ENNHRI welcomes new law adopted on National Human Rights Institution in Belgium

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On 25 April 2019, the Belgian Parliament adopted a law on the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in Belgium. With the law, the Belgian government intends to establish a first step for an NHRI in full compliance with the Paris Principles, a call that has been made for many years by national and international actors, including ENNHRI. The intention is to involve the Belgian Regions and the Communities after the elections of May to adopt a cooperation agreement which must lead to an interfederal institution.

Currently, the new Belgian institution has been mandated to address the promotion and protection of human rights in Belgium at the federal level, and will have to flesh out its role within a rather complex institutional framework. As the new law emphasises, central to the work of the new institution will be the facilitation of dialogue and cooperation with relevant existing institutions.

ENNHRI, for example, has currently three Belgian member institutions that each have specific mandates related to human rights: UNIA is the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities (B-status NHRI), Myria is the Federal Migration Centre (with whom Unia cooperates on the basis of a protocol submitted in the accreditation process), while the third Belgian ENNHRI member is the Combat Poverty, Insecurity and Social Exclusion Service.

Through its mandate to promote and protect human rights, the new institution will be able to further create a holistic approach to human rights in Belgium, and to fill gaps in the current promotion and protection framework.

As flagged by Amnesty International, for example, the future Belgian institution can play an important role concerning the right to freedom of expression. At the same time, stakeholders such as Amnesty International regret the limitation of the mandate of the new institution to federal competences, which can prevent the future institution to address some important issues, such as the integration of human rights in education.

Together with other human rights actors, ENNHRI welcomes the important step taken by the Belgian parliament through the adoption of the law and stands ready to further provide advice on compliance with the Paris Principles of the future institution.

For more information on ENNHRI support on NHRI establishment and accreditation contact Katrien Meuwissen, Senior Human Rights Officer (Accreditation).

» Learn about the support provided by ENNHRI on accreditation of NHRIs