General Comments or General Recommendations explicate rights mentioned in a specific human rights treaty. Thereby, they fill the abstract right with meaning.
Using State Reports as an outset, the General Comments are authoritative interpretations of individual human rights or of the legal nature of human rights obligations. General Comments provide orientation for the practical implementation of human rights and form a set of criteria for evaluating the progress of states in their implementation of these rights.
General Comments itself are not treaties and do not need ratification by treaty parties. Strictly speaking not legally binding, they have a highly authoritative character with legal basis.
Under public international law, article 31 of the 1965 Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties (PDF, 135 KB, not barrier-free) stipulates that treaties need continuous contextual interpretation. Furthermore, with their initial ratification of the treaty states accept that the treaty bodies play a key role in the interpretation of human rights treaties.
The highly authoritative character of the General Comments can also be justified by the fact that they are the result of a comprehensive participatory process including interest groups of different regional, cultural, and religious context as well as non-governmental organizations.
Deutsche Geschellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (2013): Promising Practices - On a human rights-based approach in German development cooperation. GIZ, 26 p.
Deutsche Geschellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (2011): National Human Rights Institutions. GIZ, 10 p.