A human rights commission is a panel of individuals who hear complaints about human rights violations such as discrimination. The scope and nature of a commission can vary, and such panels may be established by governments, international organizations like the United Nations, and other groups. People serving on such commissions usually need to have experience in the area of human rights law, including familiarity with discrimination issues. Typically, the panel is headquartered in a state or national capital.
Members of the public can file claims with a human rights commission, asking for investigation and resolution of issues. A common example is a state human rights commission, seen in a number of US states. People who think they have experienced employment discrimination, housing discrimination, or retaliatory acts as a result of whistleblowing activities can file a complaint with the members of the commission. They will hear the evidence, conduct an investigation, determine if a violation occurred, and mete out punishment if it is merited.
International organizations are often concerned with issues like genocide and other substantial human rights violations. They have a much broader scope, allowing them to consider not just the actions of individuals, but also government policies and the work of groups and organizations. People who believe they are experiencing human rights violations may file complaints and the commission can extend protections to these individuals, in recognition of the fact that coming forward can expose people to personal danger.
International human rights commissions are sometimes established to look into specific human rights issues. These groups are formed in response to research and investigations and may include people with a variety of experiences, including attorneys, victims of human rights violations, and so forth. For example, commissions have been impaneled to discuss human trafficking, developing methods for identifying, preventing, and addressing this widespread human rights violation.
Pay for members of a commission on human rights can vary, and the members may have access to benefits like health care. Generally, expenses related to service on the commission are covered, such as travel costs for investigating complaints. The commission also has a budget it can use for things like hiring consultants, sending out evidence for examination, and other activities deemed necessary to the full and proper conduct of an investigation into purported human rights violations. Funding for a human rights commission can come from a number of sources, including grants, fines paid by human rights violators, and other government agencies.