Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation
for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law
and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law
New York, 16 December 2005
  •  Introductory Note 
  •  Procedural History 
  •  Documents 
  •  Photo 
By Theo van Boven
Honorary Professor of International Law, Maastricht University, the Netherlands
Former Special Rapporteur for the Sub-Commission on
Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities

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1. Historical Context

The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities entrusted in 1989, by its resolution 1989/13 of 31 August 1989, a Special Rapporteur with the task of undertaking a study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with a view to exploring the possibility of developing basic principles and guidelines on the issue. The study originated at a time of political change on various continents with prospects of a higher degree of human rights advancement. It was also a time of the creation of transitional justice mechanisms in a series of countries. Restoring justice implied an increased focus on the criminal responsibility of perpetrators of gross human rights abuses and their accomplices. It also opened up the exposure of many wrongs inflicted on the victims of these abuses with a view to rendering retributive justice and reparative justice. It was fitting in the search for transitional justice and it responded to a climate of improved human rights awareness that the Sub-Commission embarked, under the auspices of its parent body the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, on the undertaking of studies aimed respectively at combating impunity and strengthening victims’ rights to redress and reparation.

The impunity issue and the reparations issue are undoubtedly interrelated, certainly from the perspective of transitional justice in societies emerging from dark episodes of violence, persecution and repression. The work on both projects was only completed after some fifteen years of consultations and negotiations. The United Nations General Assembly adopted in 2005 by consensus the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (hereinafter referred to as “the Principles and Guidelines”) (reparation principles) and in the same year the then United Nations Commission on Human Rights (succeeded by the Human Rights Council in 2006) endorsed the Updated Set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity (impunity principles) (E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1). The present note will deal with the Principles and Guidelines and will first review some significant developments in the negotiating history of this international instrument.

2. Significant Developments in the Negotiating History

In this note, a selection is made of some of the main issues that came up in the process of discussions and negotiations.

(a) State Responsibility

From the outset the Principles and Guidelines were based on the law of State Responsibility as elaborated over the years by the International Law Commission in a set of Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts which were commended in 2001 to the attention of governments by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/56/83). It was argued, however, by some governments that the Articles on State Responsibility were drawn up with inter-State relations in mind and would not per se apply to relations between States and individuals. This argument was countered in that it ignored the historic evolution since the Second World War of human rights having become an integral and dynamic part of international law as endorsed by numerous widely ratified international human rights treaties. It was also said to ignore that the duty of affording remedies for governmental misconduct was so widely acknowledged that the right to an effective remedy for violations of human rights and a fortiori of gross human rights violations, may be regarded as forming part of customary international law.

(b) Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law

While in the early stages the Principles and Guidelines addressed the right to a remedy and reparation under international human rights law, later drafts also encompassed this right under international humanitarian law. Certain governments objected to widening the scope of the Principles and Guidelines so as to cover international humanitarian law because of the different evolution and the distinct nature of the two fields of international law entailing different sets of rights and obligations. These governments favoured two separate instruments. However, this view did not prevail. It was widely felt that insofar as the Principles and Guidelines are victim oriented and predicated on social and human solidarity, it must be understood that the Principles and Guidelines are not intended to reflect the legal differences between international human rights law violations and international humanitarian law violations. It was also considered that although the two fields of international law have developed along separate legal and historic tracks, they nevertheless overlap in some respects and provide complementary protections of victims, though not necessarily in the same manner or using the same terminology.

