National human rights institutions

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National human rights institutions (NHRIs) are administrative bodies set up to protect or monitor human rights in a given country. The growth of such bodies has been encouraged by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which has provided advisory and support services, and facilitated access for NHRIs to the UN treaty bodies and other committees.[1] There are over 100 such institutions, about two-thirds assessed by peer review as compliant with the United Nations standards set out in the Paris Principles. Compliance with the Principles is the basis for accreditation at the UN, which, uniquely for NHRIs, is not conducted directly by a UN body but by a sub-committee of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC). Institutions accredited by the ICC with 'A status', meaning full compliance with the Paris Principles, enjoy much greater access to UN human rights treaty bodies and other organs. The secretariat to the review process (for initial accreditation, and reaccreditation every five years) is provided by the National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section of the OHCHR.[2]

NHRIs can be grouped together in two broad categories: human rights commissions and ombudsmen. While most ombudsman agencies have their powers vested in a single person, human rights commissions are multi-member committees, often representative of various social groups and political tendencies. They are sometimes set up to deal with specific issues such as discrimination, although some are bodies with very broad responsibilities. Specialised national institutions exist in many countries to protect the rights of a particular vulnerable group such as ethnic and linguistic minorities, indigenous peoples, children, refugees or women.

However, in general terms national human rights institution have an explicit and specific human rights mandate and a broader mandate, which could include research, documentation and training and education in human rights issues, than the classical ombudsman model which tends to work on handling complaints about administrative deficiencies. While all human rights violations are maladministration, only a small proportion of the workload of an ombudsman deals with violations of human rights standards.[3]

In most countries, a constitution, a human rights act or institution-specific legislation will provide for the establishment of a national human rights institution. The degree of independence of these institutions depends upon national law, and best practice requires a constitutional or statutory basis rather than (for example) a presidential decree.

Nations human rights institutions are also referred to by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action[4] and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities[5]

Functions of NHRIs[edit]

Special commissions have been established in many countries to ensure that laws and regulations concerning the protection of human rights are effectively applied. Commissions tend to be composed of members from diverse backgrounds, often with a particular interest, expertise or experience in the field of human rights.

Human rights commissions are concerned primarily with the protection of those within the jurisdiction of the state against discrimination or mistreatment, and with the protection of civil liberties and other human rights. Some commissions concern themselves with alleged violations of any rights recognized in the constitution and/or in international human rights instruments.

One of the most important functions vested in many human rights commissions is to receive and investigate complaints from individuals (and occasionally, from groups) alleging human rights abuses committed in violation of existing national law. While there are considerable differences in the procedures followed by various human rights commissions in the investigation and resolution of complaints, many rely on conciliation or arbitration. It is not unusual for a human rights commission to be granted authority to impose a legally binding outcome on parties to a complaint. If no special tribunal has been established, the commission may be able to transfer unresolved complaints to the normal courts for a final determination.

NHRIs are usually able to deal with any human rights issue directly involving a public authority. In relation to non-state entities, some national human rights institutions have at least one of the following functions:

  • addressing grievances or disputes involving certain kinds of company (for instance state-owned enterprises, private companies providing public services, or companies that operate at the federal level)
  • addressing only certain types of human rights issue (for instance non-discrimination or labour rights)
  • addressing complaints or disputes raising any human rights issue and involving any company.[6]

The degree to which the recommendations or rulings produced by a human rights institution can be enforced varies based on the human rights climate surrounding the institution.

Another important function of a human rights commission is systematically to review a government's human rights policy in order to detect shortcomings in human rights observance and to suggest ways of improving. This often includes human rights proofing of draft legislation, or policies.

Human rights commissions may also monitor the state's compliance with its own and with international human rights laws and if necessary, recommend changes. The realization of human rights cannot be achieved solely through legislation and administrative arrangements; therefore, commissions are often entrusted with the important responsibility of improving community awareness of human rights.

