Crucial role of national human rights institutions in preventing violations and protecting rights

17 May 2011 – UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
National human rights bodies play a crucial role in ensuring the rule of law, preventing violations and providing assistance to victims of human rights breaches, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said on Tuesday at a conference of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
“The recent turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa has been a huge challenge for national human rights institutions. It has underlined their importance, and the need for them to be able to proactively contribute to human rights protection, together with other national and international actors, to ensure and restore rule of law and provide assistance to victims of human rights violations,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights told the conference.
“Such functions are particularly crucial in post-conflict situations where restoring normalcy requires comprehensive strategies, including options for transitional justice, as well as redress and remedy for victims of human rights violations.”
The 24th Annual Meeting of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights opened today. It will be held until 19 May 2011 at the Palais des Nations (Room XIX) in Geneva.
The agenda of the three-day meeting includes discussions on women rights defenders, racism, and human rights and business. Delegates will also examine how the Committee and national human rights institutions can continue to enhance their role and build credibility through cooperation with UN human rights bodies, in particular the Human Rights Council. Recent events and political turmoil in the Middle East, North and West Africa will also be discussed.
The meeting is being attended by representatives from more than 160 national institutions as well as Government and NGO observers. Regional coordinating bodies of national human rights institutions from Africa, the Asia/Pacific, the Americas and Europe are also represented.
Pillay stressed the importance for national human rights institutions to comply with a set of principles known as the “Paris Principles” which are key elements of an effective national rights protection system.
“Institutions in line with the Paris Principles can help ensure the compliance of national laws and practices with international norms, support governments to ensure their implementation, monitor and address core human rights concerns such as torture, arbitrary detention, human trafficking and the human rights of migrants, and contribute to the eradication of all forms of discrimination,” she said.
Out of almost 100 national human rights institutions around the world, 67 are accredited with “A” Status for compliance with the Paris Principles. Pillay encouraged all institutions that have not been accredited or are currently not fully in compliance with the Paris Principles, to work towards this goal.
Pillay also called on institutions to lobby their governments for the ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Background National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are bodies with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights. NHRIs are independent, autonomous institutions that operate at the national level. They are part of the State, are created by law, and are funded by the State.
The International Coordinating Committee is an international association of NHRIs which promotes and strengthens NHRIs towards compliance with the Paris Principles and provides leadership in the promotion and protection of human rights. A formal review of the legislation and performance of NHRIs against the Paris Principles is periodically conducted by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation. The number of Paris Principles compliant NHRIs has grown significantly over the recent years: currently 67 NHRIs have been accredited with “A status”.
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