(c) Gross Violations or All Violations

The initial study carried out by the Special Rapporteur under the mandate of the Sub-Commission referred to victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. In this study it was noted that the word “gross” qualifies the term “violations” and indicates the serious character of the violations but that the term “gross” is also related to the type of human rights that is being violated. In the ensuing discussions and negotiations it was, however, argued that the Principles and Guidelines would be unduly restrictive since all violations of human rights entail the right to redress and reparation. On the other hand, with the evolving opinion that the Principles and Guidelines should also cover serious violations of international humanitarian law, the view prevailed that the focus of the document should be on the worst violations. The authors had in mind the violations constituting international crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. On this premise, a number of provisions were included in the Principles and Guidelines spelling out legal consequences that are contingent, according to the present state of international law, upon international crimes. Such provisions affirm the duty of States to investigate and, if there is sufficient evidence, the duty to submit to prosecution the person allegedly responsible for the violations and, if found guilty, the duty to punish (principle 4). They also include the duty to make appropriate provisions for universal jurisdiction (principle 5), as well as references to the non-applicability of statutes of limitations (principles 6-7). While the Principles and Guidelines focus on “gross” and “serious” violations, it is generally acknowledged that in principle all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law entail legal consequences. Thus, in order to rule out any misunderstanding on this score, the following phrase was included in principle 26 on non-derogation:

  “[I]t is understood that the present Principles and Guidelines are without prejudice to the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of all violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law” (italics added).

(d) The Notion of Victims

In situations which are characterized by systematic and gross human rights abuses, large numbers of human beings are usually affected. In principle, they are all entitled to reparative justice. Problems do arise, however, because of the tension between the large number of persons involved and the limited capacity, in many situations, to afford reparations. In order to devise and apply fair and just criteria for the rendering of reparative justice in terms of personal and material entitlements, it was argued that there must be an objective test to determine who is a victim. A great variety of views were expressed in the consultations and deliberations on these issues. Views differed as to whether collectivities should be included in the notion of victims. Reservations were also expressed against legal or moral persons as possible victims. As a general compromise it was agreed to base the notion of victims, as reflected in principles 8 and 9 of the Principles and Guidelines, on the terms of the generally accepted Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, adopted in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/40/34). This definition notes that a person is a victim if he or she suffered physical or mental harm, economic loss, or impairment of his or her fundamental rights; that there can be both direct victims and indirect victims, such as family members or dependents of the direct victim; that persons can suffer harm individually or collectively.

(e) Non-State Actors

While the Principles and Guidelines are drawn up on the basis of State responsibility, the issue of responsibility of non-State actors was also raised in the discussions and negotiations, notably insofar as movements or groups exercise effective control over a certain territory and people in that territory, but also with regard to business enterprises exercising economic power. It was generally felt that non-State actors are to be held responsible for their policies and practices, allowing victims to seek redress and reparation on the basis of legal liability and human solidarity, and not on the basis of State responsibility. The Principles and Guidelines provide for equal and effective access to justice, “irrespective of who may ultimately be the bearer of responsibility for the violation” (principle 3 (c)). In this connection reference is also made to the following provision: “In cases where a person, a legal person, or other entity is found liable for reparation to a victim, such party should provide reparation to the victim or compensate the State if the State has already provided reparation to the victim” (principle 15, last sentence). It is a victim-oriented perspective that was kept in mind in extending, albeit in a modest and cautious way, the scope of the Principles and Guidelines to include the responsibility and liability of non-State actors.

3. Structure and Summary of Key Provisions

The Principles and Guidelines have a preamble setting out their purpose and object. They are subsequently divided into the following thirteen sections containing a total of twenty seven articles:

- Obligation to respect, ensure respect for and implement international human rights law and international humanitarian law (Section I)
- Scope of the obligation (Section II)
- Gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law that constitute crimes under international law (Section III)
- Statutes of limitations (Section IV)
- Victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law (Section V)
- Treatment of victims (Section VI)
- Victims’ right to remedies (Section VII)
- Access to justice (Section VIII)
- Reparation for harm suffered (Section IX)
- Access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms (Section X)
- Non-discrimination (Section XI)
- Non-derogation (Section XII)
- Rights of others (Section XIII)

Broadly speaking, the first four sections, encompassing seven articles, affirm the obligations of States and legal implications in connection with gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law, notably the obligation to prevent violations, the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators, the obligation to provide effective access to justice to all persons alleging a violation, and the obligation to afford full reparation to victims (principles 1-4). The legal implications relate to and qualify universal jurisdiction, extradition, judicial assistance and cooperation as well as statutes of limitations (principles 5-7).