According to the Paris Principles, the 'National human rights institutions' are obliged to make "preparation of reports on the national situation with regard to human rights in general, and on more specific matters;" and this is mostly done in annual status reports.[7]

Promoting and educating about human rights may involve informing the public about the commission's own functions and purposes; provoking discussion about various important questions in the field of human rights; organizing seminars; holding counselling services and meetings; as well as producing and disseminating human rights publications.

National human rights institutions[edit]

Not all of the following NHRIs are accredited through the ICC.

Afghanistan
Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
Albania
People's Advocate
Algeria
National Human Rights Commission of Algeria
Angola
Justice and Rights Ombudsman (Provedor de Justiça e de direitos)
Antigua and Barbuda
Office of the Ombudsman
Argentina
Public Defender (Defensoría del Pueblo de la Nación Argentina) (Ombudsman)
Armenia
Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia
Australia
Australian Human Rights Commission
Austria
Austrian Ombudsman Board
Azerbaijan
Human Rights Commissioner
Barbados
Ombudsman
Belgium
Centre for equal opportunities and opposition to racism
Belize
Office of the Ombudsman
Bénin
Bénin Human Rights Commission
Bermuda
Bermuda Ombudsman
Bolivia
Public Defender (Defensor del Pueblo)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina (pre-2003 cases)
Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina (current cases)
Bulgaria
Bulgarian Parliamentary Ombudsman
Burkina Faso
National Human Rights Commission of Burkina Faso
Cameroon
National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms
Canada
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Chad
Chad National Human Rights Commission
Colombia
Ombudsman's Office of Colombia
Democratic Republic of the Congo
National Human Rights Observatory (DR Congo)
Republic of the Congo
National Human Rights Commission (Republic of the Congo)
Costa Rica
Defender of the Inhabitants (Defensoria de los Habitantes)
Croatia
Office of the Croatian Ombudsman
Cyprus
National Institute for the Protection of Human Rights
Czech Republic
Public Defender of Rights (Czech Republic)
Denmark
Danish Institute for Human Rights
Ecuador
Defensoría del Pueblo del Ecuador
Egypt
National Council for Human Rights
El Salvador
Human Rights Procurator (Procuraduría de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos)
Ethiopia
Ethiopian Human Rights Commission
Fiji
Fiji Human Rights Commission
Finland
Parliamentary Ombudsman
France
Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme
Gabon
National Human Rights Commission
Georgia
Office of Public Defender of Georgia
Germany
German Institute for Human Rights
Ghana
Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice CHRAJ
Great Britain (UK)
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) - see also Scotland
Greece
National Human Rights Commission
Guatemala
Procurator for Human Rights (Procurador de los Derechos Humanos)
Guyana
Office of the Ombudsman
Haiti
Office de la Protection du Citoyen
Honduras
National Human Rights Commissioner (Comisionado Nacional de Derechos Humanos)
Hong Kong
Equal Opportunities Commission (Hong Kong)
Hungary
Parliamentary Commissioner on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities (Hungary)
India
National Human Rights Commission (India)
Indonesia
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM)
Iran
Islamic Human Rights Commission
Ireland
Irish Human Rights Commission
Italy
Commissione per i Diritti Umani
Jamaica
Office of the Public Defender (Jamaica)
Jordan
National Centre for Human Rights (Jordan)
Kazakhstan
Commissioner for Human Rights
Kenya
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR)
Korea, Republic of
National Human Rights Commission of Korea
Kosovo (Under United Nations Administration via UN Resolution 1244)
Ombudsperson Institution in Kosovo
Kyrgyzstan
Ombudsman of the Kyrgyz Republic
Latvia
Rights' Defender
Lithuania
The Seimas Ombudsmen
Luxembourg
Consultative Commission of Human Rights (Luxembourg)
Macedonia
Human Rights Ombudsman of Macedonia
Madagascar
National Human Rights Commission (Madagascar)
Malawi
Malawi Human Rights Commission
Malaysia
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Maldives
Human Rights Commission of the Maldives
Mali
Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme (Mali)
Mauritania
Commissariat aux Droits de l’Homme, a la Lutte contre la Pauvreté et l’Insertion (Mauritania)
Mauritius
