Comparative Study on Mandates of National Human Rights Institutions in the Commonwealth

Comparative Study on Mandates of National Human Rights Institutions in the Commonwealth You do not have access to this content

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Commonwealth Secretariat
01 Nov 2007
9781848598973 (PDF)

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This is the first Commonwealth-wide comparative study of national human rights institutions (NHRIs), and is designed to help everyone interested in establishing and developing NHRIs to improve their effectiveness.

The study looks at the international framework for the protection of human rights, and the historical and political background to the establishment of NHRIs and ombudsman offices. The individual mandates of various institutions are considered, looking at them region by region. Finally, the study compares the normative framework and mandates of the NHRIs are analysed, comparing what NHRIs are empowered to do and what they are doing in practice, though value judgements as to the merits and demerits of individual named institutions are avoided.

Rather than provide a detailed theoretical analysis, the study concentrates on helping practitioners and policy-makers improve the working of NHRIs in practice, and will be a useful tool both to the institutions themselves and to all those who wish to support them.
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  • Foreword

    The Commonwealth recognises the important role of national human rights institutions in protecting and promoting human rights at the national level. Over the past 20 years, a large number of Commonwealth member countries have established such national institutions for the promotion of public awareness about human rights, and the protection of citizens' rights generally.

  • Preface

    The core international legal duty of States under both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 is to respect and ensure to all individuals, without discrimination, their respective civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The framework of the international system for the protection of human rights is founded upon the twin duties of States to first adopt measures to give effect to human rights and fundamental freedoms and second, to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms are violated is provided with an effective remedy.

  • Introduction

    This report consists of a comparative study of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and Ombudsman Offices across the Commonwealth. For simplicity, the terms NHRI and Ombudsman Office will be used as generic references throughout the course of this study, although both types of institution are known by a divergent number of titles such as human rights commissions, consultative councils, ombudsmen, public defenders and protectors – the shape and form of the institution usually being contingent on the size and resources of the country.

  • The Protection and Promotion of Human Rights

    “The Commonwealth is an association of 53 independent states consulting and cooperating in the common interests of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace. The Commonwealth's 2 billion citizens, about 30 per cent of the world's population, are drawn from the broadest range of faiths, races, cultures and traditions.”

  • Key Criteria for NHRIs

    Having set out the normative framework for the establishment and operational methodology of NHRIs, this section of the paper turns to consider the key criteria for the effective functioning of an NHRI.

  • Schedules of Commonwealth NHRIs
  • Commentary on the NHRI Schedules

    In addition to the commentary provided below, readers are referred to the report by Professor Brian Burdekin, National Human Rights Institutions in the Asia-Pacific Region, which is referenced throughout this study.

  • Ombudsman Offices

    It has already been noted that in order for States to fulfil their international human rights obligations, it is vital to establish domestic infrastructure and institutions to promote and protect rights at domestic level. Further, it is desirable that these institutions fulfil the criteria set out in the Paris Principles and the Commonwealth Secretariat Best Practice Guide. However, some small island states lack the resources and infrastructure for a human rights commission.

  • Conclusions

    The role of National Human Rights Institutions and the Office of Ombudsman in the promotion and protection of human rights is critical. Independence is a prerequisite to the effective implementation of the mandates of both institutions. A perceived or actual lack of independence will undermine the work, authority and legitimacy of these organisations.

  • Annexes and Bibliography
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