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1. Understanding the Treaty Bodies

1.8 Inquiries - What do the Treaty Bodies do?

Although each Treaty Body focuses on a different treaty, the tools or outputs that are available to the Treaty Bodies are basically the same, with some procedural variations.

This section focuses on another output of the Treaty Bodies:


Five of the Treaty Bodies can initiate an inquiry or an investigation into well-founded allegations of ‘serious, grave or systematic’ human rights violations by a State party.

The entire inquiry process is confidential, and is undertaken in consultation with the concerned State.

As in the case of individual communications, Treaty Bodies can only initiate such an inquiry if the State party has recognised its competence to do so. That is, the concerned State has agreed to be bound by the inquiry procedure.

After a Treaty Body initiates an inquiry, the concerned State is invited to respond. A country visit may be conducted as part of an inquiry. Following an inquiry process, the Treaty Body will recommend actions to the government to which the State must respond.

NGOs have a critical role to play as they can submit information to Treaty Bodies regarding ‘serious, grave or systematic’ violations of human rights, to enable a Treaty Body to initiate the inquiry procedure.

Which Treaty Bodies can initiate inquiries?

CESCR, CEDAW, CAT, CRPD, and the CED can initiate inquiries.

See here for a full list of Treaty Bodies and what each can do.

Examples of Treaty Body inquiry reports:

Go to the previous sections and the next section to find out more about other outputs of the Treaty Bodies, including: periodic reviews, individual communications, general comments, early warnings and urgent actions, and follow-up activities.

For more information on Inquiries, including examples of how human rights defenders use them, you can jump to Chapter 3:

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