What are Communications?

Communications are letters sent by the Special Procedures to Governments and others, such as intergovernmental organisations, businesses, military or security companies.
In these letters, the experts report on allegations of human rights violations they have received, regarding:

  • past human rights violations – which can be the object of a letter of allegation;
  • on-going or potential human rights violation – which can be the object of an urgent appeal;
  • concerns relating to bills, legislation, policies or practices that do not comply with international human rights law and standards.

The expert(s) will in the letter present the allegations and request clarifications on them. Where necessary, the experts request that the concerned authorities take action to prevent or stop the violation, investigate it, bring to justice those responsible and make sure that remedies are available to the victim(s) or their families. The experts also recall the applicable human rights provisions in these letters.

There are other procedures applicable to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; please consult their methods of work here:

The complaints procedure of the Special Procedures is not a quasi-judicial procedure, and the Special Procedures do not have power or authority to enforce their views or recommendations.

There are also procedures for complaints which fall outside of the Special Procedures system - through the complaints procedures to the Treaty Bodies and the Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure.

What is the purpose of communications?

The purpose of communications is for the Special Procedures to:

  • draw the attention of Governments and others on alleged human rights violations;
  • ask that the violations are prevented, stopped, investigated, or that remedial action is taken;
  • report to the Human Rights Council on communications sent and replies received, therefore raising public awareness on individual, and group cases as well as legislative and policies developments they have addressed in a given period.

What do Communications address?

The communications address:

  • allegations of violation of the human rights of one or more individuals;
  • allegations of violation of the human rights of a group or a community;
  • allegations that a bill, a law, a decree, a policy and/or a practice is not in compliance with international human rights law and standards.

What are the criteria applied to act on a submission?

Each expert will decide whether she/he will take action on a given submission, on the basis of the information received and the scope of her/his mandate.

This decision depends also on criteria laid down in the Code of Conduct for the experts:

  • the communication should not be manifestly unfounded or politically motivated;
  • the communication should contain a factual description of the alleged violations of human rights;
  • the language in the communication should not be abusive;
  • the communication should be submitted on the basis of credible and detailed information;
  • the communication should not be exclusively based on reports disseminated by mass media.

Experts will not require that the concerned State has ratified an international or regional human rights treaty, or that the alleged victim has exhausted domestic remedies to send a communication.

Who can submit information, and how?

Any individual, group, civil-society organization, inter-governmental entity or national human rights bodies can submit information to the Special Procedures.

In order to keep track of submissions, you are encouraged to use the Special Procedure Submission online form. It includes fields of information that are both required and desirable in order for experts to properly examine a case and take action as needed.

If you are not able to complete the form online, you may send your submission via e-mail to urgent-action@ohchr.org. Post submissions may be sent to OHCHR-UNOG, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneve 10, Switzerland.

What happens with my submission?

Consent and confidentiality

Because communications are aimed at soliciting a response on the measures taken to stop, investigate the violations, punish those responsible and provide remedies to victims, these have to be as comprehensive, detailed and precise as possible. Therefore, communications sent to a Government or an intergovernmental organisation, a business, a military or security company, will by default include the name(s) of the alleged victim(s). However, if the victim(s) or her/his/their representatives make(s) it clear in the submission that concerns relating to the security of the alleged victim(s) exist, the experts may exceptionally decide to withhold the victims' names from the communication.

Compilations of communications sent and responses received are published in a report prepared for each session of the Human Rights Council. These reports contain the letters sent by the experts, including the names of the alleged victims – except alleged victims under 18 years of age or alleged victims of sexual violence, whose names are not published. If it is clear from the submission that concerns relating to the security of the alleged victim(s) exist, the report will not mention the victim(s) by name.

It is extremely important that alleged victims and/or their families or representatives indicate in their submissions whether they DO or DO NOT consent that:

  • the names of the victims be disclosed in the communications to Governments, intergovernmental organisations, businesses, military or security companies.
  • the names of the victims appear in a public report to the Human rights Council.

How long does the process take?

The experts strive to act as quickly as possible on the submission of information, with attention given to the most serious and urgent cases. Cases may be taken up within 24 hours of their submission. However, it may take longer, particularly when sufficient information is not available in the submission. You should provide detailed but concise information and attach key substantiating information only.

Use of the online form is highly recommended.

Due to the number of submissions received and the initial confidentiality nature of communications, it is not yet possible to provide status updates on submissions. You are therefore encouraged to regularly check the Communications Reports database for communications sent and replies received.

The online form

Each page of the online form contains "Help and information" to help users navigate the form.

Certain fields are mandatory and marked with an asterisk. You must complete these fields in order to submit the form.

You may save the form at any point and come back to it within 24 hours.


Make your submission to a Special Procedure