The Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Joseph Whittal, has admonished National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to comply with the criteria of the UN Paris Principles in the implementation process of protecting the rights and freedoms of all persons, and holding governments accountable for their human rights obligations.
Commissioner Whittal who is also the President of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions in West Africa (NNHRI-WA) said functioning per international standards such as the Paris Principles would ensure independence, competence, credibility and accountability of NHRIs, and empower them to be effective in their work.
He was addressing a three-member high level delegation from the National Human Rights Commission of Mali (Commission National des Driots de l’Homme) (CNDH) who had come to visit CHRAJ on experience sharing expedition.
Mr Whittal recalled that in 2016, the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned a study, titled “Study on the state of National Human Rights Institutions in Africa”, which undertook a comparative analysis of African NHRIs and whether their legal frameworks met the effectiveness criteria of the Paris Principles.
According to him, the study analyzed the independence, competencies, responsibilities, funding, and financial autonomy of NHRIs, and also discovered some limitations in their legal framework, as well as their operational, financial, and appointment autonomy.
He observed that restrictive mandates imposed by enabling legislation, including poorly written legislation, inadequate protection within the enabling legislation with regard to the security of tenure, and ambiguous laws on the powers and functions of these institutions were pointed out as major threats to the legal autonomy of NHRIs.
The CHRAJ Commissioner disclosed that the report revealed inadequate ability of some NHRIs to execute its mandates without external interferences, controls, influence or obstruction from any branch of the government, private bodies and other powerful individuals.
The President of the Mali CNDH and head of the delegation, Mr. Aguibou Bouare, stated that the visit to CHRAJ was critical in light of the new challenges facing Mali under its military regime to draw inspiration from the experience of the Commission which has maintained its ‘A’ status since 1996.
Mr Bouare assured that they would spare no effort in discharging their duty to promote a human rights culture, and also adopt the knowledge gained from CHRAJ, as well as implement the SCA’s recommendations in Mali.
The Paris Principles are a set of standards that frame and guide the work of NHRIs which were drafted at an international NHRIs workshop in Paris in 1991, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 48/134 of 1993.
The criteria of these Paris Principles require NHRIs to be independent in law, membership, operations, policy and control of resources. They also require that NHRIs have broad mandates, pluralism in membership, broad functions, adequate powers, adequate resources, cooperative methods, and engagement with international bodies to be credible and independent.
BY TIMES REPORTER