Complaints to international bodies
The international route should only be pursued if the domestic route is not available or has been unsuccessful. Having said this, the international route can help to highlight and document the human-rights situation domestically and is therefore useful in creating pressure at the national level. While the majority of international fora are committees rather than courts, their views and opinions have political and moral value and can be an effective lobbying tool, even if they are not legally binding.
Usually, anyone can bring a complaint to an international body, as long as they live in a state which has ratified the treaty, the treaty body has the recognised competence to deal with complaints, and there are no reservations that prevent the committee from considering the particular case. There are two main types of international court or committee which may hear a case related to the violation of the right to education – those established by UN treaties, and those established by human rights treaties. There are also two political routes - through the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women - which focus on systemic violations and may be brought against any country in the world. The third option is the World Bank and IMF inspection panels.
Each type of complaint has its own process to follow. For example the three UN bodies which accept individual complaints, CEDAW, ICERD and ICCPR, have the following process, which typically takes between two and three years to complete:
Submission of a complaint to the secretary general, who brings it to the attention of the relevant treaty body.
The body registers and examines the complaint, considering whether it is admissible, and whether there has been a violation.
The State is then required to respond, and the complainant (the person or body that submitted the complaint) can reply to the State’s response.
The body then issues its views. If a violation is found the State will be expected to provide compensation and/or change the law.
There is no appeals process.
The process of preparing a case is very similar to that of a domestic case, and the relevant law and case reference documents should be examined carefully.
In the case of the Commission on Human Rights, the initial stages of the process are similar. However, once the government has responded, the process is private. You will not receive information about the government response or be informed of any further progress of the complaint. This means it is much harder to follow up any action.