The Potential of National Human Rights Institutions To Serve as Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders

International Service for Human Rights – ISHR

This study examines existing national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in West African countries of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Togo with a view to determining the complementarity of the power, mandate and functioning of these NHRIs with the minimum principles of a protection mechanism as set out in Part IV of the Model Law for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders (Model Law).

The study concludes that while NHRIs have the potential to serve as protection mechanisms for the implementation of laws for the promotion and protection of the rights of human rights defenders (HRD Protection Laws), their ability to do so requires a clear mandate, as well as adequate capacity and resources. The study also concludes that the powers and functions contained in laws that establish and mandate the NHRIs in the selected countries are to an extent complementary to the elements set out in the Model Law. However, the study reveals that there are significant deficiencies that could limit the effectiveness of these NHRIs as a protection mechanism. These include the lack of a specific mandate for the NHRIs to consult with human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society organisations; lack of an existing prevention function and ability to provide effective protective measures; lack of enforcement powers; lack of a training mandate for personnel and staff; and lack of adequate resources.

Excerpts from the executive summary

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