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3. Opportunities for You to Engage

3.14 Requesting an early warning or urgent action

This section provides information on how you can request early warnings or urgent actions.

It follows from the last section on Early warnings and urgent actions – Why are they useful?


Requesting an early warning or urgent action

Early warning and urgent action procedures can be invoked to prevent further deterioration of a critical human rights situation, or prevent the occurrence of a human rights violation.

Who can submit information?

Human rights defenders can request certain Treaty Bodies to commence action under early warning and urgent action procedures.

  • CERD: Urgent requests can be submitted to CERD by anyone, including NGOs and individuals. Early warning and urgent actions procedures can also be initiated by the Treaty Body itself.
  • CED: Urgent requests that a disappeared person should be sought and found can only be sent from relatives of a disappeared person or their legal representatives, their counsel or any person authorized by them, and by any other person having a legitimate interest. Urgent Action requests must be submitted in writing and cannot be anonymous. However, the identity of the person(s) submitting the urgent action request always remains confidential.
  • CRPD: The Treaty Body or interested parties, including NGOs, may submit a request under the early awareness and urgent action procedures.
  • CAT and CCPR: Human rights defenders can push for CAT and CCPR to undertake urgent special reviews.

Criteria for admissibility and what to include in your submission


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Making a request under early warning or urgent action procedures

A general criteria for admissibility across all Treaty Bodies that have the mandate for early warning and urgent action procedures is that the State concerned must have ratified the relevant Treaty.

Each Treaty Body has slightly different procedures and working methodologies for early warnings and urgent actions (including who can make a request, admissibility criteria, what information to submit, where to submit) and you should consult the individual Treaty Body web pages and the guidelines produced by that particular Treaty Body (see below) before you engage.


CERD (early warnings and urgent actions): Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


CED (urgent actions only): Committee on Enforced Disappearances


CPRD (keep in mind that this Treaty Body has not yet used these procedures): Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Remember! CCPR and CAT: (special reviews) Human rights defenders can suggest and advocate for the CAT and CCPR to undertake such ad hoc, special or urgent reviews. These can be used in cases of mass, significant and widespread violations, such as torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and summary executions.


CERD: Sample criteria of admissibility and format of submission

The following is indicative only, and is non-exhaustive. Please consult the full guidance provided before you make your submission to CERD.

Admissibility criteria:

  • For early warning procedures: the petition should report situations such as the presence of a significant and persistent pattern of racial discrimination; the presence of a pattern of escalating racial hatred and violence, or racist propaganda or appeals to racial intolerance; the adoption of new discriminatory legislation; segregation policies or de facto exclusion of members of a group from political, economic, social and cultural life; the lack of an adequate legislative framework defining and criminalizing all forms of racial discrimination or lack of effective mechanisms; policies or practice of impunity regarding violence targeting members of a group; significant flows of refugees or displaced persons; encroachment on the traditional lands of indigenous peoples or forced removal of these peoples from their lands; or polluting/hazardous activities that reflect a pattern of racial discrimination with substantial harm to specific groups.

  • For urgent action procedures: the petition should describe, for example, the presence of a serious , massive or persistent pattern of racial discrimination, or a situation that is serious where there is a risk of further racial discrimination.

  • You do not need to exhaust all domestic remedies before requesting an urgent action by CERD.

Format: There is no fixed or model format for submission to the CERD, however the Revised CERD Guidelines can be used as a reference.


CED: Sample criteria of admissibility and format of submission

The following is indicative only, and is non-exhaustive. Please consult the full guidance provided before you make your submission to CED.

Admissibility criteria: For urgent action procedures under the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances:

  • The disappearance must have occurred after the entry into force of the Convention for the State Party concerned.
  • The disappearance must have been presented to a competent national authority, such as those authorized to undertake investigations, where such a possibility exists. If you consider that such a possibility does not exists, you must explain why.
  • An Urgent Action must not have been registered by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on the same disappearance.

Information to submit: For urgent action procedures under the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the petition must contain at a minimum:

  • The identity of the disappeared person.
  • The date and circumstances of the disappearance and, if available, information on the alleged perpetrators.
  • The steps that have been taken to report the disappearance to the competent authorities of the State.

CED will respond to requests submitted by the relatives of a disappeared person or their legal or other representatives. The person submitting the request may also, in particularly serious cases, request the Committee to call on the State to adopt interim measures to prevent irreparable harm to the disappeared person, or to witnesses, relatives, investigators, or defence counsel.


Where should information be sent?

Individuals or NGOs can submit a written request for an early warning or urgent action, along with supporting information. Information can be e-mailed to registry@ohchr.org, as well as:

What can you expect after making your request?

Once you make your submission, the Treaty Bodies have different procedures for processing your request, which are laid out in the respective guidelines mentioned above.

  • CERD Revised Guidelines (Page 4) and Working Paper (Page 4)

  • The measures taken by the CERD may include:

    • To request the State party concerned for the urgent submission of information on the situation considered under the procedure.
    • To request the OHCHR Secretariat to collect information on the situation under consideration, including from NGOs.
    • Adoption of a decision including expression of specific concerns along with recommendations addressed to the State party, relevant Special Rapporteurs, regional institutions and mechanisms, the HRC, the OHCHR.
    • To offer to send one or two members of the Committee to the State party concerned to facilitate implementation of international standards or technical assistance.
    • Recommendation to the State to avail itself of advisory and technical assistance of the OHCHR.
    • The Committee may also establish an urgent procedure to request the submission of an urgent report concerning the measures taken to prevent a serious, massive or persistent pattern of racial discrimination.
    • It could designate a special rapporteur to act as a focal point to monitor critical situations, consult with the Committee’s chairperson to initiate urgent action procedures and to follow-up on the decisions taken.
  • CED Guidelines and Guidance (Available also in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish (Page 2)

    • After the Committee deems the request admissible, it requests the State party to provide information on the situation of the person sought within a time limit set by the Committee.
    • In light of the information received, CED may give recommendations to the State, which may include taking all such necessary measures, to locate and protect the person concerned, and to inform the Committee of the developments within a specified time period.
    • There are also provisions whereby requests can be made to the Committee for interim and protective measures in very serious and urgent cases.
  • CRPD Working Methods (Page 5)

    • CRPD’s Working Group on early awareness and urgent action oversees the procedure, which will include examination of requests for activation of the procedure, and formulation of recommendations.
    • The State party will be invited to meet with the WG to discuss the main concern(s). The members of the WG will pose questions to the State party who will be expected to provide responses.
    • The WG may also examine the material in the absence of the State party with inputs from NGOs and other interested parties.
    • The Committee will then adopt the final decision, in which the State party may be asked to take certain specific measures to recify the situation and to submit further information in its next periodic report.

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