This section will give you an overview of the international human rights systems, both the United Nations and the regional systems, but the focus is on major human rights treaties. There are many other additional human rights treaties in force. For more detailed information on how to locate the text and check the status of individual treaties, see our research guide on Treaty Research.
There are eight main U.N. human rights treaties. Each treaty has a corresponding "treaty body" which administers the treaty, keeps track of state parties and their reservations and declarations, receives and responds to reports compiled by state parties, and often hears complaints lodged pursuant to the treaty. See the Human Rights Case Law section below for information on how to find decisions of the U.N. treaty bodies, courts and commissions.
|Text of Treaty||Corresponding Treaty Body|
|Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment||Committee against Torture (CAT)|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women||Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities||Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child||Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights||Human Rights Committee (HCR)|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights||Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination||Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)|
|Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)|
Theoretically, there is a dialogue between the treaty body and the individual state parties to the U.N. treaties. Pursuant to the terms of the treaties, state parties are required to report on their progress towards attaining the goals of the treaties. In response, the treaty bodies provide the state parties with observation and comments on their reports. These documents are an important part of human rights research and are available in many places. Below are some sources for locating these types of documents.
There are regional human rights systems in Europe, the Americas and Africa. These have their own treaties, reporting structures, and complaint systems. Below are listed the major human rights treaties for each region. Sources of decisions are covered below in the Human Rights Case Law Section.
Texts of international human rights instruments are usually easy to find on the internet. Here are some frequently-used online sources, as well as a selection of print resources.