The larger part of the Principles and Guidelines, with strong domestic law implications, sets out the status and the rights of victims, and corresponds to the title of the document as it refers to the right of victims to a remedy and reparation (in particular principles 11-23). A core component of the Principles and Guidelines, denoting a broad range of material and symbolic means to afford reparation to victims, is laid out in the principles describing the various forms of reparation. They were formulated with the Articles on State Responsibility of the International Law Commission in mind. The various forms of reparation and their scope and content, covering both monetary and non-monetary reparations, may be summarized as follows:

- Restitution refers to measures which “restore the victim to the original situation before the gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law occurred” (principle 19). Examples of restitution include: restoration of liberty, enjoyment of human rights, identity, family life and citizenship, return to one’s place of residence, restoration of employment and return of property.
- Compensation: “should be provided for any economically assessable damage, as appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the violation and the circumstances of each case” (principle 20). The damage giving rise to compensation may result from physical or mental harm; lost opportunities, including employment, education and social benefits; moral damage; costs required for legal or expert assistance, medicine and medical services, and psychological and social services.
- Rehabilitation includes medical and psychological care, as well as legal and social services (principle 21).
- Satisfaction includes a broad range of measures, from those aiming at cessation of violations to truth seeking, the search for the disappeared, the recovery and the reburial of remains, public apologies, judicial and administrative sanctions, commemoration, and human rights training (principle 22).
- Guarantees of non-repetition comprise broad structural measures of a policy nature such as institutional reforms aiming at civilian control over military and security forces, strengthening judicial independence, the protection of human rights defenders, the promotion of human rights standards in public service, law enforcement, the media, industry and psychological and social services (principle 23).

4. Influence on Subsequent Documents

Since the beginning of their drafting, the Principles and Guidelines were meant to reflect the current state of international law on remedies and reparations. The preamble, in its seventh paragraph, emphasizes that “the Basic Principles and Guidelines […] do not entail new international or domestic legal obligations but identify mechanisms, modalities, procedures and methods for the implementation of existing legal obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law which are complementary though different as to their norms”. Already in their draft form, the Principles and Guidelines have served as reference for governments and domestic, regional and international courts. Thus, several Latin American countries, in drawing up legislation on reparation for victims, took the draft Principles and Guidelines into account. Also the Inter-American Court of Human Rights referred several times to the (draft) Principles and Guidelines in its jurisprudence relating to various forms of collective and individual reparation it awarded. Further, the Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted by a diplomatic conference in Rome in 1998, notably in article 75 dealing with reparation to victims, bears in its intent and wording the imprint of the (then) draft Principles and Guidelines.

It should also be noted that in a decision of 18 January 2008 (Decision on victims’ participation in the case of The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, ICC-01/04-01/06), the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court, in the absence of a definition of the concept of harm under its own rules, referred to this concept in principle 8 of the Principles and Guidelines as providing “appropriate guidance”. A highly notable impact of the Principles and Guidelines on the development of international human rights law can be found in the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances adopted by the General Assembly in December 2006 (A/RES/61/177). Article 24 of this Convention, following the various forms of reparation as set out in the Principles and Guidelines, is more elaborate and specific about the victims’ right to obtain reparation than any previous international human rights treaty.

