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Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

Please, read the general remarks about the special procedures first.

Rights and Intended Situations

The Office of the Special Representative was established as a mark of recognition of the important work done by human rights defenders and of the risk taken by them as potential targets of fundamental rights violations.
The human rights defenders are people working alone or together for the protection of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights (associations, trade unions, journalists, authors and other persons dedicated to the defense of human rights).

The Special Representative works on the promotion of the rights of human rights defenders as defined in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This Declaration is known as the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998).

Read the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders:

The Special Representative also works on the promotion of the rights guaranteed by principle international instruments as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Implementation of the Procedure

Complaints concerning violations against human rights defenders can be directed to the Special Representative by the victim of the violation, his appointed representatives or NGOs.

There is no formal procedure necessary to submit complaints to the Special Representative. However, the latter has drawn up guidelines for presenting a complaint. They are available here:

If your complaint concerns a severe violation of human rights which is about to occur, insert “urgent action” at the beginning of that complaint.

The complaint must at least contain the following information:

  • Identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the inquiry;
  • Full name, age, sex and place of residence or origin of the supposed victim;
  • Indication of as many details as possible (name, age, sex and place of residence or origin) if it refers to a group or community;
  • Date and place of the incident (approximately, if the exact date is unknown)
  • Detailed description of the circumstances of the incident under which the presumed violation took place;
  • Identity of the suspect(s) (name if known, title/position, presumed motivation);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the national level (for example, if the police had been informed, in case that other national authorities are involved, as well as a possible position of the government);
  • As the case may be, measures taken at the international level (for example, if other mechanisms have been called up)

Information and complaints can be submitted (specifying the pertinent special procedure) to:

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights Defenders
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
E-Mail: urgent-action(at)

For more information visit:

The Special Representative then examines the requests and decides, if regarded as necessary, to inform the States concerned in form of a communication, a letter of allegation (in case of violations which reputedly have already taken place and which would have irreversible consequences for the supposed victims), an urgent appeal (incase of current or imminent violations) or a press statement.

Last change: 18.12.08 - 23:16