NHRC ACCREDITATION BY GANHRI
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Context: The credibility and independence of the National Human Rights Commission of India have been questioned by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), the international body that accredits NHRIs based on their compliance with the UN-mandated Paris Principles.
- The National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) is a statutory body that was established in 1993 with the mandate of protecting and promoting human rights in the country.
- The NHRC-India has been accredited with 'A status' by GANHRI since 1999, which means that it is fully compliant with the Paris Principles and can participate independently in the UN Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms.
- However, in 2016, the NHRC-India's accreditation was deferred due to some concerns raised by GANHRI's Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA).
- The credibility and independence of the NHRC have been questioned by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).
GANHRI's Assessment of NHRC
- The Paris Principles are a set of standards that define the role, composition, status and functions of NHRIs.
- According to GANHRI, the NHRC of India does not fully meet the Paris Principles due to several reasons, such as:
- The selection and appointment process of the NHRC members is not transparent, inclusive and participatory, and does not ensure pluralism and diversity.
- The NHRC does not have adequate financial and administrative autonomy from the government, and its budget is not sufficient to carry out its functions effectively.
- The NHRC does not have full jurisdiction over all human rights issues, such as those related to the armed forces, and faces challenges in accessing places of detention and victims of human rights violations.
- The NHRC does not have enough powers to enforce its recommendations and orders and faces delays and non-compliance from the authorities.
- The NHRC does not engage sufficiently with other NHRIs, civil society organizations, international human rights mechanisms and the public.
- These issues have undermined the credibility and independence of the NHRC as a national human rights institution that can effectively protect and promote human rights in India. Therefore, GANHRI has recommended that the NHRC should take urgent steps to address these gaps and challenges and to align itself with the Paris Principles.
- GANHRI has also urged the government of India to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act to ensure that the NHRC is fully compliant with international standards.
Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)
- It is a global network of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) that aims to promote and protect human rights around the world.
- They are independent bodies that monitor report and advise on human rights issues in their respective countries.
- They also cooperate with regional and international human rights mechanisms, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review.
- GANHRI is celebrating 30 years of the Paris Principles and 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2023. It invites all stakeholders to join its efforts to advance human rights for all.
- GANHRI was established in 1993 as the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC) and changed its name in 2016.
- It has more than 110 members from all regions, which are accredited according to their compliance with the Paris Principles.
- The Paris Principles are a set of international standards that define the role, composition, status and functions of NHRIs. They were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and are considered the cornerstone of the NHRI movement.
- GANHRI's vision is a world where everyone everywhere fully enjoys their human rights.
- Its mission is to unite, promote and strengthen NHRIs to operate in line with the Paris Principles and to provide leadership in the promotion and protection of human rights.
- GANHRI's values include independence, diversity, solidarity, cooperation and accountability.
- GANHRI has a head office in Geneva and a governance structure that represents NHRIs from Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe.
- It works in close partnership with the UN Human Rights Office, which acts as its secretariat, as well as with other UN agencies, regional organizations, civil society and academia.
- GANHRI organizes annual meetings, international conferences and thematic workshops for its members to exchange experiences, best practices and challenges.
- It also supports the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs in countries where they do not exist or where they need assistance.
National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC)
- It is a statutory body established in 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act.
- It is mandated to protect and promote human rights in India, which include civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Function and Power
- It has various functions and powers, such as conducting inquiries, intervening in court proceedings, reviewing laws and policies, spreading human rights awareness and education, and cooperating with other national and international human rights institutions.
- The NHRC has played a significant role in addressing various human rights issues in India, such as custodial deaths and torture, communal violence, child labour, bonded labour, trafficking, sexual harassment, discrimination, displacement, health care, environment and development.
- It has contributed to the development of human rights jurisprudence and standards in India, by issuing guidelines, recommendations and advisories on various matters related to human rights.
Challenges and limitations
Lack of adequate resources and autonomy
- The NHRC depends on the government for its budget, staff and infrastructure, which affects its independence and efficiency.
- It does not have full control over its investigations and reports, as they are subject to government approval and scrutiny.
Lack of enforcement power
- The NHRC does not have the power to enforce its recommendations or orders, which are often ignored or delayed by the authorities.
- It does not have the power to initiate prosecutions or impose penalties for human rights violations.
Lack of jurisdiction and accessibility
- The NHRC does not have jurisdiction over the armed forces, which are involved in several human rights violations in conflict areas.
- It does not have jurisdiction over the state human rights commissions, which are often ineffective or non-functional.
- It faces difficulties in reaching out to the remote and marginalized sections of society, which are most vulnerable to human rights violations.
Lack of public trust and awareness
- The NHRC suffers from a lack of public trust and confidence, as it is perceived as a toothless and biased institution.
- It suffers from a lack of public awareness and participation, as many people are unaware of their rights or the role and functions of the NHRC.
To overcome these challenges and enhance its effectiveness, the NHRC needs to undertake various measures and reforms. Some of these measures are:
Strengthening its resources and autonomy
- The NHRC needs to be provided with adequate financial and human resources, as well as infrastructural facilities.
- It needs to be granted more autonomy and authority over its investigations and reports, without any government interference or influence.
Strengthening its enforcement power
- The NHRC needs to be empowered with the ability to enforce its recommendations or orders, by imposing sanctions or penalties for non-compliance.
- It needs to be empowered with the ability to initiate prosecutions or file cases for human rights violations.
Expanding its jurisdiction and accessibility
- The NHRC needs to be given jurisdiction over the armed forces, subject to certain safeguards and exceptions.
- It needs to coordinate and supervise the state human rights commissions and ensure their proper functioning and accountability.
- It needs to increase its outreach and accessibility to rural and remote areas, as well as the disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
Enhancing its public trust and awareness
- The NHRC needs to improve its public image and credibility, by being more transparent and accountable in its work.
- It needs to increase its public awareness and education activities, by using various media platforms and methods.
- It needs to encourage more public participation and engagement in its work, by inviting feedback, complaints and suggestions from the people.
- The NHRC of India has an important role to play in advancing human rights in the country, especially in light of the various challenges and threats that human rights defenders and activists face. It is therefore imperative that the NHRC strengthens its credibility and independence as a national human rights institution that can uphold the values of democracy, the rule of law and human dignity
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National Human Rights Commission: https://iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/national-human-rights-commission-nhrc-21
Q. What are the implications of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)'s questioning of the credibility and independence of the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC)? How does this affect the NHRC's role and mandate as a statutory body responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights in India? What are the possible ways forward for the NHRC to enhance its cooperation with other national and international human rights institutions and civil society organizations?