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1. Understanding the Treaty Bodies

1.10 Follow-up - What do the Treaty Bodies do?

In this section you will explore the ways that the Treaty Bodies follow-up on their own actions to push for change.

All Treaty Bodies conduct follow up activities to some extent, and these are focused primarily on follow up procedures to Treaty Body concluding observations (as a result of a periodic review), and on decisions or views (resulting from individual communications).

All follow-up information is public and is included in the annual reports and/or follow up reports of the respective Treaty Bodies.

The Treaty Bodies also have several tools available to ensure compliance with their recommendations and decisions. These include publicity, reminder letters, meetings with State representatives, and follow-up during the regular examination of State reports. In addition, the CCPR and others have undertaken follow-up visits to facilitate implementation of their concluding observations.


Periodic reviews

All the Treaty Bodies (except the CRC and SPT) request that States submit follow up reports within 12 to 24 months after the review. They request that States provide information on the extent to which it has complied with the review recommendations, focusing on those that have been identified as ‘priority’ or urgent (between two to five of the concluding observations from the review).

The Committee will analyse the degree of implementation of its concluding observations, taking into account any information received from civil society. State action is given a ‘grade’ - ranging from the highest level of compliance to lowest level of compliance, or even contrary to the recommendations of the Committee. See ISHR Academy section: Treaty Body follow up and grading system

Many Treaty Bodies have tasked one or more members of their Committee (follow-up rapporteurs, follow-up coordinators or country rapporteurs) to monitor measures taken by the State to implement the concluding observations of the Treaty Body and to report on the activities and implementation of the follow-up procedure in the follow up reports and in the annual report of the Treaty Body – which is available on the Treaty Body webpage.

As part of the follow up on periodic reports, Treaty Bodies request that States include information on the follow up to concluding observations and recommendations in their subsequent periodic report.


Defender Story

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China – Follow up procedure of the Committee Against Torture

After China’s fifth periodic review in 2015, the Committee Against Torture (CAT) issued its report on follow up to its concluding observations to China in January 2017. Following which, the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) in collaboration with the Consortium of Chinese Civil Society Groups submitted their NGO follow-up report to CAT in June 2017, highlighting the Committee’s follow up recommendations, and also responding to the follow-up report submitted by China. It subsequently submitted additional information on its follow-up report in November 2017. After reviewing the State party’s report as well as the information provided by other stakeholders, including the NGOs above, the Treaty Body’s Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations sent a follow-up letter to the State highlighting the grades adopted by the Committee on the State response as well as implementation of the follow-up recommendations.

In addition, as follow up to periodic reviews, members of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) may undertake country visits with support from the NGO, CCPR Centre. See also ISHR Academy: Country Visits

Examples

Individual communications

Each Treaty Body has its own procedure to follow-up on States’ implementation of its decisions or views on individual communications (except for the SPT which currently has no procedure for this).

Treaty Bodies generally appoint a Special Rapporteur or a Working Group with responsibility for coordinating follow-up to the decisions. In their decisions, the Treaty Bodies will stipulate a period of time (either 90 days or 180 days) within which the State is requested to provide information regarding implementation of the relevant decision. Subsequently, the complainant may be requested to comment on the information provided by the State, and based on this, the Treaty Body will analyse the degree of implementation of its decision.

Similar to the grading system adopted by Treaty Bodies in the follow up of its concluding observations (under a review), all Treaty Bodies (except for CED) have adopted a procedure to assess State compliance with their views and decisions on individual communications. Part of this follow up process involves the adoption of grades which reflects the level of State compliance with Treaty Body decisions. The Treaty Body’s assessment of State compliance with their decisions can be found in their follow up reports, as well as in their annual reports – which are available on the webpage of the respective Treaty Body. See ISHR Academy section: Treaty Body follow up and grading system

In addition, the OHCHR may publicise the decision or view of a particular Treaty Body on an individual complaint.

Example:

General comments

The focus of general comments is usually to clarify the interpretation of treaties and to explore new developments in the interpretation of treaties by the Treaty Bodies. New developments in interpretation are rare but where there have been major developments, Treaty Bodies will sometimes dedicate a second general comment to follow up on the first.

Example:

Inquiries

There is no procedure in place for Treaty Bodies to follow up on inquiries.

Early warnings and urgent actions

There is no procedure in place for Treaty Bodies to follow up on early warning and urgent action procedures, although specific cases may be raised as part of the periodic review of the concerned State, or as part of a subsequent early warning or urgent action.


In the next section, you will find out more about the crucial role that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) plays in the work of the Treaty Bodies.

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