Related Material

A. Legal Instruments

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Rome, 17 July 1998, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 2187, p. 3

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, in: Report of the Human Rights Council on its 7th session, A/HRC/7/78, 14 July 2008, p. 74-75

B. Jurisprudence

International Criminal Court, Trial Chamber, Decision of 18 January 2008 on victims’ participation in the case of The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, ICC-01/04-01/06

C. Documents

1. Preparatory Documents

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-first session, 7 August to 1 September 1989 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/58 (E/CN.4/1990/2))

Preliminary report submitted by Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur, “Study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/10, 26 July 1990)

Progress reports submitted by Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur, “Study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/7, 25 July 1991, and E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/8, 29 July 1992)

Final report submitted by Mr. Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur, “Study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/8, 2 July 1993)

Revised set of basic principles and guidelines on the right to reparation for victims of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law prepared by Mr. Theo van Boven pursuant to Sub-Commission decision 1995/117 (second draft) (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/17, 24 May 1996)

Basic principles and guidelines on the right to reparation for victims of [gross] violations of human rights and international humanitarian law prepared by Mr. van Boven (third revised draft) (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/104, 13 January 1997 (E/CN.4/1997/104, Annex))

Report of the independent expert on the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/43 (E/CN.4/1999/65, 8 February 1999)

Final report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, submitted in accordance with Commission resolution 1999/33, “The right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/2000/62, 18 January 2000)

Note by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, transmitting the Report of the consultative meeting on the draft Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law (E/CN.4/2003/63, 27 December 2002)

Note by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, transmitting the Report of the second consultative meeting on the Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law (E/CN.4/2004/57, 10 November 2003)

Note by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, transmitting the Report of the third consultative meeting on the “Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” (E/CN.4/2005/59, 21 December 2004)

General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 22, 29, 37 and 39 held in the Third Committee from 24 October to 10 November 2005 (A/C.3/60/SR.22, 29, 37 and 39)

2. Other Documents

General Assembly resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985 (Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power)

General Assembly resolution 56/83 of 12 December 2001 (Responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts)

Updated Set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity (E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1)


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The issue of basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law was first raised in 1988 during the fortieth session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in the context of its basic mandate to make recommendations to the Commission on Human Rights concerning the prevention of discrimination of any kind relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms. On 1 September 1988, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1988/11 in which it decided to discuss the matter of compensation at its forty-first session with a view to considering the possibility of developing some basic principles and guidelines in this respect (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/45).

At its forty-first session, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1989/13 of 31 August 1989, by which it decided to entrust Mr. Theo van Boven, as Special Rapporteur, with the task of undertaking a study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, with a view to exploring the possibility of developing some basic principles and guidelines in this respect, and requested him to submit a preliminary report on the matter for consideration by the Sub-Commission at its forty-second session (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/58 (E/CN.4/1990/2)). At its forty-sixth session, upon recommendation of the Sub-Commission, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1990/35 of 2 March 1990, by which it recommended the Economic and Social Council to adopt a resolution authorizing the Sub-Commission to entrust Mr. van Boven with the abovementioned task and requesting the Secretary-General to provide him with all the assistance needed for this task (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/1990/22). The Economic and Social Council adopted resolution 1990/36 of 25 May 1990 to this effect.

At its forty-second session, the Sub-Commission considered the preliminary report submitted by the Special Rapporteur (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/10) and adopted resolution 1990/6 of 30 August 1990, by which it requested the Special Rapporteur to prepare a progress report for its forty-third session, taking into account comments made in the discussion on the preliminary report, as well as the relevant work and recommendations of the Committee on Crime Prevention and Control and relevant decisions of the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, and to undertake the necessary consultations with the United Nations Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/59 (E/CN.4/1991/2)).

The Special Rapporteur accordingly submitted his first progress report to the Sub-Commission on 25 July 1991, for its forty-third session (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/7). On 29 August 1991, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1991/25, by which it requested the Special Rapporteur to continue his study and to submit a second progress report containing additional information on and an analysis of relevant decisions and views of international human rights organs, as well as of national law and practice to the Sub-Commission, at its forty-fourth session, and a final report at its forty-fifth session (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/65 (E/CN.4/1992/2)).

The Special Rapporteur submitted his second progress report to the Sub-Commission on 29 July 1992, for its forty-fourth session (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/8). On 27 August 1992, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1992/32, by which it requested the Special Rapporteur to continue his study and to submit to the Sub-Commission, at its forty-fifth session, a final report which should include a set of conclusions and recommendations aimed at developing basic principles and guidelines with respect to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/58 (E/CN.4/1993/2)).

