Human Rights Instruments


There are nine core international human rights treaties. Each of these treaties has established a committee of experts to monitor implementation of the treaty provisions by its States parties. Some of the treaties are supplemented by optional protocols dealing with specific concerns.
    Date Monitoring Body
ICERD International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 21 Dec 1965 CERD
ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 16 Dec 1966 CCPR
ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 16 Dec 1966 CESCR
CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 18 Dec 1979 CEDAW
CAT Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 10 Dec 1984 CAT
CRC Convention on the Rights of the Child 20 Nov 1989 CRC
ICRMW International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families 18 Dec 1990 CMW
  International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance    
  Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 13 Dec 2006  
ICCPR-OP1 Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 16 Dec 1966 HRC
ICCPR-OP2 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty 15 Dec 1989 HRC
OP-CEDAW Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 10 Dec 1999 CEDAW
OP-CRC-AC Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict 25 May 2000 CRC
OP-CRC-SC Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography 25 May 2000 CRC
OP-CAT Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 18 Dec 2002 CAT
  Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 12 Dec 2006  


  • CRC

    The Convention on the Rights of the Child

    The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history. It recognizes the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of 18 years.

    It is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.

    The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services.
    By agreeing to undertake the obligations of the Convention (by ratifying or acceding to it), national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children's rights and they have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. States parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child.

    Every country in the world as well as the Holy See has ratified the Convention on The Rights of the Child with the exception of the United States and Somalia. 

  • HRC

    The new Human Rights Council began its work on June 19, 2006 as a result of long awaited reform.

    The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.  The Council was created by the UN General Assembly with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.

    One year after holding its first meeting, on 18 June 2007, the Council adopted its “Institution-building Package”  providing elements to guide it in its future work.  Among the elements is the new Univversal Periodic Review mechanism which will assess the human rights situations in all 192 UN Member States.  Other features include a new Advisory Committee which serves as the Council’s “think tank” providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues and the revised Complaints Procedure mechanism which allows individuals and organizations to bring complaints about human rights violations to the attention of the Council.  The Human Rights Council also continues to work closely with the UN Special procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Council.

    On July 28, 2008 Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa was approved as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ms. Pillay succeeds Louise Arbour of Canada, who completed her five-year term on June 30, 2008.  The High Commissioner's Office is a key body within the United Nations system and since its establishment at the 1993 Vienna Summit, has played a crucial part in protecting and upholding human rights.

    Judge Pillay brings a distinguished professional career in law and human rights to her new post. A Harvard educated lawyer, in 1967 Judge Pillay became the first woman to start a law practice in Natal Province, South Africa, defending opponents of the apartheid regime. She became the first black woman to serve in the High Court in her country and has presided over both criminal and civil cases. She has been a prominent voice over many years in support of women's rights, particularly leading the international community to take strong positions on crimes perpetrated against women during conflict.

    In 1995 she was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to be a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where she served for eight years, including four years as president. During her term, Judge Pillay was credited with positive change. She led the landmark decisions defining rape as an institutionalized weapon of war and a crime of genocide rather than assimilating it into more general criminal categories such as assault. Since 2003, Ms. Pillay has served as Judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, Netherlands.

    Judge Pillay becomes High Commissioner for Human Rights at an important time in history. Sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is an opportunity to reaffirm the universality and indivisibility of the human rights enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration. Judge Pillay's qualifications as a leader and as an advocate for human rights and international justice should enable her to work effectively with UN member-states and with such UN institutions as the Human Rights Council.