To carry out her work, the Special Rapporteur relies heavily on information from indigenous peoples, their organizations and NGOs. The Special Rapporteur encourages these sources to submit information that relates to her mandate from the Human Rights Council, which is to promote the human rights of indigenous peoples and address specific situations in which their rights are being violated. This information may be about positive developments, studies or conferences of interest, new initiatives, or problem situations.
Information alleging human rights violations
The Special Rapporteur is authorized to act on credible information alleging human rights violations of indigenous peoples. No formal requirements exist for submitting information to the Special Rapporteur on alleged violations. Neither exhaustion of domestic remedies nor a detailed legal argument about the case is required. Any person, group or organization can send information to the Special Rapporteur irrespective of the relationship with the victim(s) of the alleged violation.
Information submitted to the Special Rapporteur on alleged violations should include a detailed description of the circumstances of the case. It should be precise and as brief as possible while providing a complete statement of the situation, and may be accompanied by annexes providing written or graphic evidence of the facts. See below on information to be included in submission.
Procedure for communications on alleged violations
Types of cases
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is broadly defined, and thus her communications have focused on a wide range of issues related to the rights of indigenous peoples, both individual and collective. Past communications include cases of killings, tortures, threats, and other abuses committed against indigenous leaders and community members. In addition, the Special Rapporteur has sent communications in relation to violations of indigenous peoples’ rights over lands and natural resources, such as dispossession and removal, lack of prior consultation regarding development projects, etc. The Special Rapporteur has also intervened with regard to the content of national legislation and policies that have a direct impact on indigenous peoples. At present, given the existence of other United Nations mechanisms to address violations of individual rights, the Special Rapporteur gives priority consideration to those cases involving infringements of the collective rights of indigenous peoples, in particular the collective rights affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
No formal requirements exist in order for the Special Rapporteur to receive information or to send communications on alleged violations. Neither exhaustion of domestic remedies nor a detailed legal argument about the case is required. Any person or organization can send information to the Special Rapporteur irrespective of the relationship with the victim(s) of the alleged violation.
As information arrives, the Special Rapporteur first seeks to determine the validity of the information and decides whether it is advisable to send a communication to the Government concerned. The decision to intervene is at the discretion of the Special Rapporteur. Due to the large number of cases received, it is impossible to respond to every situation. This decision will depend on various criteria including: the credibility of information received; the detail provided; the extent to which the case is representative of situations faced by indigenous peoples generally, and the possibility that intervention by the Special Rapporteur may have a positive impact.
If the Special Rapporteur determines that intervention on her part is appropriate given the relevant circumstances, ordinarily she will communicate with the Government concerned through either a written urgent appeal or an allegation letter. Depending upon the specificities of the case, a communication may be sent jointly with other Special Procedures mandate holders.
The Government may react to the Special Rapporteur’s letter and investigate the alleged facts, and/or take action to prevent or end any violation, but this is not always the case. In some cases, the Special Rapporteur may follow-up with further communications or other types of actions. This follow up may consist of a written evaluation of the situation with specific recommendations, which may be included in a Special report. However, resource limitations make it impossible to follow-up on every case, and past experiences have shown that often the impact of the Special Rapporteur’s actions depends on the mobilization of civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations, as well as on their efficient use of the mechanism.
The communications are confidential and the sources are not disclosed. A summary of all the communications sent by the Special Rapporteur during the year, along with the responses received from the Governments concerned, are published as an addendum to the Special Rapporteur’s annual report to the Human Rights Council.
Information on alleged violations should include, where applicable:
When and Where: Date, time and precise location of the incident (Country, region, municipality)
Victim(s) or Community Affected: Name, number and full details on the location of the indigenous people, community or individual(s) whose rights allegedly have been violated or are under threat.
What happened: Detailed circumstances of the alleged violation. If an initial event leads to others, please describe them chronologically. In cases of general measures, such as national legislation or policies, indicate their stage of development and how indigenous peoples have or will be affected by them.
Perpetrator(s): Detailed information on the person(s) or institution(s) responsible for the violation and their relation, if any, to the Government concerned. If circumstances require, provide an explanation of the reasons for suspecting responsibility of the person(s) or institution(s) identified.
Action taken by State authorities: If applicable, what actions have been taken by the relevant authorities to remedy the situation? Has the matter been reported to the administrative or judicial authorities of the State concerned? Note that exhaustion of domestic remedies is not a requirement.
This information merely aids the Special Rapporteur in understanding the allegation and developing an appropriate response.
Action taken before international bodies: Has any action been initiated before other international or regional human rights mechanisms? If so, at what stage are these other international actions?
Source: Name and full address of the indigenous people, organization or individual(s) submitting the information. These contact details are essential in the event the Special Rapporteur needs clarification or further information on the case. This information is kept confidential, unless the source authorizes otherwise.
Anyone who wishes to submit information to the Special Rapporteur may do so in one of the following ways:
Email (preferred method): firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include “Communication regarding [country or indigenous people]” in the Subject Line
Fax: +41 – 22 917 90 06
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
New portal for submitting info to UN Special Rapporteurs Human Rights
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