The Special Rapporteur submitted his final report on 2 July 1993, at the forty-fifth session of the Sub-Commission (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/8). On 25 August 1993, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1993/29, by which it decided to transmit the study of the Special Rapporteur to the Commission on Human Rights. By the same resolution, the Sub-Commission decided to examine further, at its forty-sixth session, the proposed basic principles and guidelines included in the study and, for that purpose, to establish, if necessary, a sessional working group at that session with a view to adopting a body of such principles and guidelines, and it further requested the Secretary-General to invite governments and competent intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to submit their comments on the proposed basic principles and guidelines (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/45 (E/CN.4/1994/2) and Corr.1). At its fiftieth session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1994/35 of 4 March 1994, in which it recommended that the Sub-Commission take measures to examine the proposed basic principles and guidelines with a view to making proposals thereon and report to the Commission (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/1994/132 (E/1994/24)).

At the forty-sixth session of the Sub-Commission, held from 1 to 26 August 1994 in Geneva, a Sessional Working Group on the Administration of Justice and the Question of Compensation was established to examine further the proposed basic principles and guidelines in accordance with resolution 1993/29 of the Sub-Commission. On 26 August 1994, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1994/33, by which, after noting the report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Sub-Commission resolution 1993/29 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/7 and Add.1) and the report of the sessional working group (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/22), it decided to continue the consideration of the proposed basic principles and guidelines at its forty-seventh session (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/56). On 3 March 1995, the Commission on Human Rights, at its fifty-first session, adopted resolution 1995/34, in which it encouraged the Sub-Commission to continue to give consideration to the proposed basic principles and guidelines, requested States to provide information about relevant national legislation to the Secretary-General and requested the Secretary-General to submit a report to the Commission on this subject at its fifty-second session (Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/1995/176 (E/1995/23)).

The Working Group continued its consideration of the proposed basic principles and guidelines at the forty-seventh session of the Sub-Commission, which was held in Geneva from 31 July to 25 August 1995. On 24 August 1995, the Sub-Commission adopted decision 1995/117 (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/51 (E/CN.4/1996/2)), by which it decided to request the Working Group to continue the consideration of the proposed basic principles and guidelines at the next session, with priority, and requested the former Special Rapporteur to submit  a revised set of proposed basic principles and guidelines, taking into account the new comments received from States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (see Report of the Secretary-General E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/17 Add.1 and Add.2) and the discussions on the matter in the Working Group (see Report of the Working Group, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/16). On 19 April 1996, the Commission on Human Rights, at its fifty-second session, adopted resolution 1996/35, by which, taking note of the report of the Secretary-General submitted to the Commission in compliance with its resolution 1995/34 (E/CN.4/1996/29), it requested States that had not yet done so to submit information in accordance with that resolution, and requested the Secretary-General to prepare an additional report, taking into account the information provided by States (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/1996/177 (E/1996/23)).

As requested by the Sub-Commission in its decision 1995/117 of 24 August 1995, the former Special Rapporteur submitted a revised text of the basic principles and guidelines to the Sub-Commission at its forty-eighth session (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/17). On 29 August 1996, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1996/28, by which it decided to transmit the revised draft to the Commission on Human Rights, together with its comments and the comments of the Working Group (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/16). By the same resolution, the Sub-Commission requested the former Special Rapporteur to prepare a note taking into account the comments and observations of the Working Group and the Sub-Commission in order to facilitate the examination by the Commission on Human Rights of the revised draft basic principles and guidelines (see Report of the Sub-Commission, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/41 (E/CN.4/1997/2)). On 13 January 1997, the former Special Rapporteur accordingly submitted a note to the Sub-Commission, together with an adapted version of the draft revised basic principles and guidelines (E/CN.4/1997/104, annex). On 11 April 1997, at its fifty-third session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1997/29, by which it invited the Secretary-General to request all States to submit their views and comments on the note and revised draft basic principles and guidelines and to prepare a report setting out such views and comments (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/1997/23).

