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1. Understanding the Special Procedures

1.7 Country visits – What do the Special Procedures do?

The specific tasks assigned to any Special Procedure vary according to the Human Rights Council resolution establishing the mandate. However, the tools or outputs that are available to the Special Procedures are the same.

This section focuses on one of the main outputs of the UN mandate holders:

Country visits

Learn when and how Special Procedures can go on missions to specific countries.

A key way in which the Special Procedures inform themselves about situations in countries is through country visits. During such visits the experts attempt to gain an understanding of the realisation of the rights covered by their mandates, as well as the more general human rights situation, by meeting with government representatives, victims and members of civil society, as well as by visiting sites of relevance to their mandate.

These visits can be ‘official’ or 'formal' (at the invitation of the government) or ‘unofficial’ or 'informal' (often related to a conference or event organised by an NGO or university).

Official visits

At the end of an official visit, the experts make recommendations and present a report to the HRC. The number of official visits made by each expert, or group of experts, is 2-3 in any given year.

Information on country and other visits of Special Procedures are made available in a database on the OHCHR website

Informal visits

These visits do not lead to a report or a list of recommendations and the costs are not covered by the OHCHR, but such visits provide other opportunities (see Section 3.5 on Country Visits), and there is no limit on the number an expert can make in a year.

Urgent Missions

In exceptional circumstances Special Procedures may be mandated by the HRC to undertake urgent missions, individually or as part of a group, to assess emergency human rights situations and to update the HRC.

Go to the previous section and the next sections to find out more about other tools and outputs of the Special Procedures, including: communications, statements, thematic reports, and follow-up activities.

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