UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS INDEX
 

About the Universal Human Rights Index

1. What is the purpose of the Universal Human Rights Index?
2. What is new about the Index?
3. What documents are indexed?
4. Why are UPR recommendations in a different colour?
5. Is it available in all official UN languages?
6. How is the information structured?
7. What is the methodology used?
8. What is an annotation?
9. What are ‘related documents’ and ‘primary documents’?
10. Why some annotations look different and have symbols?
11. How to use the different search functions?
12. Who developed the Index? Who is now responsible for it?

1. What is the purpose of the Universal Human Rights Index?

The Universal Human Rights Index (Index) is designed primarily to facilitate access to human rights recommendations issued by three key pillars of the UN human rights protection system: the Treaty Bodies established under international human rights treaties as well as the Special Procedures, and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council.

The Index offers instant access to objective and comprehensive information on human rights situations around the world. The information compiled in the Index enables users to gain an international perspective on national and regional human rights developments; align the conclusions and/or recommendations of treaty bodies, the special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council; and give an overview on cooperation between States and international bodies and mechanisms.

The Index aims at assisting States in the implementation of recommendations and at facilitating follow-up. It also greatly simplifies the work of the United Nations, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), non-governmental institutions and other civil society actors and researchers using these UN recommendations in their work.

2. What is new about the Index?

The Index is the only on-line tool compiling recommendations from the treaty bodies, the special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review. It provides for the possibility to align, compare, and analyze recommendations coming from the three pillars of the UN human rights system, which should greatly assist all stakeholders to adopt a holistic approach towards the implementation of these recommendations.

A unique feature of the Index is to enable the user to access and search treaty body, special procedures and UPR recommendations through several categories: State, right, body, affected person and, for the UPR, the State(s) that made the recommendation, the position of the State under Review, and the session.

With a few clicks searchers can view the assessments of UN bodies and mechanism on the status of implementation of human rights in any particular situation. This renders the existing vast amount of UN information on human rights even more transparent and accessible.

3. What documents are indexed?

The following documents are indexed:

  • Concluding observations of the ten UN human rights Treaty Bodies which are committees of independent experts that monitor, through a reporting procedure (except SPT, through country visits), implementation of the core international human rights treaties (indexed since 2000):
    • Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
    • Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
    • Human Rights Committee (HRC)
    • Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ( CEDAW)
    • Committee against Torture (CAT)
    • Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
    • Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)
    • Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
    • Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED) – has not yet adopted its first concluding observations
  • Country visits reports of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) – when made public
  • Decisions and recommendations adopted by CERD under early-warning and urgent action procedures
  • Country visits reports of Special Procedures mandate-holders assessing the general human rights situation in a given country (indexed since 2006). Mandate holders are called on to report to the Human Rights Council:
  • Recommendations made under the Universal Periodic Review (indexed since the first session in 2008), which is a State-driven process under the auspices of the Human Rights Council involving a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every four years

Each conclusion and recommendation is isolated and separately classified; the result is called an annotation [‘About’].

In order to follow up on the implementation of a recommendation, related documents (follow-up reports, position of the State under Review, comments made by States) are directly available through a link placed at the top of the annotation.

4. Why are UPR recommendations in a different colour?

The nature of United Nations human rights recommendations varies depending on the body/mechanism that adopts them.

Users should distinguish recommendations coming from:

a) The Treaty Bodies and the Special Procedures which are experts or expert bodies that adopt their own recommendations.

b) The Universal Periodic Review which is an inter-governmental mechanism, where all Member States are engaging in a peer review in the Human Rights Council. Recommendations made by Member States may be accepted or not by the State under review.

In order to easily identify whether a recommendation comes from an independent experts’ body or from an inter-governmental mechanism a different color is used in the background of the recommendation (i.e. white for the Treaty Bodies and the Special Procedures and blue for the Universal Periodic Review).

5. Is it available in all official UN languages?

A search can be done in any of the UN official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) and for documents indexed from mid-2011 the results are automatically converted in this search language providing that an official translation exist and that the format of the documents is the same. Where no official translation of a document exists or if the format of the documents is different, the system will automatically display the search results (annotations) in English. For documents indexed prior to mid-2011, the search results are only shown in English.

Users can also search for full documents on specific topics in one of the UN official languages. To search for documents, users should go to the advanced search page, select the “Document” tab and enter keywords in the relevant language. (Read more search tips [here]

6. How is the information structured?

The rights are structured along the following lines (see also our [Classification system]):

7. What is the methodology used?

Each country-related observation and recommendation of Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review is classified – paragraph by paragraph by State, right, body, affected person and, for the UPR, the State that made the recommendation, the position of the State under Review, and the session. The result is called an annotation.

The rights used for classification in the Index are those contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the following nine core international human rights treaties and their protocols. Particular human rights issues covered by the Special Procedures or in the context of the Universal Periodic Review have also been added to this list of rights, including human rights defenders, human rights and the fight against terrorism.