At its fifty-fourth session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1998/43 of 17 April 1998 by which it took note of the report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/1998/34) submitted pursuant to the abovementioned resolution 1997/29 and, with the approval of the Economic and Social Council (see Economic and Social Council resolution 1998/256 of 30 July 1998), requested the Chairman of the Commission to appoint an independent expert to prepare a revised version of the basic principles and guidelines, taking into account the views of and comments provided by States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and to submit it to the Commission at its fifty-fifth session, with a view to its adoption by the General Assembly. By the same resolution, the Commission continued to request the Secretary-General to invite States that had not yet done so, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to submit their views and comments as soon as possible, and by no later than 31 October 1989, and to make that information available to the independent expert (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/1998/23).

The independent expert appointed by the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, submitted his first report to the Commission in February 1999, at its fifty-fifth session (E/CN.4./1999/65). On 26 April 1999, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1999/33, by which it requested him to complete his work and to submit to the Commission at its fifty-sixth session, in accordance with its resolution 1998/43, a revised version of the basic principles and guidelines (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/1999/23).

The independent expert submitted his final report to the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/2000/62) in January 2000, at its fifty-sixth session. On 20 April 2000, the Commission adopted resolution 2000/41, by which it requested the Secretary-General to circulate to all Member States the draft text of the “Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, annexed to the final report of the independent expert, and to request that they send their comments thereon to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Commission further requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold a consultative meeting for all interested States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, in order to finalize the basic principles and guidelines on the basis of the comments submitted, and to transmit to the Commission, at its fifty-seventh session, the final outcome of this meeting (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/2000/23).

By note verbale of 31 August 2000, the Secretary-General invited all Member States to submit their comments on the basic principles and guidelines. However, as at 20 November 2000, replies had been received from only six Member States (see E/CN.4/2001/61). At its fifty-seventh session, the Commission on Human Rights therefore adopted decision 2001/105 of 23 April 2001, by which it requested again the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold a consultative meeting in order to finalize the basic principles and guidelines and to transmit the final outcome of the consultative meeting to the Commission for consideration at its fifty-eighth session (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/2001/23). On 24 July 2001, the Economic and Social Council adopted decision 2001/279, by which it endorsed the decision of the Commission on Human Rights.

At its fifty-eighth session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 2002/44 of 23 April 2002 by which it made an identical request (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/2002/23).

The requested consultative meeting on the draft Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law took place on 30 September and 1 October 2002 in Geneva, and the report of the Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mr. Alejandro Salinas, was transmitted by the High Commissioner to the Commission on Human Rights on 27 December 2002 (E/CN.4/2003/63). On 23 April 2003, at its fifty-ninth session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 2003/34, by which it requested the Chairman-Rapporteur of the consultative meeting, in consultation with the independent experts, Messrs. van Boven and Bassiouni, to prepare a revised version of the “Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, taking into account the opinions and comments of States and of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and the results of the consultative meeting.  The Commission further requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold a second consultative meeting, with a view to finalizing the basic principles and guidelines, encouraged the Chairman-Rapporteur of the first consultative meeting to conduct informal consultations with all interested parties, and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to transmit to the Commission at its sixtieth session the final outcome of the second consultative meeting (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/2003/23).

The second consultative meeting took place on 20, 21 and 23 October 2003 in Geneva and the report of the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the consultative meeting (E/CN.4/2004/57, annex) was transmitted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Commission on Human Rights, at its sixtieth session. On 19 April 2004, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 2004/34, by which it requested the Chairman-Rapporteur, in consultation with the independent experts, to prepare a further revised version of the basic principles and guidelines. It further requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold a third consultative meeting and to transmit to the Commission on Human Rights, at its sixty-first session, the outcome of the consultative process (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/2004/23). On 22 July 2004, the Economic and Social Council adopted decision 2004/257, by which it approved the request by the Commission on Human Rights to hold a third consultative meeting.

