AN ORGANISATION affiliated to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has deferred National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)’s re-accreditation until November 2017. The Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has cited appointment of political representatives as one of the reasons for it. It has referred to the NHRC’s failure in ensuring gender balance and pluralism in its staff, among other reasons for the deferment.
The GANHRI has noted that the panel’s selection process was “not sufficiently broad and transparent”. In its November 2016 report, it had criticised NHRC for its “practice of having police officers and former police officers involved in the investigation of human rights violations, particularly in circumstances where the alleged perpetrators are the police”. The GANHRI’s sub-committee on accreditation (SCA) decided that NHRC’s application be sent for further consideration to its second session of 2017 in view of the adverse findings and concerns.
The NHRC will be unable to represent India at UN Human Rights Council without the accreditation. Sources said that this may deprive the NHRC of A-status or certain voting rights but will not affect its functioning.
Accreditation confers international recognition and protection of the National Human Rights Institution besides its compliance with the Paris Principles. A-status accreditation (full compliance with Paris Principles) grants participation in the work and decision-making of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI)’s International Coordinating Committee (ICC) as well as the work of the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms. The UN Paris Principles provide the international benchmarks against which NHRIs can be accredited.
The Indian Express had in November 2016 reported that the government was set to appoint BJP vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna as NHRC member. The appointment of Khanna, who was a Rajya Sabha member until April 2016, is still under consideration.
“The NHRCI reports that the Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes is a Member of Parliament, and that this individual has voting rights in the full statutory commission. The SCA notes that the Paris Principles require an NHRI to be independent from government in its structure, composition, decision-making and method of operation,” the report said. “The SCA recognises that it is important to maintain effective working relationships, and where relevant, to consult with government. However, this should not be achieved through the participation of government representatives in the decision-making body of the NHRI.’’
The SCA pointed out that the conditions requiring the NHRC chair to be a retired Supreme Court Chief Justice and majority members come from senior judiciary “severely restricts the potential pool of candidates, particularly as it relates to the representation of women in the governing body of the NHRC”.
The NHRC refused to comment.