United Nations complaints mechanisms

Contributed by LorraineFinlay and current to 27 July 2018

Most of the major international human rights treaties include a specialist mechanism designed to hear complaints (also called communications or petitions) from individuals alleging that their human rights have been violated. These individual complaint mechanisms are established in Optional Protocols that supplement the original treaties, which means that countries have to specifically agree to the Optional Protocol in each case to give individuals the ability to directly lodge a complaint against them at the international level.

Australia is a party to a number of individual complaints mechanisms established under the Optional Protocols of the core human rights treaties. The table below sets out the Committees that Australians may make individual complaints to if they feel that their human rights under a particular treaty have been violated by the Australian government.

Treaty Treaty Body
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Human Rights Committee
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Committee Against Torture
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Australia is not currently a party to the complaints mechanisms that have been established under either the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Each of the above Committees is composed of a group of independent experts who are elected by the States parties to the particular treaty for terms of between two to four years. The Committees each meet three or four times each year, usually in Geneva, for sessions that last for three to four weeks each time.

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