Skip to Main Content

Law School Home

Comparative Human Rights, Refugee, & Asylum Law: United Nations Resources

Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 217A at its 3rd session in Paris on 10 December 1948. The Declaration consists of 30 articles affirming an individual's rights which, although not legally binding in themselves, have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, economic transfers, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UNHCHR is the umbrella organization of the United Nations charged with monitoring and addressing human rights issues globally. International human rights law is governed largely by treaties. The UNHCHR provides a starting point for locating the various Human Rights Treaty Bodies (charged with monitoring treaty compliance). 

International Human Rights Treaties and Bodies

There are nine core international human rights treaties and ten UN human rights bodies. Nine of the bodies monitor the implementation of their corresponding treaty.

The chart below lists the core treaties and corresponding bodies:

Treaty Treaty Body
International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights Human Rights Committee (CCPR)
International Covenant on Economic, Social, & Cultural Rights Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (CESCR)
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Convention Against Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Committee Against Torture (CAT)
Convention of the Rights of the Child Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers & Members of Their Families Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)
International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Committee on Enforced Disappearance (CED)


Each treaty body tracks state declarations and reservations to the respective treaty. The treaty body also collects and responds to state reports through comments (generally about compliance). In many cases the treaty body sends UN Observers to the signatory states. These observers issue reports on state compliance. On occasion, the treaty body will hear complaints dealing with treaty compliance.

The 10th body, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) was established pursuant to the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2002. SPT visits places of detention in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Finding Human Rights Laws and Documents

Below is a list of electronic sources for locating state reports, treaty body comments, and reports and cases resolving complaints (you will also find links to these sources through our E‐Resources page). Note that you cannot rely simply on one of these databases to exhaustively locate materials. They are best used in conjunction with each other.

Refugees and Asylum

United Nations Research Guides

For more information on general United Nations research, consult the research guides below.

The University of Michigan is a United Nations Repository. In addition to electronic resources, we have paper/microfiche access to thousands of United Nations documents either in the Law Library or the Graduate Library.

Related Books in Law Library Catalog

Need Help?

  Call us at 734-764-9324

text message icon Text us at 734-329-5606

twitter bird icon Tweet @ us!

  Email us at Emails are answered by Librarians during standard business hours, Monday-Friday. Patrons may expect a response within 1-2 business days for most emails.

  Consult with us. Schedule an appointment to meet with a Reference Librarian.

  Visit us at the Information Desk on Sub-1 for immediate in-person assistance. Open 8 am - midnight, Sunday-Thursday, and 8am - 10pm, Friday-Saturday*


The chat service is available to all of our patrons but is designed to meet the legal research needs of U-M students, staff, and faculty.

Chat is monitored from 1-6 pm Monday-Wednesday and 1-5 pm Thursday-Friday on days when class is in session.

*Excluding University holidays and semester breaks--check library hours for more information. The Building and library are available to law school community ONLY after 6 pm, and are closed to all but law school community on home football Saturdays.