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ANNI: Statement on NHRIs and UN Human Right Mechanisms

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1st Biennial Conference of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions

7‐8 September 2011, Bangkok, Thailand

1. This statement is the outcome of the ANNI Regional Conference on the Engagement with the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) on 5-6 September 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand which was held parallel to the 1st Biennial Conference of the APF. The Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) welcomes the opportunity to address this statement at the APF Conference.

2. ANNI welcomes the growing recognition of the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) which, during its 13th regular session (1-26 March 2010),adopted the resolution A/HRC/RES/13/13 on the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs), in which the HRC recognized NHRIs as HRDs and encouraged States to reinforce the capacity and mandate of NHRIs to allow them to fulfill their role as HRDs effectively and in compliance with the Paris Principles. In addition,the HRC adopted the outcome of the review of its work and functioning (A/HRC/RES/16/21) during its 16th regular session (28 February-25 March 2011), which set out a range of new opportunities for NHRIs accredited with ‘A’ status by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC-NHRIs) to share their independent expertise in the work of the HRC . Furthermore, during its 17th regular session (30 May-17 June 2011), the HRC adopted the resolution A/HRC/RES/17/9 on‘national Institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights’ which re‐affirmed the significant role of NHRIs in the promotion and protection of human rights at the national level.

3. As outlined in the ANNI’s 2011 Annual Report, several NHRIs in the Asian region engaged with UN human rights mechanisms, particularly in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. For example, the NHRC of Nepal submitted, with two other national institutions, a joint stakeholders report to the UPR Working Group on Nepal highlighting major human rights issues in the country. Members of the NHRC of Nepal also participated in the plenary session of UPR on Nepal in January 2011, which came up with several recommendations to the government for reinforcing the NHRC, implementing recommendations by the NHRC and providing it with sufficient resources, independence and autonomy.

4. The Malaysian NHRI, SUHAKAM, engaged in the UPR process of Malaysia in 2009 by submitting its stakeholders report to the UPR Working Group. SUHAKAM also followed up to the UPR outcomes with other relevant stakeholders through a number of meetings and have monitored the implementation of theUPR recommendations by government agencies with the assistance of an Inter-Working Group Committee.

5. Finally, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has played a positive role in the UPR of its country in 2010. It submitted not only a comprehensive and balanced stakeholders report to the UPR Working Group, but also took initiatives to bring together and organize civil society organisations from across the country to submit a stakeholders report.

6. The engagement of NHRIs in the preparation and follow‐up of the UPR is increasingly vital. As such, NHRIs must play a key role in encouraging their governments to submit mid-term assessment reports on the implementing status of UPR recommendations.

7. ANNI believes that active engagement of independent NHRIs with UN human rights mechanisms will benefit work in their own countries.

8. Accordingly, ANNI proposes the following recommendations to NHRIs:

i. ANNI urges NHRIs to play a significant and constructive role in the functioning of the HRC, including its Special Procedures and UPR mechanism. It is paramount for NHRIs to be an independent voice from the government and make positive contributions to the deliberation of the HRC;

ii. ANNI urges NHRIs to encourage States to invite Special Procedures mandate holders and to extend full support and cooperation during and after their visits, following all the points of interaction identified in the discussion paper of the OHCHR of June 2007 while keeping civil society organisations closely engaged as well;

iii. ANNI urges the Islamic Human Rights Commission in Iran to fully cooperate with Dr. Ahmed Shaheed,the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, who officially commenced his duties on 1 August 2011. Though the government of Iran has strongly opposed the resolution creating this new Special Procedures mandate and has denied access of the Special Rapporteur to the country, the Islamic Human Rights Commission in Iran is encouraged to find creative means of engaging with this mandate;

iv. ANNI urges NHRIs to play a bridging role between their countries and the UN human rights mechanisms. As NHRIs participate in increasing opportunities at the UN level, their enhanced capacity will further reinforce their work at the national level. Furthermore, NHRIs must play a key role in ensuring the implementation of the recommendations and decisions by the UN human rights mechanisms on the ground including by encouraging meaningful consultation between civil society and government agencies;

v. ANNI urges NHRIs to consult and cooperate broadly with civil society organisations, and on specific issues with organisations possessing relevant expertise, in all stages of the UPR process;

vi. ANNI urges NHRIs to ensure that their governments make voluntary pledges and commitments that are concrete, time-bound and meaningful if and when they make a bid for HRC membership; and if and when they succeed in being elected to the HRC, that they are periodically and publicly engaged along with civil society in reminding them of their pledges and commitments made at the time of elections.