Skip to content


Inter-state Complaints in International Human Rights Law

The possibility to complain about human rights violations before supra-national bodies is an essential element towards the effective implementation of international human rights law. Beyond the possibility of individuals bringing complaints before United Nations ('UN') Treaty Bodies or regional human rights courts, various human rights treaties and regional human rights conventions establish inter-state complaint mechanisms.

Inter-State cases have not been the most utilized mechanism before regional human rights courts, but the case law of the European Court of Human Rights ('ECtHR') is relatively abundant. Within the UN system, the use of this mechanism is extremely limited. Despite having been envisaged in UN human rights treaties for decades, it was used for the first time only in 2018, when the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ('CERD'), the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ('ICERD'), received three inter-state communications - State of Qatar v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, State of Qatar v United Arab Emirates, and State of Palestine v State of Israel. The latter case is now the most advanced international inter-state communication, with the two procedures initiated by Qatar having been suspended. These three communications provide an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and potential of inter-state communications, including procedural aspects, comparisons with the practice of the ECtHR and the reasons for their underutilisation under different frameworks.

The British Institute of International and Comparative Law ('BIICL') convened a webinar on "Inter-State Complaints in International Human Rights Law" on 4 October 2021. The webinar brought together a panel of experts to discuss the CERD communications, as well as the system of inter-state complaints more broadly. It discussed parallels with inter-state applications before the ECtHR and the challenges and opportunities of regional human rights bodies in this context. The present report provides a synthesis of some of the key discussions at the webinar.

This event was convened by Dr Rosana Garciandia, Research Fellow in Labour Exploitation and Human Rights, BIICL and Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci, Arthur Watts Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law and Director of Teaching and Training, BIICL. It was part of the Arthur Watts Seminar Series in Public International Law sponsored by Volterra Fietta. The organisers wish to thank the speakers for their participation and for making this webinar a resounding success.

Donate Now Keep In Touch
Save and continue