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NHRIs must be apolitical, says ICC accreditation body

Graphic: World flags

In its recent report, the ICC Sub-Committee on Accreditation has reiterated that NHRIs should always remain independent from all sides of politics.

The International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (the ICC) released its most recent Accreditation Report this month, which includes the recommendations from the ICC's Sub-Committee on Accreditation session in March 2015.

Fourteen national human rights institutions (NHRIs) from all four regions were assessed by the Sub-Committee to determine their compliance with the international standards set out in the Paris Principles.

The Sub-Committee made recommendations on the accreditation status of newly-established NHRIs: Iraq (B status) and Latvia (A status).

It also made recommendations on the re-accreditation of Bangladesh (B status), Ecuador (A status), Scotland (A status) and Serbia (A status).

Re-accreditation decisions in relation to the NHRIs of Cameroon, Germany, Greece, Korea and Malawi were deferred to future sessions.

The accreditation of the National Human Rights and Ombudsman Institution of Uruguay was deferred to the upcoming session of SCA in November 2015.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was also invited to apply for accreditation at the November 2015 session.

Following a review of issues in relation to the NHRI of Venezuela, the Sub-Committee recommended that the Defensoria del Pueblo be downgraded to B status.

Promoting the independence of NHRIs

The March 2015 session was notable for its discussion on independence of NHRIs.

The Sub-Committee considered institutional independence in the context of statements either expressly or implicitly aligning an NHRI's leadership with a political party. It also considered how the failure to take action or to comment on alleged human rights violations might also impact on an NHRI's real or perceived independence.

In both contexts, the Sub-Committee highlighted that statements of a political nature, or the failure to inquire into alleged human rights violations, may affect the credibility of, and public confidence in the NHRI, and thereby discourage people from accessing the institution.

The Sub-Committee also noted how the statements or actions of an NHRI's senior leaders can lead to the creation of an institutional culture, which may continue to influence the NHRI's operations even after the leadership has changed. This too may impact on public confidence in the NHRI.

Encouraging transparency in appointments

The March session 2015 also discussed the importance of entrenching a transparent and merit-based selection process for NHRI members. The Sub-Committee highlighted several key elements that should form part of such a selection process, including:

  • requiring vacancies to be advertised
  • establishing clear and uniform criteria
  • ensuring that such criteria are uniformly used to assess the merit of all eligible applicants
  • promoting broad participation in the application, screening, selection and appointment process.

The report of the Sub-Committee's October 2014 session is available on the APF website.

The APF was represented on the Sub-Committee by the Independent Commission for Human Rights of Palestine.

The APF secretariat attended the meeting as an observer, along with the regional coordinating bodies of NHRIs from Africa, the Americas and Europe.

Date: 25 June 2015

Image credits

  1. World flags - APF, Michael Power