What National Rights Commission’s A rating means

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was this week accredited with the highly coveted international ‘A’ status.

The ‘A’ status comes after an evaluation conducted by a committee made up of 16 persons from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR), the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) representatives from the four regions of Africa, Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific, plus other human rights organisations.

National human rights institutions can be accredited with ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ status.

What is required?

To acquire this status, the national human rights institution must fully comply with the Paris Principles and must be admitted as a full member of Network of African National Human Rights Institutions.

The Paris Principles are a set of international standards which frame and guide the work of National Human Rights Institutions drafted at a workshop in Paris in 1991 and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.

In an exclusive interview with The New Times, the Chairperson of the NHRC, Madeleine Nirere, said that the Paris Principles require human rights organisations to, among others, be established by law, either by constitution or a law adopted by parliament.

“The other condition set by the Paris Principles is that the commission should readily receive citizens’ complaints, investigate them, and seek proper redress. We are also required to be autonomous, meaning that we must recruit our own staff and function independently, not with outside forces like the Government or private institutions,” she said.

Nirere also pointed out that the commission is also required to be allocated its funding directly from the national budget to ensure that it executes its mandate.

The commission must also report to parliament, not the executive because it’s in charge of oversight and monitoring.

What does ‘A’ status mean?

Nirere explained that ‘A’ status means that national institutions have the right to sit on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) and contribute, a privilege that members with ‘B’ and ‘C’ status do not have.

Nirere pointed out that Rwanda can now also vote on the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) level and can be part of UN working groups.

“This also means that we can vote at the ordinary and extra-ordinary sessions of the GANHRI Assembly and seek elective office of the network, both which are not enjoyed by members in other classes,” she said. 

Nirere explained that any country with an ‘A’ status can host the most important human rights sessions, pointing out that in 2020, Rwanda will host the biennial conference of Commonwealth National Human Rights Institutions.

‘B’ Status National institutions are those which strive to comply with the Paris Principles within a period of not more than two years. They are admitted as associate members of NANHRI and can take part in the General Assembly session but cannot vote or seek elective positions.

‘C’ Status National institutions are non-compliant with the Paris Principles. They are admitted as observer members of NANHRI. They too can take part in the General Assembly session but cannot vote or seek elective positions.

Assessment history

The Rwanda National Human Rights Commission was first assessed in 2001 and the commission was given ‘A’ status. In 2007, there was another evaluation and it retained the status but in 2012, the assessment saw the commission demoted to ‘B’ status with one year to make some changes.

At the time, the commission was asked to clearly define its source of budget, to clearly define how its staff are recruited, and how they are managed administratively.

“The assumption is that if the budget is not directly from the Government, the commission does not function as required in terms of monitoring and assessment,” she said.

By 2017, 117 national human rights institutions were assessed and 74 of them gained an ‘A’ status.

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