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The Complaint Procedure

The overall reference for this procedure of the Human Rights Council is the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948.

Implementation of the Procedure

The complaint procedure, also known as “procedure 1503”, is a universal mechanism bearing the number of the resolution by the former UN Commission on Human Rights which established it. The procedure is confidential and examines the human rights situation within a State. The Council therefore does not decide on individual cases. The individuals or NGOs who file a complaint will not be informed about the steps taken. Generally, they receive, as the only answer, a letter confirming the reception of the complaint. Anonymous complaints are not accepted.

The complaint procedure allows an examination of such complaints which reveal the existence of a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Once the Council received several individual cases which form a consistent pattern of gross systematic human rights violations which are reliably proved, it can decide to examine the situation of the human rights in the country concerned.

The complaint must comprise:

  • The name of the author of the complaint, i.e. the name of the person(s) or organization(s) who file(s) the complaint. The claimant has to precise it clearly, if he or she wishes the case to be treated anonymously. However, despite all the precautions taken by the United Nations, a State can still ascertain the claimants identity (due to the facts mentioned in the complaint or by other means).
  • The complaint must expose the existence of a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • A description of the facts, comprising: the identification of the victims and suspects of the violation, accompanied by a detailed description of the events when the violation took place. This description must reveal the existence of a consistent pattern of violations.
  • Apparent evidence, such as written declarations on the facts by the victims, their families or witnesses of the violation, or a medical report indicating the consequences of the violation. The evidence can be included in the complaint itself or attached to it.
  • The complaint must indicate the rights which have been violated. It must clearly indicate the Article(s) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which the claimant considers to be violated.
  • It must further indicate the purpose of the complaint, i.e. the reason for which it was filed. This purpose could be for example the wish for an intervention of the United Nations to terminate the violation.
  • The complaint should demonstrate the exhaustion of all available remedies within the country.

The correspondence and inquiries relying on the complaint procedure should be directed to:

Commission/Sub-Commission Team (1503 Procedure)
Support Services Branch
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: + 41 22 9179011
E-mail: CP(at)


For more information, visit the UN’s website about the complaint procedure:

The claimant could be informed about the course of his/her request, i.e. whether it has been accepted by the working groups and how they decided on it.

Last change: 15.01.10 - 10:28