Special Procedures



"Special procedures" is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Types and status

Special procedures are either an individual (called "Special Rapporteur", "Special Representative of the Secretary-General", "Representative of the Secretary-General" or "Independent Expert") or a working group usually composed of five members (one from each region) . The mandates of the special procedures are established and defined by the resolution creating them. Mandate-holders of the special procedures serve in their personal capacity, and do not receive salaries or any other financial compensation for their work. The independent status of the mandate-holders is crucial in order to be able to fulfill their functions in all impartiality.The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with personnel, logistical and research assistance to support them in the discharge of their mandates.

Country and thematic mandates

Special procedures' mandates usually call on mandate holders to examine, monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories (country mandates) or on major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide (thematic mandates). There are currently 30 thematic and 8 country mandates.


Various activities can be undertaken by special procedures, including responding to individual complaints, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation at the country level, and engaging in general promotional activities.

Amongst their activities, most Special Procedures receive information on specific allegations of human rights violations and send urgent appeals or letters of allegation to governments asking for clarification.

Mandate holders also carry out country visits to investigate the situation of human rights at the national level. Mandate holders typically send a letter to the Government requesting to visit the country, and, if the Government agrees, an invitation to visit is extended. Some countries have issued "standing invitations", which means that they are, in principle, prepared to receive a visit from any special procedures mandate holder. As of October 2008, 63 countries had extended standing invitations to the special procedures. After their visits, special procedures' mandate-holders issue a mission report containing their findings and recommendations.

Civil society engagement

NGOs and civil society organizations may submit relevant information to special procedure mandate-holders at any time.

Such engagement is especially valuable prior to and during country visits by special procedure mandate-holders.


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