Twenty Seconds on Appointment of Human Rights Commissioners

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Appointment of Human Rights Commissioners

  1. Human Rights Commissioners are currently appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. Recent appointments have been controversial, undermining both the ability of these Commissioners to fulfull their responsibilities and the credibility of the Commission itself. The appointment process for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) like the Human Rights Commission should aim to appoint independent-minded Commissioners as the relevant international standards (the Paris Principles) make clear. There are some commendable features of the current process, including wide notification of vacancies and interviews by a panel of senior public servants who make a recommendation to the Minister for appointment – although the practice of having a representative of civil society on the three-person panel should be reinstated.
  1. Appointments to the majority of NHRIs around the world and in the Asia Pacific region in particular involve not just the Executive but also Parliament, via a range of mechanisms. In the Maldives, for example, a Parliamentary Committee scrutinises proposals by the President and recommends appointments. In India and Bangladesh, an Appointments’ Committee includes the Speaker and the Opposition. In Fiji, the President is required by law to consult with the Leader of the Opposition before making an appointment. All these processes contribute to more transparency and a broader scrutiny of the skills, qualifications and experience of the candidates. One option would be to involve a Human Rights Select Committee of Parliament.
  1. Recommendation:
  • Establish a Human Rights Commissioner appointment process that provides for the involvement of Parliament, possibly as one responsibility of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Human Rights, or at least consultation with the Parliamentary Opposition

[1] Paris Principles see United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/48/134