New Council of Europe Recommendation: States Encouraged to Strengthen the Position of NHRIs
The recommendation lays the foundation for the strengthening of the role of national human rights institutions as the central national institutions for human rights promotion and protection and creates the conditions for their closer cooperation with the Council.
Following the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) of the Recommendation on the development and strengthening of effective, pluralist and independent national human rights institutions, on 26 and 27 April 2021 NHRI heads, members of the civil society organizations and the representatives of the Council gathered for a virtual high-level event to discuss the implementation of the document. Main focus of the meeting organized by the CoE and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) was strategic priorities and the modalities for the strengthening of their mutual cooperation, with the aim of additionally enhancing human rights promotion and protection in Europe.
Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter moderated the panel on the standards for the national human rights institutions, whose participants worked to identify the key NHRI standards and to discuss their integration, implementation and monitoring at the national level.
The new Recommendation recognizes the central role of NHRIs in promoting and fostering the rule of law, democracy, human rights protection and equality in Europe. It urges the member states to establish such institutions at the national levels and those that have already done so to additionally strengthen their independence in line with the UN’s Paris Principles and to create enabling conditions for their efficient functioning.
More specifically, the states should:
- ensure an enabling legal framework, preferably at the constitutional level, for NHRIs to carry out their activities effectively
- ensure that NHRIs enjoy adequate access to information and to policy makers and legislators, including timely consultations on the human rights implications of draft legislation and policy strategies
- ensure the implementation of the NHRIs’ recommendations and make it a legal obligation for all addressees of these recommendations to provide a reasoned reply within an appropriate time frame
- foster the co-operation of all relevant public authorities in relation to the mandate, independence and role of NHRIs
- take all measures necessary to protect and support NHRIs against threats and harassment and any other forms of intimidation and ensure that confidential information collected by NHRIs in the context of their mandate is protected and is not unduly made public
Since the adoption of the previous Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation on NHRIs in 1997, there has been a significant increase in the number of internationally accredited NHRIs in Council of Europe Member States: to date, 30 A-status NHRIs and 9 B-status NHRIs are present in 37 out of the 47 Member States. The Office of the Ombudswoman performs the mandates of the national human rights institution in Croatia and was accredited with Status A in 2008, with subsequent re-accreditations in 2013 and 2019, confirming its complete independence in the performance of its mandates and competences.