International Human Rights Law

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The United Nations Human Rights System: Treaties, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly in 1948, nine core United Nations international human rights treaties have been adopted and binding on States that have ratified them. There are ten human rights treaty bodies, which are all committees of independent experts. This means they do not represent states, but are known for their independence and expertise in the relevant subject matters. Nine of the treaty bodies monitor the implementation of the core international human rights treaties by the States that have ratified them. The tenth treaty body, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture was established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to monitor places of detention in States parties to the Optional Protocol. Each treaty body is created in accordance with the specific provisions of the relevant treaty.

In the list below, the treaties are found at the links along with links to other information such as the list of States that have ratified the treaty. Ratification means that the treaty is binding on the state in question. Ratifications of treaties can also be found online in the UN Treaty Collection.

In addition, the UN Human Rights Council is responsible for the Universal Periodic Review the overall human rights record of each member State of the United Nations every four years. The Human Rights Council also has a system of Special Procedures including Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups on specific themes or countries.

UN Core Human Rights Treaties and Treaty Bodies

See the UN main page for links to the UN Human Rights Bodies Websites. To determine which UN human rights treaties have been ratified by a particular country, please visit where you can also see the country’s Reporting History, Concluding Observations, Jurisprudence and other information.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a review of the human rights performance of each UN Member State every four years, with 48 States reviewed each year. For more information, and a schedule for review of each country, see:

Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council include thematic and country mandates, usually called “Special Rapporteurs” or “Working Groups.” Mandate holders work in their personal capacity, not on behalf of States. They receive no financial compensation for their work. Most Special Rapporteurs receive information from a variety of sources concerning allegations of human rights violations. They may send communications to governments, and in some cases seek visits to countries.

Other treaties related to international human rights

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