Research event

Within the realm of the possible: Reforming the UN treaty bodies’ individual communication mechanisms

This workshop is organized by Bașak Çalı, Hertie School, Andreas Follesdal, PluriCourts, University of Oslo, Geir Ulfstein, PluriCourts, University of Oslo and Andreas von Staden, University of Hamburg. Hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights.

The reform of the United Nations human rights system is once again on the agenda. The latest such review was concluded by the UN General Assembly in 2014, and it called for States to undertake a subsequent review no later than April 2020.  The upcoming 2020 review of the treaty body system by the General Assembly offers an opportunity to reflect on how to strengthen the impact of the human rights treaty bodies’ work.

One important development since the last review in 2014 has been the coming into force for all treaty bodies save one—the Committee on Migrant Workers—of the optional competence to receive and issue views on individual complaints (“communications”). All human rights treaty bodies with an active competence to receive individual communications have by now also delivered views in individual cases and are developing procedural and substantive UN human rights law case law. With the expansion of the right to individual petition across a number of bodies, a wide range of concerns can be identified in the context of the reform agenda. These include, inter alia, the risk of case backlogs, styles of interpretation, fragmentation of substantive and procedural case law across treaty bodies, fragmentation between UN and regional human rights law, the resistance of states to ‘soft judgments,’ and the lack of an effective dissemination of UN treaty body case law.

The aim of this workshop is to take stock of the performance of the individual communications mechanisms of the UN human rights treaty bodies, to review their evolving case law, and to ask what reforms are required within the realm of the legally and politically possible to strengthen the right to individual petition as a means to protect and promote human rights globally. The workshop focuses on reform proposals that require neither significant treaty amendments nor major financial commitments. Recommendations from the seminar will be submitted to the United Nations Secretary General and to the chairpersons of the UN human rights treaty bodies.


Workshop programme:

9:00-9:30   Registration and Coffee

9:30-9:45 Welcome by Başak Çalı, Hertie School, Centre for Fundamental Rights, Berlin 

9:45-11:15 Panel I: Interpretation of Treaties: Procedural and Substantive Dimensions 
Chair: Andreas Føllesdal, PluriCourts, University of Oslo  » Anne-Katrin Wolf (practicing lawyer, Berlin), “Standing Before the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies – A Call to Rethink Ius Standi in View of the Substantive Law of the Treaties” » Alain Zysset (University of Glasgow) and Antoinette Scherz (PluriCourts, University of Oslo), “Reforming Through Reasons: Treaty Interpretation, Proportionality and the Legitimate Authority of the CESCR” » Geir Ulfstein (PluriCourts, University of Oslo), “The Margin of Appreciation in Treaty Body Jurisprudence” Discussant: Andreas Zimmermann, University of Potsdam, member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee

11:15-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-13:00 Panel II: Remedies, Follow-up, and Implementation
Chair: Geir Ulfstein, PluriCourts, University of Oslo » Helena Rodríguez-Bronchú Carceller and Gabriella Citroni (TRIAL International, Geneva), “Enhancing Compliance of the Monitoring Process to Foster Implementation” » Irina Criveț (Koç University, Istanbul), “Remedies and Follow-up Procedures of Individual Communications of the CEDAW and CRPD Committees: The Missing Link?” » Andreas von Staden (Universität Hamburg), “(Sometimes) As Good as a Court: Compliance with the Legally Non-Binding Views of the Committee against Torture” Discussant: Gentian Zyberi, University of Oslo, member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee 

13:00-14:00 Lunch Break

14:00-15:30 Panel III: Country Perspectives
Chair: Başak Çalı, Hertie School, Centre for Fundamental Rights, Berlin   » Aleksandra Koneva (Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, Moscow), “Towards Better Compliance with the Human Rights Treaty Bodies’ Views through Improving National Enforcement Mechanisms: The Perspective of the Russian Federation” » Khadidja Nemar (MENA Rights Group, Geneva), “Individual Communications against North-African States before the UN Committee against Torture and the UN Human Rights Committee” » Andreas von Staden and Andreas Ullmann (Universität Hamburg), “Normative Commitments and Costly Signals: Explaining the Acceptance of Individual Communications and Inquiry Procedures across the Core UN Human Rights Treaties” Discussant: Hélène Tigroudja, Aix-Marseille University, member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee 

15:30-15:45 Coffee Break

15:45- 17:15 Panel IV: Ways for Internal Cohesiveness and External Effectiveness 
Chair: Başak Çalı, Hertie School, Centre for Fundamental Rights, Berlin » Martin Scheinin (European University Institute, Florence) “Treaty Bodies and Their Evolving Practices: Building a Foundation for a World Court of Human Rights” » Vincent Ploton and Madeleine Sinclair (International Service for Human Rights, Geneva), “Effective Dissemination of Views” » Alexandre Skander Galand and Başak Çalı (Hertie School, Centre for Fundamental Rights, Berlin), “Speaking with a single voice? Common trends in the case law of the UN treaty bodies” Discussant: Mehrdad Payandeh, Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

17:15- 17:45 Wrap Up and Next Steps


Limited slots available, please contact: