Guide for Third-Party Interventions before UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies

This ISHR guide seeks to demystify and democratise the TPI procedure and thus widen the circle of those who can make use of it. It aims to do so by providing practical tools and tips on how to submit TPIs to the UNTBs.

Third Party Interventions (TPIs) provide useful information for those dealing with human rights cases (judicial or quasi-judicial mechanisms) that helps them reach legally-sound decisions. TPIs can have a significant impact on process, resulting in just outcomes and the advancement of international human rights law. Current and former members of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies (UNTBs) have acknowledged the extent to which TPIs can be helpful, particularly on subjects where limited jurisprudence exists, and for legal matters that could benefit from additional context, research, and analysis.

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However, UNTBs have seldom used this tool. At the time of publication, the Committees that had received the most TPIs were the Human Rights Committee (HRCttee), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) with six each. Then the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) with five, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) with one each, and the Committee Against Torture and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) with none.

This means that decisions adopted by each UNTB which acknowledge TPIs represent fewer than 10% of their total body of decisions (9.4% for CRC, 6.7% for CESCR, 5.9% for CEDAW, 2.9% for CRPD, 1.9% for CERD, 0.3% for HRCttee and 0% for both CAT and CED). This is a far cry from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, where TPIs have been considered in at least 30% of its decisions. While the figures for the CRC and CEDAW are positive, growth is not necessarily linear, so it is possible that, the more cases these Committees consider, the more their TPI rates will look like those of the HRCttee, rather than the other way round.

There are many factors that help explain this phenomenon, from the relative recency of some UNTBs, to the sheer number of cases dealt with by some of them (especially the HRCttee). An additional and critical obstacle is that the specific rules and procedures on TPIs vary from one UNTB to the next, as does the availability of relevant information on TPIs for advocates. This presents obstacles to effective engagement.

In addition to this (or perhaps because of it), the TPI procedure continues to be geographically and socially limited, with most interventions submitted by lawyers or NGOs from the Global North or members (former and current) of the UN Human Rights System.

This guide seeks to demystify and democratise the TPI procedure and thus widen the circle of those who can make use of it. It aims to do so by providing practical tools and tips on how to submit TPIs to the UNTBs. We hope you find it useful.

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