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Reprisals against NHRIs "unacceptable"

Graphic: Participants at the opening of the 28th Annual Meeting of the International Coordinating Committee o

Reports of reprisals against national human rights institutions are of “great concern”, says the President of the UN Human Rights Council.

National human rights institutions (NHIRIs) have been urged to be staunch advocates for the rights of all people, especially in the face of threats posed by extremist groups and in times of natural disasters and other emergencies.

"We face a new rise of extremist violence, and violent non-State actors who feel accountable to no-one," said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the newly-appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the opening of the 28th Annual Meeting of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Mr Al Hussein praised the "invaluable" work of NHRIs and encouraged them to continue in their efforts to provide justice, redress and remedy for victims of human rights violations.

ICC Chairperson, Adv. Mabedle Lourence Mushwana, said that "in difficult times, where rights are being violated, it can be tempting to compromise rights in response thereto".

"Now more than ever, strong, independent and effective NHRIs are required to address these difficult times at a domestic level," he said.

Mr Mushwana noted that in recent months the ICC and other organisations had found it necessary to speak out in support of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, following court cases and political attacks that had undermined their independence.

Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council, echoed the critical importance of supporting independent and effective NHRIs that are able "to translate our work at the Council into real action" at the national level.

However, he said that reports of reprisals against NHRIs were of "great concern" to the Council.

"We cannot repeat it often enough: reprisals are unacceptable," Mr Rücker said.

"NHRIs and their respective members and staff should not face any form of reprisal or intimidation, including political pressure, physical intimidation, harassment or unjustifiable budgetary limitations, as a result of activities undertaken in accordance with their respective mandates."

Representatives from 87 NHRIs met in Geneva for the ICC Annual Meeting, held on 12-13 March 2015, which featured panel discussions on:

  • Conducting national inquiries, including a presentation by the Australian Human Rights Commission on its national inquiry into children in immigration detention, along with presentations from the NHRIs of Northern Ireland and Mexico
  • Governance and NHRIs, including presentations by the NHRIs of India, Finland, Cameroon and Nicaragua
  • Violence against women, including a presentation by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on its national inquiry into rape and honour killings, along with presentations from the NHRIs of Bolivia and Morocco and the Council of Europe
  • The rights of people with disabilities, including presentations by the NHRIs of Bangladesh, Britain and Kenya
  • The post-2015 development agenda, including presentations by the NHRIs of Ecuador, Germany and Rwanda.

The APF also hosted a side event on recent initiatives to progress the rights of older people, including proposals on the role of NHRIs in any future Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.

A meeting of the ICC Bureau was held on 11 March 2015. The APF was represented on the ICC Bureau by the NHRIs of Australia, Korea, Mongolia and Qatar.

More information on ICC 28 is available at: http://nhri.ohchr.org/EN/ICC/AnnualMeeting/28/Pages/default.aspx

Date: 23 March 2015