Recourse Under the Special Procedures
Module 11: Introduction to UN Mechanisms
Of particular relevance here is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, a position that was first mandated in 1993.(1) The Special Rapporteur undertakes a number of activities in support of freedom of expression, including engaging in fact-finding country visits, preparing thematic reports, responding to individual communications and preparing urgent appeals to states on alleged violations.(2) In addition to receiving communications about urgent cases, the Special Rapporteur periodically issues calls for input into thematic reports and welcomes relevant submissions from members of civil society. Another Special Rapporteur of particular relevance to digital rights is the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, who undertakes similar tasks to help advance privacy rights.
Often in cases of cross-cutting human rights concerns, special rapporteurs issue joint statements. For example, in June 2021, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy issued a joint communication to India highlighting human rights concerns with newly published rules issued under India’s Information and Technology Act.(3)
Certain working groups may also provide freedom of expression recourse in some circumstances. For example, freedom of expression issues sometimes involve arbitrary detentions and, in such cases, individuals or their counsel may consider a complaint to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.(4)