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Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

About Special Procedures

19th session of the Human Rights Council, Room XX @ UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre
@ UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. They are non-paid and elected for 3-year mandates that can be reconducted for another three years. As of September 2020, there are 44 thematic and 11 country mandates.

With the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), special procedures:

  • undertake country visits
  • act on individual cases of reported violations and concerns of a broader nature by sending communications to States and others
  • conduct annual thematic studies, seek information from calls for input and convene expert consultations
  • contribute to the development of international human rights standards, and
  • engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation.

Read more about what Special Procedures do

Key Documents

Code of conduct
WORD: العربية | 中文 | English | Français | русский | Español

Manual of Operations
English (PDF, 308KB)

Directory of Special Procedures Mandate Holders

Annual Report 2020 (Advance unedited version)

Facts and figures 2020

How do Special Procedure mandate-holders make a difference?

Special procedure mandate-holders help advance human rights in ways both small and large. They contribute to:

Legislative reform
Improve access to mechanisms of redress
Policy reform Human rights mainstreaming
Contribution to government/judicial processes Human rights standard setting
Raising human rights awareness Facilitating dialogue/coalition setting
Preventing/cessation of violations

How do they contribute to cross-cutting issues?

Some contemporary issues cut across a wide spectrum of human rights. As a result, many mandate-holders bring specific expertise and recommendations to topics ranging from climate change to new technologies, from migration to COVID-19 and more.

OHCHR has compiled all Special Rapporteur reports that deal with these issues. Find the compilations on cross-cutting issues here.

Submitting complaints to Special Procedures

Are you a victim or have knowledge of a human rights violations? Do you believe there is policy or legislation in your country that does not respect human rights? You can use the Special Procedures communications process to report this information.

Learn how the Special Procedures communications process can help you.

Cooperation with the special procedures and acts of intimidation and reprisals

Special procedures can only fulfill their mandates effectively when individuals and groups engage with them without fear of intimidation or reprisal. Yet mandate-holders have noted a rise in instances of intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperated with them. The Coordination Committee established a framework of action to respond to these unacceptable practices.

Learn more about reprisals and the Special Procedure framework of action.

Latest news

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Special Procedures: A spotlight on individual and collective human rights (2016) - Watch on YouTube

Connect with Special Procedures


For further information on how to submit communications on alleged human rights violations, please read the webpage on Communications and send your submission to: submissions to Special Procedures.