United Nations Treaty Framework

Ertürk DY. Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences: Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. United Nations Human Rights; 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract


2008 - Addendum - Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo


Sexual violence has been a defining feature of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recent armed conflicts. Women, in areas of armed conflict, still suffer sexual violence committed by the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), the Police nationale congolaise (PNC), armed groups and, increasingly, civilians. The situation is particularly dramatic in South Kivu, where non-State armed groups, including foreign militia, commit sexual atrocities that aim at the complete physical and psychological destruction of women with implications for the entire society. Given the multitude of actors involved in the conflict and the continuation of these crimes, the international community, in cooperation with the Congolese authorities, has a responsibility to take all necessary measures to ensure that women in South Kivu are protected. Sexual violence extends beyond eastern Congo. In Equateur Province, PNC and FARDC have carried out systematic reprisals against the civilian population, including mass rape. Soldiers and police who commit these acts amounting to crimes against humanity are rarely held accountable by the commanding officers. Some of the perpetrators have been given commanding positions in the State security forces, which further aggravates the situation. Impunity for rape is massive. Due to political interference and corruption, perpetrators, especially those who belong to the State security forces, go unpunished. The limited support made available to the overburdened justice system raises questions as to whether there is political will to end impunity. 

Ertürk Y. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences - 20 January 2006. UN . 2006. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Agenda item 12


Sixty-Second Commission on Human Rights

This is my third report to the Commission in my capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the violence against women, its causes and consequences, submitted pursuant to Commission resolution 2005/41. Chapter I of the report summarizes my activities in 2005 and chapter II examines the due diligence standard as a tool for the effective implementation of women’s human rights, including the right to live a life free from violence.

The failure of international human rights law to adequately reflect and respond to the experiences and needs of women has stimulated much debate on the mainstream application of human rights standards. This has resulted in the transformation of the conventional understanding of human rights and the doctrine of State responsibility.

The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women as well as other international instruments adopted the concept of due diligence, in relation to violence against women, as a yardstick to assess whether the State has met its obligation. Under the due diligence obligation, States have a duty to take positive action to prevent and protect women from violence, punish perpetuators of violent acts and compensate victims of violence. However, the application of due diligence standard, to date, has tended to be State-centric and limited to responding to violence when it occurs, largely neglecting the obligation to prevent and compensate and the responsibility of non-State actors.

The current challenge in combating violence against women is the implementation of existing human rights standards to ensure that the root causes and consequences of violence against women are tackled at all levels from the home to the transnational arena. The multiplicity of forms of violence against women as well as the fact that this violence frequently occurs at the intersection of different types of discrimination makes the adoption of multifaceted strategies to effectively prevent and combat this violence a necessity.

In this regard, the potential of the due diligence standard is explored at different levels of intervention: individual women, the community, the State and the transnational level. At each level, recommendations for relevant actors are highlighted. The report concludes that if we continue to push the boundaries of due diligence in demanding the full compliance of States with international law, including to address the root causes of violence, against women and to hold non-State actors accountable for their acts of violence, then we will move towards a conception of human rights that meets our aspirations for a just world free of violence. 

Legislative Guide For The Protocol To Prevent, Suppress And Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women And Children. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; 2005. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Fourth publication under "FREE Online Download": Download the Trafficking in Persons Protocol guide only

The main purpose of the legislative guides is to assist States seeking to ratify or implement the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementary Protocols.

The guides lay out the basic requirements of the Convention and the Protocols thereto, as well as the issues that each State party must address, while furnishing a range of options and examples that national drafters may wish to consider as they try to implement the Convention and its Protocols.

The guides have been drafted to accommodate different legal traditions and varying levels of institutional development and provide, where available, implementation options.

The present legislative guides are the product of a broad participatory process involving invaluable input from numerous experts, institutions and government representatives from all regions of the world, who contributed to the guides a wealth of knowledge and expertise, together with significant enthusiasm and personal and professional commitment.

Thakur R. The United Nations in Global Governance: Rebalancing Organized Multilateralism for Current and Future Challenges. The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS); 2003. Publisher's VersionAbstract
From 4-6 June 2003, the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) held a consultation with civil society representatives on the theme: “The Crisis in Global Governance: Challenges for the United Nations and Global Civil Society”. Nearly 60 NGO/CSO representatives from more than 20 countries attended the meeting, as well as a number of representatives from the UN system (see list of participants in Annex III). The meeting was structured to maximize inter-active discussions based on participants’ wide range of experiences and perspectives on the state of global governance, and challenges they see ahead for the United Nations and global civil society. The consultation brought together a mix of NGOs/CSOs, many with UN consultative status but some without, ensuring a balance between organizations that have permanent representation at the UN and others that participate in the work of  the UN only occasionally to pursue specific issues and objectives, or that are primarily working with grassroots social movements.  NGLS organised the meeting in the context of the Secretary General’s High Level Panel to review UN-Civil Society relations (see below) and as a counterpart to a consultation it organised in March 2003 among the NGO liaison officers/focal points of the UN and the international system.
Rome Statute. International Criminal Court. 2002. Publisher's VersionAbstract


The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute) is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998[5][6]and it entered into force on 1 July 2002.[2] As of 6 January 2015, 123 states are party to the statute.[2] Among other things, the statute establishes the court's functions, jurisdiction and structure.

