"Special procedures" is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
Special procedures are either an individual (called "Special Rapporteur", "Special Representative of the Secretary-General", "Representative of the Secretary-General" or "Independent Expert") or a working group usually composed of five members (one from each region) .
Various activities can be undertaken by special procedures, including responding to individual complaints, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation at the country level, and engaging in general promotional activities.
The mandates of the special procedures are established and defined by the resolution creating them. Mandate-holders of the special procedures serve in their personal capacity, and do not receive salaries or any other financial compensation for their work. The independent status of the mandate-holders is crucial in order to be able to fulfill their functions in all impartiality.
Amongst their activities, most Special Procedures receive information on specific allegations of human rights violations and send urgent appeals or letters of allegation to governments asking for clarification.
Mandate holders also carry out, with the agreement of the government, country visits to investigate the situation of human rights at the national level. Some countries have issued "standing invitations", which means that they are, in principle, prepared to receive a visit from any special procedures mandate holder.
They submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council, accompanied by recommendations, and this is made public.
Since June 2006, the Human Rights Council engaged in an institution building process, which included a review of the special procedures system. On 18 June 2007, at the conclusion of its fifth session, the Human Rights Council adopted a Resolution 5/1 entitled "Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council," which included provisions on the selection of mandate holders and the review of all special procedures mandates.
The Council also adopted a Resolution 5/2, containing a Code of Conduct for special procedures mandate holders.
These experts may have recourse to any reliable source of information, including NGOs with consultative status at the United Nations, and may conduct visits on the ground, meeting the authorities, local human rights organisations, victims or their relatives.
FIACAT regularly informs these experts of torture and violence reported to it by the ACAT associations. It help the ACAT to adress individual complaints to mandates holders when they witness cases of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention or summary executions.
FIACAT prepares with the members of its network the visites of special procedures by sending them briefing paper on the situation in the visited country and by facilitating the meeting between the ACAT in the country and the special procedure visiting the country.
FIACAT monitors also the appointment of Special Procedures mandate-holders. The appointment of independent, impartial, competent and expert women and men from all regions of the world is essential to ensuring an effective system of Special Procedures.