At its sixty-first session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 2005/35 of 19 April 2005 by which, welcoming the report of the Chairman-Rapporteur of the third consultative meeting (E/CN.4/2005/59), it adopted the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to aRemedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (see Report of the Commission on Human Rights, E/2005/23).Upon recommendation of the Commission, the Economic and Social Council adopted resolution 2005/30, by which it adopted the Basic Principles and Guidelines and recommended their adoption to the General Assembly.

At the sixtieth session of the General Assembly, the Third Committee discussed the text adopted by the Commission on Human Rights at four meetings (see A/C.3/60/SR.22, 29, 37 and 39). On 28 October 2005, a joint draft resolution (A/C.3/60/L.24) was submitted by Chile on behalf of forty-five delegations to the Third Committee entitled “Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law” which was adopted by the Committee on the same day. On 16 December 2005, upon recommendation of the Third Committee (see Report of the Third Committee A/60/509/Add.1), the General Assembly adopted resolution 60/147 (Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law) without a vote.


Text of the resolution

Selected preparatory documents
(in chronological order)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its fortieth session, 8 August to 2 September 1988 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/45 (E/CN.4/1989/3))

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the forty-sixth session, 29 January to 9 March 1990 (E/CN4/1990/94 (E/1990/22) and Add.1)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-first session, 7 August to 1 September 1989 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/58 (E/CN.4/1990/2))

Economic and Social Council resolution 1990/36 of 25 May 1990 (Compensation for victims of gross violations of human rights)

Preliminary report submitted by Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur, “Study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/10, 26 July 1990)

Economic and Social Council resolution 1990/22 of 24 May 1990 (Victims of crime and abuse of power)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-second session, 6 to 31 August 1990 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/59 (E/CN.4/1991/2) and Corr.1)

Progress report submitted by Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur, “Study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/7, 25 July 1991)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-third session, 5 to 30 August 1991 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/65 (E/CN.4/1992/2))

Second progress report submitted by Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur, “Study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/8, 29 July 1992)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-fourth session, 3 to 28 August 1992 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/58 (E/CN.4/1993/2))

Final report submitted by Mr. Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur, “Study concerning the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/8, 2 July 1993)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-fifth session, 2 to 27 August 1993 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/45 (E/CN.4/1994/2) and Corr.1)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fiftieth session, 31 January to 11 March 1994 (E/CN.4/1994/132 (E/1994/24))

Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Sub-Commission resolution 1993/29, “Review of further developments in fields with which the Sub-Commission has been concerned” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/7, 9 June 1994 and Add.1)

Report of the Sessional Working Group on the Administration of Justice and the Question of Compensation (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/22, 15 August 1994)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-sixth session, 1 to 26 August 1994 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/56 (E/CN.4/1995/2)) 

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-first session, 30 January to 10 March 1995 (E/CN.4/1995/176 (E/1995/23))

Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Subcommission resolution 1994/33, “The administration of justice and the human rights of detainees” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/17, 11 May 1994, Add.1 and Add.2)

Report of the Sessional Working Group on the Administration of Justice and the Question of Compensation (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/16, 11 August 1995)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-seventh session, 31 July to 25 August 1995 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/51 (E/CN.4/1996/2))

Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/34, “Right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/1996/29, 27 November 1995)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-second session, 18 March to 26 April 1996 (E/CN.4/1996/177 (E/1996/23))

Revised set of basic principles and guidelines on the right to reparation for victims of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law prepared by Mr. Theo van Boven pursuant to Sub-Commission decision 1995/117 (second draft) (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/17, 24 May 1996)

Report of the Sessional Working Group on the Administration of Justice and the Question of Compensation (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/16, 13 August 1996)

Report of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on its forty-eighth session, 5 to 30 August 1996 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/41 (E/CN.4/1997/2))

Report of the Secretary-General “Right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/1997/29, 23 January 1997 and Add.1)

