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National Human Rights Institutions and the Paris Principles


National Human Rights Institutions and the Paris Principles What is a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) ? NHRI are State bodies with a constitution and/or ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: National Human Rights Institutions and the Paris Principles

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

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.

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

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

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 Committees of NHRI (ICC)

NHRIs 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

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
  • Autonomy from government
  • Independence
  • Pluralism
  • Adequate ressources
  • Adequate power of investigation

Assessing NHRI
  • To assess whether an NHRI complies with the
    Paris Principless 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

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
  • 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)

Jurisdiction of The NHRI The breadth of the
mandate of an NHRI depends on its jurisdiction
and responsibilities
  • NHRIs jurisdiction should be as broad as
  • 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 .

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
    NHRIs 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
  • 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

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

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
  • Situations of violations in any part of the
  • 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

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

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

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
  • 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)

Composition and Pluralism
  • The Appointment process of the members of the
    NHRI is a way to ensure pluralism and
  • 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

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

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
  • NHRIs recommendations, reports, decision or
    program activities should not be subject to an
    external authoritys 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

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)

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.)

Autonomy and Independence through privileges and
  • NHRI members should enjoy immunity from civil and
    criminal proceedings for acts performed in an
    official capacity as a guarantee that members
    wont 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

Principles That Apply to NHRI With The Competence
to Receive Complaints Concerning Individual
  • 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
    victimss 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

Principles That Apply to NHRI With The Competence
to Receive Complaints Concerning Individual
  • NHRI should have the power to protect witnesses
    and victims when necessary (confidentiality
  • 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
  • NHRI should have the authority to take
    recommendations to court for enforcement

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