The United Nations (UN) is the biggest international organization in the world. As part of its mandate to maintain international peace and security (Art. 1, para. 1, of the UN Charter), it deals with issues of human rights and, more occasionally, of international crimes.
The UN is composed of an array of organs dealing with a wide range of topics. In its work, TRIAL International interacts mainly with Treaty Bodies (such as the Human Rights Committee) and Special Procedures (such as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances). The NGO submits complaints and reports, advocating for the full implementation of international human rights law. Additionally, it trains local human rights defenders and lawyers on the use of said UN mechanisms.
Helping the victims
TRIAL International submits complaints before domestic jurisdictions on behalf of victims and their family. If the State fails to fulfil its obligations and leaves victims without justice or redress, procedures may continue on a supranational level before UN bodies or regional mechanisms, which assess the responsibility of the State and indicate measures of reparation to be adopted.
TRIAL International works mainly with the Human Rights Committee, which examines violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Compared to other Treaty Bodies, its competence is quite extensive as the Covenant includes a wide range of fundamental rights and is one of the most widely ratified human rights treaties. In other cases, depending on the circumstances, different Committees may be seized including the Committee against Torture, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances or the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
In other instances, communications or allegations can also be submitted to UN Special Procedures such as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention or the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
Unlike regional mechanisms, which may deliver binding judgments, UN bodies cannot coerce States into implementing their recommendations. They rely more on persuasion, leveraged by the UN’s considerable political, diplomatic and symbolic weight. For this reason, a good part of TRIAL International’s work is pushing for the domestic implementation of international recommendations, be it the prosecution of perpetrators or the granting of reparations to victims.
As part of its advocacy efforts, TRIAL International regularly submits reports to, or meets directly with, UN experts including Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures. By doing so, it provides them with unbiased information, raises awareness and ensures certain subjects are kept on top of the international agenda.
During the Universal Periodic Review, TRIAL International is particularly active, highlighting the countries’ shortcomings and mobilizing public opinion to demand change.
Training human rights defenders
An expert in the functioning of UN mechanisms, TRIAL International shares this knowledge with local lawyers and human rights defenders, training them to understand these complex procedures and successfully submit complaints on behalf of victims.