One of the essential features of the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures is the country visit. OHCHR describes country visits as follows:

Mandate-holders carry out country visits to assess the situation of human rights at the national level: at the request of a mandate-holder, the Government will send an invitation for a fact-finding mission. Some countries have issued standing invitations, which means that they are, in principle, prepared to receive a visit from any thematic mandate-holder.

During such missions, the experts assess the general human rights situation in a given country, as well as the specific institutional, legal, judicial, administrative and de facto situation under their respective mandates. They will meet with national and local authorities, including members of the judiciary and parliamentarians; members of the national human rights institution, if applicable; non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and victims of human rights violations; the UN and other inter-governmental agencies; and the press when giving a press-conference at the end of the mission.

Country visits’ findings, conclusions and recommendations by special procedures are published  in mission reports to the Human Rights Council (All special procedures country-related information can also be found in the Universal Human Rights Index.)

At my request, the Government of Tajikistan agreed to issue me an invitation for a country visit, which I’ll be conducting from March 3 to 10. My team and I will meet with officials from the government and individuals from civil society, after which we’ll report our findings to the Human Rights Council. For those following events in the country, you know that now is a particularly important time to explore freedom of expression across the spectrum of issues.

Late in 2015, I had planned to visit Japan to conduct an official mission, but the Government cancelled that mission. I asked the Government to reconsider, and I am pleased that the Government decided that it would issue me an invitation to visit April 12 – 19. As I mentioned previously, I expect that my meetings with government officials and members of civil society will touch on a range of key issues, including implementation of the 2013 Act on Specially Designated Secrets (about which the Human Rights Committee expressed concern last year), online rights, media freedom, and access to information.

If you have information or ideas that you wish to share in advance of either of these visits, please do not hesitate to reach out with your thoughts. I’m hopeful that I’ll be in a position to announce further official visits soon.

Official Missions to Tajikistan and Japan