United Nations Press Release
Commission on Human Rights
19 April 2001
Evening and Night
A series of national institutions for human rights summarized their functions and accomplishments as the Commission on Human Rights carried on tonight with its discussion of the effective functioning of mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights.
The commissions and agencies described varying histories and levels of influence and made frequent reference to the so-called “Paris Principles” which set basic minimum standards — including independence of other Government agencies — for the effective operation of national human rights bodies. Several, including that of Northern Ireland, said they were dissatisfied with the powers granted them and had either undergone reform or were seeking greater authorization to investigate allegations of human-rights abuses and to gather information from State sources. Almost all the institutions said they carried out educational, training and public-information activities. A number referred to efforts to combat racism and alleviate poverty.
Countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also addressed matters related to effective functioning of human rights mechanisms as the meeting continued until 11:30 p.m., with many national delegations calling for less duplication and overlap in the operations of human rights treaty bodies, and for more streamlined ways for countries to submit reports to those bodies.
The following NGOs offered statements: International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (joint statement); Friends World Committee for Consultation (joint statement); Centre for Economic and Social Rights (joint statement); Human Rights Watch; Asian Legal Resource Centre; Aliran Kesedarian Negara National Consciousness; South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; International Human Rights Law Group; and Association for World Education.
PARINYA BOONRIDRERTHAIKUL, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said the increasing number of national human rights commissions in Asia was a positive development despite the many disappointments they had caused thus far. The national human rights commissions of Thailand, for example, had attracted a great deal of attention because of its clear mandate and promised independence. However, the actual selection procedure had been disappointing as only some of the members had been selected and thus the official functioning of that body had not yet begun.
The problem common to all commissions related to the matter of investigating human rights violations. The lack of a proper understanding of that function remained an obstacle to their capacity to ensure an effective remedy for violations. A mandate of national human rights commissions that was rarely exercised was the power to make recommendations to Governments regarding measures which should be taken to ensure that national laws and administrative practices were in accordance with international human rights norms.