The Rome Statute established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Those crimes "shall not be subject to any statute of limitations".[7]Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are "unable" or "unwilling" to do so themselves. The court has jurisdiction over crimes only if they are committed in the territory of a state party or if they are committed by a national of a state party; an exception to this rule is that the ICC may also have jurisdiction over crimes if its jurisdiction is authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

Bayefsky A. The UN Human Rights Treaty System: Universality at the Crossroads.; 2001. Publisher's VersionAbstract


The post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was constituted decades after most of the human rights treaties were adopted. Treaty body after treaty body was created, without a relationship to a High Commissioner, and without a relationship to each other. The result has been a burgeoning reporting burden, duplication of procedures, little effort to synchronize substantive outcomes, and rudimentary follow-up processes and responsibilities. In the meantime, treaty body members have struggled to preserve their independent expert status in a highly politicized UN environment, which has populated their numbers with many government surrogates and grossly underfinanced their work.

The reforms envisaged in this Report have assumed that improvements not requiring formal amendment will be more easily accomplished. Hence, the recommendations generally assume a six treaty body regime, and focus primarily on offering concrete suggestions for improvements in working methods of the treaty bodies and procedures at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The proposals for bolstering national level partnerships are also made in the context of the current conditions of overlap and a multiplicity of treaty bodies. Follow-up is the key missing component of the implementation regime, and therefore recommendations in this context are developed at some length. While one major reform requiring amendment is ultimately recommended, most of the specific recommendations concerning working methods and OHCHR processes remain relevant to a reorganized treaty regime. 

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. United Nations. 1993. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Document can be located under A/RES/48/104

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. It covers physical, sexual and psychological violence as well as violence both at home and elsewhere in society.

The definition of violence against women that the UN presents in the Declaration is currently the most widely accepted definition:

‘Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary  deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’

The Declaration states three categories of violence against women: violence perpetrated by the State, such as violence against women in custody and as part of warfare; violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual harassment, trafficking in women and intimidation at work; and violence in the family and in the private sphere, for example incest and selective abortions).

According to the Declaration, violence against women is rooted in the historically unequal power relations between women and men. It also explains that violence against women is ‘one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.’

The UN member states are therefore urged to legislate against the violence, work preventively and improve the situation of victimised women.

Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (606 U.N.T.S. 267, entered into force Oct. 4, 1967). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 1967. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Second document under "Refugees and Asylum"

The origins of the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, which reflected recognition by UNHCR and the States members of its Executive Committee that there was a disjuncture between the universal, unlimited UNHCR Statute and the scope of the 1951 Convention, were quite different from those of the latter. Instead of an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations, the issues were addressed at a colloquium of some thirteen legal experts which met in Bellagio, Italy, from 21 to 28 April 1965. The Colloquium did not favour a complete revision of the 1951 Convention, but opted instead for a Protocol by way of which States parties would agree to apply the relevant provisions of the Convention, but without necessarily becoming party to that treaty. The approach was approved by the UNHCR Executive Committee and the draft Protocol was referred to the Economic and Social Council for transmission to the General Assembly. The General Assembly took note of the Protocol (the General Assembly commonly “takes note” of, rather than adopts or approves, instruments drafted outside the United Nations system), and requested the Secretary-General to transmit the text to States with a view to enabling them to accede (resolution 2198 (XXI) of 16 December 1966). The Protocol required just six ratifications and it duly entered into force on 4 October 1967.

International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. United Nations. 1966. Publisher's VersionAbstract


The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty, providing a range of protections for civil and political rights. The ICCPR, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, are considered the International Bill of Human Rights. The ICCPR obligates countries that have ratified the treaty to protect and preserve basic human rights, such as: the right to life and human dignity; equality before the law; freedom of speech, assembly, and association; religious freedom and privacy; freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention; gender equality; the right to a fair trial, and; minority rights. The Covenant compels governments to take administrative, judicial, and legislative measures in order to protect the rights enshrined in the treaty and to provide an effective remedy. The Covenant was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. As of December 2013, 167 countries have ratified the Covenant.

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150, entered into force April 22, 1954). United Nations. 1951. Publisher's VersionAbstract


First document under "Refugees and Asylum"

The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, with just one “amending” and updating Protocol adopted in 1967 (on which, see further below), is the central feature in today’s international regime of refugee protection, and some 144 States (out of a total United Nations membership of 192) have now ratified either one or both of these instruments (as of August 2008). The Convention, which entered into force in 1954, is by far the most widely ratified refugee treaty, and remains central also to the protection activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In the aftermath of the Second World War, refugees and displaced persons were high on the international agenda. At its first session in 1946, the United Nations General Assembly recognized not only the urgency of the problem, but also the cardinal principle that “no refugees or displaced persons who have finally and definitely ... expressed valid objections to returning to their countries of origin ... shall be compelled to return ...” (resolution 8 (I) of 12 February 1946). The United Nations’ first post-war response was a specialized agency, the International Refugee Organization (IRO, 1946-1952), but notwithstanding its success in providing protection and assistance and facilitating solutions, it was expensive and also caught up in the politics of the Cold War. It was therefore decided to replace it with a temporary, initially non-operational agency, and to complement the new institution with revised treaty provisions on the status of refugees.