NHRI engagement with civil society and other national stakeholders
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NHRIs are credited for being ‘bridge-builders’ between civil society and the State. NHRIs may cooperate with NGOs and other stakeholders to promote the effective implementation of the Convention and the ECtHR’s judgments. Such a cooperation can bring together the expertise of the various actors and increase capacity and awareness of the importance of, and ways to work on, ECHR implementation.
Armenia – Joint discussions with NGOs
As the Human Rights Defender of Armenia has a broad mandate, collaboration with other organizations, including NGOs, is a necessity. Pursuant to the Constitutional Law of Armenia, the Human Rights defender has been granted the powers to create adjunct-councils. These adjunct-councils can be organised on different themes and fields and NGOs as well as independent actors can participate. As such, these adjunct-councils provide good grounds for discussions. The agenda for the Council is not just provided by the Human Rights Defender – also NGOs can offer potentially interesting aspects to discuss. Overall, when building the agenda for the meeting, pending judgments delivered against Armenia that can be of common interest are considered. Important to note is that also government authorities can be invited to take part in the councils.
Recently it held an adjunct-council meeting on the topic of health care in penitentiary institutions. For a number of years, both NGOs and the Human Rights Defender have been concerned about health care in prison facilities in Armenia. Accordingly, this topic was selected for a Council meeting and NGOs present shared their experiences and knowledge with the Human Rights Defender. This resulted in a joint submission to the Committee of Ministers under Rule 9(2) in the group of cases of Poghosyan v Armenia, which concerned the violations of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to the unjustified limitations of the right to liberty. As the Communication states, the joint Rule 9(2) submission presents ‘one of the several forms of cooperation of national human rights institutions and national civil society organizations with the Council of Europe’ (see ‘use outcomes of the national level to inform international advocacy’ for more information on this).
The Human Rights Defenders’ Office has good experiences working together with NGOs. In particular in relation to the writing of the joint submission, NGO input was valued as they brought their own experience and knowledge and it increased capacity and awareness of the judgment execution process. Further, they considered that by submitting the Communication together, they were able to enhance the credibility of the information provided therein. Finally, by working together on the submission, they were able to create a sustainable cooperation effort with these civil society organisations.
Croatia – Strong and permanent cooperation with civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders
The Croatian Ombudswoman cooperates on a permanent basis with a number of national civil society organisations that work on ECtHR judgment implementation. In addition, they consult with, and include input from, various civil society organisations working on combating discrimination and human rights protection in the Annual Report of the Ombudswoman.
The Ombudswoman also cooperates with other national stakeholders through more formalised means. Since 2012, the ombudswoman cooperates with a number of civil society organisations – members of the Anti-Discrimination Contact Points Network – to further strengthen the fight against discrimination and promote equal treatment in Croatia. Finally, in the advisory body ‘the Ombudswoman’s Council for Human Rights’, the Ombudswoman, civil society, academics and the media (appointed by the Ombudswoman for a period of four years) work together to consider and propose strategic guidelines to the Ombudswoman to further promote human rights.
Greece – Two large-scale participation hearings of national stakeholders
The Greek Commission on Human Rights initiated two large-scale participation hearings of national stakeholders in relation to the execution of a specific ECtHR judgment: Chowdury v Greece in which the Court found violations on account of forced labour and trafficking in the agricultural sector. The hearings were held in order to assess the progress that had been made by the Greek State in implementing this case. Participants in this hearing were diverse and included State authorities and those domestic stakeholders focused on ending human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation.
Those attending were asked to send written statements, sometimes answering specific questions regarding updates, data or other statistics, ahead of the hearing. The hearings resulted in conclusions and recommendations that were provided to the State authorities, as well as roadmap on how to secure implementation. Further, the outcomes were transformed into a Rule 9(2) Communication (see ‘use outcomes of the national level to inform international advocacy’ for more information on this).
Roadmap for engagement
Image source: ENNHRI Guidance for National Human Rights Institutions to support implementation of Judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.