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Understanding the legal status of Universal Periodic Review recommendations

Frederick Cowell

Keywords: UN Human Rights Council; Universal Periodic Review; obligations; sources of international law; human rights norms

Part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the UN Human Rights Council involves the states that are conducting the review issuing recommendations to the state that is under review. These recommendations can be on a range of issues surrounding the protection of human rights, from simple praise of a state to a recommendation that a state becomes party to a human rights treaty. States are free to reject or accept recommendations and each year several thousand recommendations are made as part of the UPR process. This paper examines what legal status (if any) recommendations could have and how they relate to existing sources of international law. Sections 2 and 3 examine the nature of recommendations and the legal status of the UPR process. Sections 4 and 5 examine how accepted patterns of recommendations could be used as a mechanism for interpreting and enforcing existing norms in international human rights law.

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