freedoms and protections, and any instance of these rights being violated should be taken seriously and acted upon immediately.
Initiating legal proceedings can be a protracted and emotionally taxing journey. Additionally, it can incur significant costs. It’s crucial to bear in mind that if the court rules against you, you might be obligated to cover the opposing party’s substantial legal expenses.
If you’re contemplating pursuing legal action, it is advisable to seek guidance from a seasoned advisor, such as those available at a Human Rights Lawyers.
The Human Rights Act specifies that only individuals who have suffered a human rights violation can seek legal redress under the Act. You are likely a victim if you are directly affected by the decision or action you are filing a complaint about, or if you are expected to be directly affected by it.
You must file your court application within one year of the incident you are complaining about. However, there may be stricter time limits depending on the type of legal action you are taking. For instance, in cases of judicial review applications, the time limit is three months.
In certain circumstances, the courts may grant an extension beyond the one-year time limit if they deem it equitable. Nevertheless, you would need to demonstrate a compelling reason for pursuing your case outside the stipulated time frame.
The capacity of individuals to raise concerns about the infringement of their rights on the global stage imbues the rights enshrined in human rights treaties with substantial significance.
There are three primary methods for lodging complaints regarding violations of the provisions within human rights treaties with the bodies responsible for overseeing them:
1. Individual Communications
2. State-to-State Complaints
There exist nine fundamental international human rights treaties, each of which has established a “treaty body” composed of experts tasked with overseeing the implementation of treaty provisions by the States that are parties to them.
These treaty bodies, which include CCPR, CERD, CAT, CEDAW, CRPD, CED, CMW, CESCR, and CRC, possess the authority, under specific conditions, to consider individual complaints or communications submitted by individuals. However, it’s worth noting that the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) has not yet activated its individual complaint mechanism.
Anyone has the right to submit a complaint to a Committee against a State that meets the following criteria:
1. The State is a party to the relevant treaty through ratification or accession, which grants the rights alleged to have been violated.
2. The State has acknowledged the competence of the Committee to examine individual complaints. This can be achieved through either ratification or accession to an Optional Protocol (applicable to ICCPR, CEDAW, CRPD, ICESCR, and CRC) or by making a declaration to that effect under a specific article of the Convention (applicable to CERD, CAT, CED, and CMW).
Furthermore, complaints may also be submitted by third parties on behalf of individuals, provided they have obtained written consent from the affected individuals (without strict requirements regarding the form of consent). In certain exceptional cases, a third party may initiate a case without such consent, such as when a person is incarcerated without external contact or is a victim of enforced disappearance.
Several of the human rights treaties incorporate provisions that allow State parties to bring complaints to the relevant treaty body (Committee) concerning alleged violations of the treaty by another State party.
Please note that in 2018, three inter-State communications were submitted under Article 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, marking the first instance in its history. For further details, refer to additional information.
For CAT, CMW, CED, ICESCR, and CRC, Article 21 of CAT, Article 74 of CMW, Article 32 of CED, Article 10 of the Optional Protocol to ICESCR, and Article 12 of the Optional Protocol (regarding a communications procedure) to the Convention on the Rights of the Child outline a process for the relevant Committee to independently consider complaints from one State party that believes another State party is failing to uphold the provisions of the Convention. This procedure is applicable solely to States parties that have declared their acceptance of the Committee’s competence in this matter.
As for CERD, CCPR, and CRC, Articles 11-13 of ICERD and Articles 41-43 of ICCPR establish a more comprehensive procedure for resolving disputes between States parties regarding a State’s compliance with its obligations under the respective Convention/Covenant. This is achieved through the establishment of an ad hoc Conciliation Commission. This procedure typically applies to all States parties to ICERD but is limited to States parties to ICCPR and CRC that have declared their acceptance of the relevant Committees’ competence in this regard.
For CERD, CEDAW, CAT, CMW, and CED, the following articles provide a mechanism for addressing disputes between States parties concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention:
– Article 22 of ICERD
– Article 29 of CEDAW
– Article 30 of CAT
– Article 92 of CMW
– Article 32 of CED
According to these provisions, when such disputes arise, the initial step is for the involved States parties to attempt resolution through negotiation. If negotiation fails, the next course of action is arbitration. In the event that the parties cannot agree on the terms of arbitration within six months, one of the States involved has the option to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
It’s important to note that States parties have the option to exempt themselves from this dispute resolution procedure by issuing a declaration at the time of their ratification or accession to the Convention. In such cases, they are bound by the principle of reciprocity, meaning they are also precluded from initiating cases against other States parties using this mechanism.
Inquiries can only be initiated in relation to States parties that have affirmed the authority of the relevant Committee to carry out such inquiries. States parties have the option to refrain from participating in the inquiry process, either at the time of signing, ratifying, or acceding to the relevant treaty (as stipulated in article 28 of CAT, article 10 of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, article 8 of the Optional Protocol to CRPD, and article 13(7) of the Optional Protocol, which pertains to a communications procedure, to CRC), or at any time (as outlined in article 11(8) of the Optional Protocol to ICESCR), by issuing a declaration stating that they do not acknowledge the competence of the Committee in question to carry out inquiries. It’s important to note that CED is an exception, as the authority to conduct inquiries is not contingent upon the acceptance of States parties, as specified in article 33 of ICPPED.
The inquiry procedure can be initiated when the Committee receives credible information suggesting that the State party is systematically violating the rights outlined in the Convention it oversees.
The Committee extends an invitation to the State party to collaborate in the assessment of the provided information by submitting their observations.
Subsequently, based on the State party’s observations and other pertinent information at its disposal, the Committee may opt to appoint one or more of its members to conduct an inquiry and promptly report their findings to the Committee. If deemed necessary and with the consent of the concerned State party, the inquiry may encompass a visit to the State’s territory.
The conclusions reached by the designated member(s) are then reviewed by the Committee and conveyed to the State party, along with any comments and recommendations.
The State party is urged to present its own observations on the Committee’s findings, comments, and recommendations within a specific timeframe, typically six months. Additionally, if requested by the Committee, the State party is encouraged to provide information on the measures taken in response to the inquiry.
It’s essential to note that the inquiry procedure is conducted confidentially, and the cooperation of the State party is sought throughout all stages of the proceedings.