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National Human Rights Institutions and the Paris Principles

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1 National Human Rights Institutions and the Paris Principles

2 What is a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) ?
NHRI are State bodies with a constitution and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights They are part of the State and are funded by the State

3 What Form Can NHRI Take? Depending on the region or legal tradition NHRI can take different names and forms The most common forms are: Human Rights Commissions Ombudsman Public defender Commissionner Etc.

4 What are National Human Rights Commissions (NHRC) ?
They are State institutions with a specific mandate to promote and protect human rights They are headed by a number of members Investigation is a core function Many can receive individual complaints Many, following investigations, have the authority to make recommendations

5 What are « The Paris Principles »?
In 1991, previous OHCHR, convened a conference of NHRI to define common attributes that all new or existing NHRIs should possess Because the meeting was held in Paris, the resulting standards came to be known as the “Paris Principles.” The Paris Principles were then adopted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1993.

6 Why are «The Paris Principles » Important?
They are minimum conditions that must be met for all NHRI to be considered independent and effective in protecting and promoting the rights of the people They provide benchmarks against which new NHRIs can be accredited by the International Coordinating Committee’s of NHRI (ICC)

7 NHRI’s Accreditation Process:
The International Coordination Committee of National Institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (ICC) grants “accreditation” to NHRIs Accreditation is the official recognition that NHRI comply fully with the Paris Principles Accrediation status are: if fully compliant = A status, if partially compliant = B status Accreditation opens the door to participation in work and discussion of the UN Human Rights Council, the ICC and other UN agencies

8 What are «The Paris Principles » Benchmarks?
The Paris Principles identify 6 main criteria that NHRI should meet to be fully functioning: A broad mandate based on universal human rights standards Autonomy from government Independence Pluralism Adequate ressources Adequate power of investigation

9 Assessing NHRI: To assess whether an NHRI complies with the « Paris Principles’s » criteria and requirements, one needs to look at the following issues: Mandate of the NHRI Jurisdiction of the NHRI Responsibilities of the NHRI Methods of operation of the NHRI Composition and pluralism of the NHRI Autonomy and independence of the NHRI

10 Mandate of The NHRI The mandate must be set out in the constitution or in legislation Executive instruments such as government notifications or decrees do not comply with the Paris Principles It ensures greater permanence, independence and transparency The mandate must be as broad as possible and based on human rights standards The mandate must be to « promote and protect » human rights (If it is only one or the other it does not comply with the Paris Principles)

11 Jurisdiction of The NHRI The breadth of the mandate of an NHRI depends on its jurisdiction and responsibilities NHRI’s jurisdiction should be as broad as possible However there can be limitations: Limitations in the type of issue: Some NHRIs can only enforce civil and political rights, or some only protect rights of some particular groups (minorities, women) or only work on discrimination Those limitations do not prevent an NHRI from complying with the « Paris Principles ».

12 Jurisdiction of The NHRI
Limitations with regard to parliament Usually NHRI have no authority over the parliament and cannot affect the privileges and immunities of its members However, the work of the parliament can be under NHRI’s scrutiny (comment on bills) Limitations with courts and judiciary They are usually exempt from oversight by NHRIs to ensure their independence However, NHRI can monitor and report on court activities Time limits Most NHRIs can address only matters that arose after their establishment. Moreover, many NHRI set a time limitation of 1 or 2 year after the violation accured

13 Responsibilities of the NHRI
The Paris Principles describe the range of responsibilities that should be within the mandate of an institution These responsibilities are the minimum or basic level of responsibilities that NHRI should cover

14 Responsibilities Should Include:
Monitoring the human rights situation and providing opinions, recommendations, proposals, and reports to the government, parliament or other responsible organs on: Legislative or administrative provisions, as well as provisions relating to judicial organization The general situation of human rights or more specific issues such as the situation of detained individuals Situations of violations in any part of the country It must advise by its own initiative and not at the request of authorities and must be free to publicize its advices without restraint and without requiring prior approval

