United Nations
Background Note

24-hour "Hot Line" for
Reporting Human Rights Violations

In 1994, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights established a Human Rights Hot Line, a 24-hour facsimile line that will allow the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to monitor and react rapidly to human rights emergencies. The Hot Line is available to victims of human rights violations, their relatives and non-governmental organizations. The Hot Line fax number in Geneva, Switzerland is 41-22-917-0092.

In addition, a Human Rights Database has been created in Geneva to gather information for use by special rapporteurs who are responsible for investigating questions such as religious intolerance, torture, racism and freedom of expression. The new database contains information that will eventually be available by modem or other electronic means to human rights rapporteurs and experts worldwide.

Both measures are designed to improve the timely flow of information from and to special rapporteurs from anywhere in the world, and form the basis of an electronic network linking the globe. The Hot Line is especially valuable to those wishing to establish urgent, potentially life-saving contact with the Special Procedures Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The measures are part of new moves by the United Nations to enhance the global flow and exchange of information. Such information is essential in addressing five priority areas of the United Nations human rights programme:

The steps being taken by the High Commissioner represent the continued implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna, Austria, from 14 to 25 June 1993. Mr. Ayala Lasso, who was appointed as the first United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 14 February 1994, said the Vienna Conference was a watershed, marking the realization of an "era of implementation" of human rights standards and mechanisms that have been developed over the past years.

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information DPI/1550/HRrev.1--August 1998