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2. Treaty Bodies: Going Deeper

2.5 Inter-state complaints

This section focuses on another lesser utilised output of the Treaty Bodies: Inter-state complaints.

What are they?

The process for inter-state complaints (also called inter-state communications, or state-to-state complaints) allows for a State to submit a complaint to a Treaty Body about alleged violations of a treaty committed by another State. Both States must be parties to the treaty in order to invoke this procedure.

The basis of inter-state complaints varies slightly across the different Treaty Bodies.

Which Treaty Bodies accept inter-state complaints?

For more information on the grounds of State-to-State complaints see the OHCHR Webpage on Inter-state Complaints.

  • Under the ICCPR (Article 41), ICERD (Article 11), CAT (Article 21), ICRMW (Article 76), OP-ICESCR (Article 10), OP-CRC-IC (Article 12), CED (Article 32) complaints can be made against a State that is not giving full effect to the provisions of the treaty in question. The concerned State’s recognition of the competence of the committee in this regard is a pre-requisite for the use of this procedure.

  • Under CEDAW (Article 29), CAT (Article 30) ICRMW (Article 92), ICERD (Article 22), and ICPED (article 42) there is another provision for the resolution of inter-State disputes regarding the interpretation or application of a treaty through negotiation or arbitration. States can opt out of this procedure through declarations at the time of treaty ratification, but if they do so they cannot bring complaints against any other State due to the principle of reciprocity, i.e. both States must be subject to the procedure.

How can you engage?

Human rights defenders can suggest to or advocate for friendly States to initiate an inter-state complaint in cases of significant violations of Treaty provisions.

Examples of inter-state complaints:

In the 50-year history of the Treaty Bodies, only three inter-state or state-to-state complaints have been registered (admissibility accepted on its merits) by the Treaty Bodies, all of them in 2018 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

  • State of Qatar vs. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • State of Qatar vs. United Arab Emirate
  • State of Palestine vs. State of Israel

For more information on the above cases, including various documents and decisions adopted by the Treaty Body, see the CERD webpage on inter-state complaints.

In the next section you will learn more about the Treaty Body strengthening process.

Learn more

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