15 Responsibilities Should Include:
Encouraging the harmonization of national legislation and practices with international human rights instruments, as well as their effective implementation Encouraging the ratification and implementation of international human rights instruments Contributing to national human rights reports Cooperating with international and regional human rights organs, and other NHRIs Assisting and taking part in the development of human rights education and research programmes Raising public awareness about human rights and efforts to combat discrimination, especially racial discrimination, through publicity, information, education and the use of press organs

16 Methods of Operation NHRIs should hold regular meetings to ensure effectiveness NHRIs should be able to open regional and local offices to establish a presence close to the people NHRIs must consult and develop relations with other organization that promote and protect human rights (including NGOs)

17 Composition and Pluralism
Pluralism can be achieved through the composition of NHRI by ensuring: That members represent different parts of society That diverse social groups can suggest or recommend candidates (including the civil society) That the staff is diverse and represent different social groups That the participation of women is guaranteed Pluralism can be achieved through procedure and method of operation that enable effective cooperation with diverse social groups (including the civil society)

18 Composition and Pluralism
The Appointment process of the members of the NHRI is a way to ensure pluralism and independence The parliament should be part of the selection process to make it more credible and transparant The appointment process must be transparent There should be a broad consultation throughout the process Vacancies should be broadly advertized There should b an important number of potential candidate from a wide range of social groups Members should serve in their own capacity rather than on behalf of their organisation

19 Autonomy and Independence Legal Autonomy
The constitutional provision or law that establishes an institution should give it a distinct legal personality to allow it to make decisions independently and to act independently

20 Autonomy and Independence Operational Autonomy
NHRIs should have the power to draft their own rules of procedures that cannot be modify by an external authority NHRI’s recommendations, reports, decision or program activities should not be subject to an external authority’s approval or require its prior review and should be available to the public and Media NHRI staff should report to and be accountable to the head of the NHRI NHRI should have the right to hear any person and obtain any information necessary for an examination it is undertaking and to protect individual for having do so The reporting obligations of an NHRI should be set out in its founding law

21 Autonomy and Independence Financial Autonomy
The State must ensure that an NHRI has the resources to have its own staff and premises An NHRI should have control over its finances and how they may be used Funds need to be adequate and sufficient for the NHRI to carry out its mandate The parliament should approve the budget (and not a part of the executive branch of the government such as ministries)

22 Autonomy and Independence through appointment and dismissal procedures
The terms and conditions of appointment should be transparent and set out in the constitutional provision or founding law of the NHRI The method of appointment (see above) is a guarantee of independence Members should have the professional qualifications and experience to perform their job and a personal history of integrity, competence and independence The term of appointment should be fixed and not too short (2 years for instance is too short) Freedom from arbitrary dismissal is crucial to independence (Dismissal should be limited to serious wrongdoing, clearly inappropriate conduct or serious incapacity and mechanisms for dismissal should be independent of the executive.)

23 Autonomy and Independence through privileges and immunities
NHRI members should enjoy immunity from civil and criminal proceedings for acts performed in an official capacity as a guarantee that members won’t face retaliation Members and staff should be immune from search, seizure, requisition, confiscation or interference in their archives, files, documents, communications, property fund and assets of the office or in their possession

24 Principles That Apply to NHRI With The Competence to Receive Complaints Concerning Individual Situations NHRI should have the ability to receive complaints against public bodies and private bodies that carry out public functions NGOs have the ability to file complaint with the NHRI on behalf of victims (if they have the victims’s consent) NHRI should have the power to act on individual or collective issues at their own initiative (without prior authorization requested) NHRI should have the power to compel witnesses to testify and require presentation of evidence and conduct on-site investigations

25 Principles That Apply to NHRI With The Competence to Receive Complaints Concerning Individual Situations NHRI should have the power to protect witnesses and victims when necessary (confidentiality measure) NHRI should have the power to compel authorities to respond to their recommendations NHRI should have the power to recomend reparations for victims of human rights violations NHRI should have the authority to take recommendations to court for enforcement

26 For More Information National Human Rights Institutions: History, Principles, Roles and Responsibilities by OHCHR Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, OHCHR UNDP- OHCHR Toolkit for Collaboration with National Human Rights Institutions

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