Charter bodies include the former Commission on Human Rights, the Human Rights Council , and Special Procedures. The Human Rights Council, which replaced the Commission on Human Rights, held its first meeting on 19 June 2006. This intergovernmental body, which meets in Geneva 10 weeks a year, is composed of 47 elected United Nations Member States who serve for an initial period of 3 years, and cannot be elected for more than two consecutive terms. The Human Rights Council is a forum empowered to prevent abuses, inequity and discrimination, protect the most vulnerable, and expose perpetrators.
The Human Rights Council is a separate entity from OHCHR. This distinction originates from the separate mandates they were given by the General Assembly. Nevertheless, OHCHR provides substantive support for the meetings of the Human Rights Council, and follow-up to the Council’s deliberations.
Special Procedures is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures are either an individual -a special rapporteur or independent expert-or a working group. They are prominent, independent experts working on a voluntary basis, appointed by the Human Rights Council.
Special Procedures’ mandates usually call on mandate-holders to examine, monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories, known as country mandates, or on human rights issues of particular concern worldwide, known as thematic mandates. All report to the Human Rights Council on their findings and recommendations, and many also report to the General Assembly. They are sometimes the only mechanism that will alert the international community to certain human rights issues, as they can address situations in all parts of the world without the requirement for countries to have had ratified a human rights instrument.
As of 1 August 2017, there are 44 thematic mandates and 12 country mandates.
OHCHR supports the work of rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups through its Special Procedures Branch (SPB) which services all but one of the thematic mandates and provides centralised support to the Special Procedures as a system. The Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (FOTCD) supports the work of country-mandates.