Frequently asked questions
When are elections taking place?
Elections for half the members take place every two years. The terms of the members of the newest treaty bodies (Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Committee on Enforced Disappearances) are renewable only once.
Members of the treaty bodies are expected to meet a number of requirements:
1) To be a national of a State party to the human rights treaty in question.
2) To be elected by the States parties to the treaty in question (with the exception of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, whose members are elected by the Economic and Social Council upon nomination by States parties to the ICESCR1.
3) To be a person of high moral standing and recognized to have competence in the relevant field of human rights.
4) To be available to regularly attend the sessions of the Committee in question.
5) To serve in their personal capacity.
Due consideration should be given to equitable geographic representation, as well as to an appropriate representation of different legal systems and of balanced gender representation.
Who can nominate candidates?
The nomination and election processes for treaty body members fall within the sphere of competency of States parties to the various international human rights treaties. States parties nominate candidates for membership in the treaties’ monitoring bodies from among their nationals. These monitoring bodies are referred to as committees. The nominations are compiled by the Secretary-General who submits them for consideration to all the States parties to a specific treaty.
How are elections conducted?
Elections of treaty body members take place during meetings of States parties. Two thirds of the States parties constitute a quorum, and experts are elected by secret ballot. The persons elected to the various committees are those nominees who obtained the largest number of votes and an absolute majority of the votes of the representatives of States parties present and voting.
This procedure is common to all treaty bodies with the exception of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights whose members are elected by the Economic and Social Council. In addition, procedures vary with regard to the number of candidates a state party can nominate.
When does the mandate expire?
The mandate of a treaty body member ends upon the expiry of the term for which he or she was appointed. Death, resignation, or any other cause2 that prevents a member from continuing to perform his/her Committee duties are justifications for early termination of a treaty body member’s mandate.
Independence and expertise of treaty body members
As the need to safeguard the perception of independence and impartiality begins with the nomination process at the national level, a number of States parties have adopted national policies and processes for conducting the nomination process in a transparent, open and inclusive manner conducive to selecting candidates with the required expertise and independence.
In the same vein, since 1997 the chairpersons of treaty bodies through their Annual Meeting have repeatedly recommended that
“States parties to human rights treaties should refrain from nominating or electing to the treaty bodies persons performing political functions or occupying positions which were not readily reconcilable with the obligations of independent experts under the given treaty”.
A number of initiatives have also been undertaken to define the standards of ethical behaviour and professional conduct that treaty body members shall observe whilst discharging their mandates.
By its resolution 56/280 of 27 March 2002, the General Assembly adopted the
Regulations Governing the Status, Basic Rights and Duties of Officials other
thanSecretariat Officials and Experts on Mission (ST/SGB/2002/9) whereby the conduct of officials and experts on mission is regulated with a view to upholding the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity. These regulations are applicable to treaty body members.
Some treaty bodies have also developed tools to guarantee the independence and impartiality of their members. Whereas most treaty bodies have provisions to this end in their respective rules of procedure, the Human Rights Committee adopted a separate set of guidelines (annex III of
A/53/40, vol.I) in 1999.
In June 2012, the Chairs of the treaty bodies discussed and endorsed guidelines on the independence and impartiality of treaty body members (the so-called “Addis Ababa guidelines”) at their twenty-fourth meeting held in Addis Ababa.
1. ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17, Review of the composition, organization and administrative arrangements of the Sessional Working Group of Governmental Experts on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, para. c.
2. ICCPR, Art. 33; CAT, Art. 17(6); OP-CAT, Art. 8; CRC, Art. 43(7); CMW, Art. 72(6); CRPD, Art. 34(9); and CED, Art. 26(5).