Basic principles and guidelines on the right to reparation for victims of [gross] violations of human rights and international humanitarian law prepared by the former Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission, Mr. Theo van Boven (third revised draft) (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/104, 13 January 1997 (E/CN.4/1997/104, Annex))

Note by the Secretary-General, “Question of the human rights of all persons subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment” (E/CN.4/1997/104, 16 January 1997)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-third session, 10 March to 18 April 1997 (E/CN.4/1997/150 (E/1997/23))

Report of the Secretary-General “Views and comments received from States on the note and revised draft basic principles and guidelines on the right to reparation for victims of [gross] violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” (E/CN.4/1998/34, 22 December 1997)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on its fifty-fourth session, 16 March to 24 April 1998 (E/CN.4/1998/177 (E/1998/23))

Economic and Social Council decision 1998/256 of 30 July 1988 (The right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms)

Note by the Secretary-General, “The right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/1999/53, 25 January 1999)

Report of the independent expert on the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/43 (E/CN.4/1999/65, 8 February 1999)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-fifth session, 22 March to 30 April 1999 (E/CN.4/1999/167 (E/1999/23))

Final report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, submitted in accordance with Commission resolution 1999/33, “The right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (E/CN.4/2000/62, 18 January 2000)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-sixth session, 20 March to 28 April (E/CN.4/2000/167 (E/2000/23))

Note by the Secretariat on the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms (E/CN.4/2001/61, 29 December 2000)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-seventh session, 19 March to 27 April 2001 (E/CN.4/2001/167 (E/2001/23))

Economic and Social Council decision 2001/279 of 24 July 2001 (Right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-eighth session, 18 March to 26 April 2002 (E/CN.4/2002/200 (E/2002/23))

Note by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, transmitting the Report of the consultative meeting on the draft Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law (E/CN.4/2003/63, 27 December 2002)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the fifty-ninth session, 17 March to 24 April 2003 (E/CN.4/2003/135 (E/2003/23))

Note by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, transmitting the Report of the second consultative meeting on the Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law (E/CN.4/2004/57, 10 November 2003)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the sixtieth session, 15 March to 23 April 2004 (E/CN.4/2004/127 (E/2004/23))

Economic and Social Council decision 2004/257 of 22 July 2004 (The right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms)

Note by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, transmitting the Report of the third consultative meeting on the “Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” (E/CN.4/2005/59, 21 December 2004)

Report of the Commission on Human Rights on the sixty-first session, 14 March to 22 April 2005 (E/CN.4/2005/135 (E/2005/23))

Economic and Social Council resolution 2005/30 of 25 July 2005 (Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law)

General Assembly, Joint draft resolution submitted by Chile on behalf of forty-five delegations to the Third Committee (A/C.3/60/L.24, 24 October 2005)

General Assembly, Summary records of meetings Nos. 22, 29, 37 and 39 held in the Third Committee from 24 October to 10 November 2005 (A/C.3/60/SR.22, A/C.3/60/SR.29, A/C.3/60/SR.37 and A/C.3/60/SR.39, respectively)

Report of the Third Committee to the General Assembly (A/60/509/Add.1, 1 December 2005)

6 august 1990, Opening of the forty-second session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland (from left to right): The Deputy-Director of the Centre for Human Rights; Mr. Jan Martenson, Under-Secretary-General for Human Rights; Mr. Danilo Türk, Chairman of the Sub-Commission. 6 august 1990, Opening of the forty-second session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland: Mr. Jan Martenson (left), Under-Secretary-General for Human Rights and Mr. Danilo Türk (centre), Chairman of the Sub-Commission, speaking during the session. 13 September 2005, Sixtieth session of General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, New York. 13 September 2005, Opening of the Sixtieth Session of General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, New York.
6 August 1990
Opening of the forty-second session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland
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6 August 1990
Opening of the forty-second session of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland
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13 September 2005
Sixtieth session of General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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13 September 2005
Opening of the Sixtieth Session of General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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