The methodology followed enables an easy access to country-specific information covering all rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social. It also aims at ensuring the objectivity of the compilation.

A right-based approach

The conclusions and recommendations of independent experts and experts bodies i.e. Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, are classified by rights and not by issues. This methodology stems from the fact that through their concluding observation each treaty body monitors the State party's implementation of the rights enshrined in the respective international human rights treaty. Each conclusion or recommendation is made in the framework of treaty provisions. Similarly, Special Procedures mandate holders evaluate all information at their disposal in light of internationally recognized human rights standards relevant to their mandate, and of international treaties to which the State is a party. However, in order to simplify the research, certain exceptions to this principle have been made, and an issue-based approach has been followed with regards to transversal issues, such as gender-based violence.

Where possible, the same methodology is followed when indexing recommendations made by States in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review. Recommendations that do not match with an international treaty provision are classified by issue.

As a result of this methodology, an issue may be found under different categories depending on which body has examined it. In this case, keyword searches provide easy access to annotations where different experts or mechanisms deal with the same topic from different legal perspectives.

"The body decides"

The classification strictly follows the legal approach taken by the treaty bodies and, in a more flexible way by the special procedures. As a result, the same issue may be found under different categories depending on the body that has examined it. In order to ease the search, suggestions of alternative categories that might have been used for the same issue (e.g. see also: xxx) are displayed on the results page. By entering keywords instead of rights the user is able to access all annotations related to a specific topic whatever the legal interpretation made by the experts.

"Categoria specialis"

Information concerning general measures of implementation, when related to the implementation of a specific right, will be classified under a specific category. For example, legislative measures taken to prosecute and punish persons responsible for torture will be indexed under prohibition of torture. By contrast, issues of implementation related to the Convention against Torture as a whole (e.g. incorporation of the Convention into national law; general policy of a State, etc.) are classified using categories related to the general framework of implementation such as the Constitutional and legislative framework, unless the body decides otherwise.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

8. What is an annotation?

The annotations contain the wording of the paragraphs complemented by information on the original document, the State (or Entity) concerned, the right concerned and the persons affected.

Concerning the original document, the following information is given:

  • the number of the paragraph where the information is contained
  • the symbols of the UN document concerned (only documents published by the UN and publicly available)
  • the year of publication.

Both the original paragraph and the original UN document can be directly accessed by clicking on the relevant links.

9. What are ‘related documents’ and ‘primary documents’?

For documents indexed from mid-2011 onwards, a link to related document(s) is also displayed at the top of the annotation, when relevant, in order to facilitate the follow-up on the implementation of the recommendation.

The following related documents may be accessed:

For the Treaty Bodies:

- reports on the implementation of some of the recommendations (follow-up reports) submitted by States parties;

- comments submitted by States on concluding observations.

For the Special Procedures:

- preliminary notes on a country visit by Special Procedures mandate holders ;

- reports on the implementation of the recommendations contained in a country visit’s report (follow-up report) by mandate holders;

- comments made by States on country visit’s reports.

For the Universal Periodic Review:

- addendum to the UPR working group report (where the State under Review takes position on the recommendations);

- Human Rights Council report (where the State under Review may also take position on the recommendations on the occasion of the adoption of the working group report);

- Progress report by the State under Review on the implementation of the recommendations (implementation report);

- voluntary pledges and commitments

Similarly, when accessing these related documents, a link to their ‘primary document(s)’, i.e. the document(s) to which it relates, is displayed.

10. Why some annotations look different and have symbols?

For documents indexed before mid-2011, the appearance of the annotations differs from those indexed after this date in so far as the introductory formulations of concluding observations have been replaced by acronyms and, for Special Procedures’ country visits’ reports sentences have been broken down with each of them starting with the sign ‘>’.

The acronyms used for the concluding observations mean:

11. How to use the different search functions?

Simple searches can be carried out directly on the home page. Document can be searched by entering a keyword, a State (or Entity), a body, or any combination of these elements.

By clicking on the advanced search link it is possible to refine searches and make search results more precise by:

  • combining criteria (e.g. searching for several countries, bodies or rights at the same time)
  • combining keywords
  • using ‘affected persons’ as a search criterion
  • searching documents according to the year they were published
  • searching documents by symbol

Find more tips for a better search .

12. Who developed the Index? Who is now responsible for it?

The Universal Human Rights Index has been developed under the auspices of the Swiss Government by the Institute of Public Law of the University of Bern, Switzerland, in collaboration with LexUM, the justice system technologies laboratory of the University of Montreal, Canada. Since 2007 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) took over the responsibility for updating and further developing the Index and at the end of 2010 all the rights and responsibilities related for the operation and maintenance of the Universal Human Rights Index were transferred by the Swiss government to the OHCHR.