National Human Rights Commission (Mauritius)
Mexico
National Human Rights Commission (Mexico)
Moldova
Centre for Human Rights of Moldova
Mongolia
National Human Rights Commission (Mongolia)
Montenegro
Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Montenegro
Morocco
National Council for Human Rights
Myanmar (Burma)
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
Namibia
Office of the Ombudsman (Namibia)
Nepal
National Human Rights Commission (Nepal)
Netherlands
Equal Treatment Commission (Netherlands)
New Zealand
Human Rights Commission (HRC)
Nicaragua
Human Rights Procurator (Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos)
Niger
Nigerien National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties
Nigeria
National Human Rights Commission (Nigeria)
Northern Ireland (UK)
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC)
Norway
Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (Short-form name: SMR)
Israel
Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen's Rights
Panama
Defensoría del Pueblo de la República de Panamá
Paraguay
Defensoría del Pueblo de la República del Paraguay
Peru
Public Defender (Defensoría del Pueblo)
Philippines
Commission on Human Rights (Philippines)
Poland
Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (ombudsman)
Portugal
Provedor de Justiça
Puerto Rico
Oficina del Procurador del Ciudadano
Qatar
National Committee for Human Rights (Qatar)
Romania
Ombudsman (Avocatul Poporului)
Russia
Commissioner on Human Rights in the Russian Federation
Rwanda
National Commission for Human Rights (Rwanda)
Saint Lucia
Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner (St Lucia)
Scotland (UK)
Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) - see also Great Britain
Senegal
Senegalese Committee for Human Rights
Serbia
Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Serbia
Sierra Leone
Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone
Slovakia
Slovak National Centre for Human Rights
Slovenia
Human Rights Ombudsman (Slovenia)
South Africa
South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission)
Commission for Gender Equality (CGE)
Public Protector
Spain
Defensor del Pueblo (Ombudsman)
Sri Lanka
National Human Rights Commission (Sri Lanka)
Sudan
Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission
Sweden
Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO)
Children's Ombudsman (Sweden) (BO)
Discrimination Ombudsman (Sweden) (DO)
Switzerland
Federal Commission against Racism (Switzerland)
Tanzania
Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (Tanzania)
Thailand
National Human Rights Commission (Thailand)
Timor Leste
Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice (Timor Leste)
Togo
National Human Rights Commission (Togo)
Trinidad and Tobago
Office of the Ombudsman of Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Higher Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Tunisia)
Uganda
Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC)
Ukraine
Commissioner for Human Rights
United Kingdom
see Great Britain; Northern Ireland; Scotland
United States
United States Commission on Civil Rights
Uzbekistan
Authorized Person of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights (Ombudsman)
Venezuela
Defensoría del Pueblo (Venezuela)
Zambia
Permanent Human Rights Commission (Zambia)

Regional groupings of NHRIs[edit]

Sub-national human rights institutions[edit]

Alberta (Canada)
Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission
British Columbia (Canada)
British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal
Ontario (Canada)
Ontario Human Rights Commission
United Kingdom
The three UK bodies (Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland) are listed above as they are each recognised as NHRIs.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ ICC web pages, including a listing of over 100 institutions]
  2. ^ http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/nhri/pages/nhrimain.aspx OHCHR web page on NHRIs
  3. ^ [Birgit Lindsnaes, Lone Lindholt, Kristine Yigen (eds.) (2001) National Human Rights Institutions, Articles and working papers, Input to the discussions of the establishment and development of the functions of national human rights institutions The Danish Institute for Human Rights.] Find book here
  4. ^ Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, Part II para 84
  5. ^ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 33
  6. ^ "National Human Rights Institutions" (in English). 
  7. ^ Paris Principles can be found here

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]