15 Oct 2020

ENNHRI issues Opinion on transitional arrangements in selection and appointment of a head of NHRI

At the request of the Office of the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights – Poland’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) –  ENNHRI has issued an Opinion on the international standards and regional practices applicable to the transitional period during the selection and appointment of the head of an NHRI.

International standards require that the independence, pluralism and effectiveness of an NHRI are respected at all times, including during the selection and appointment of a new head of NHRI and during any associated transitional period.

On this basis, the Opinion explains that:

  • The UN Paris Principles’ minimum standards of independence, effectiveness and ensuring the continuity of the NHRIs’ work apply at all times, including during the selection and appointment of a new head of NHRI and during the transitional period.
  • Relevant authorities must take steps to ensure that the selection and appointment of a new head of NHRI follows pre-established procedures, which are in line with the requirements of the UN Paris Principles.
  • In case relevant national authorities do not achieve timely selection and appointment in line with their national constitution or law, international standards continue to apply to ensure the continued independent and effective functioning of the NHRI.
  • The most common transitional arrangement in European countries for internationally-accredited NHRIs of the Ombuds-type is that the head of NHRI continues in office until a new individual has been selected, appointed, and/or taken oath, as specified in the legislative foundation of the NHRI.
  • The direct appointment of the head of the NHRI, without a clear, transparent, merit-based and participatory selection and appointment process, would severely impact on the independence, effectiveness, and public confidence in the NHRI.

NHRIs in compliance with the UN Paris Principles have been recognised by the UN General Assembly as an indicator of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 on “peace, justice and strong institutions”. They are fundamental actors for the exercise of checks and balances in a country and in ensuring respect for the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, as recognised by the European Commission, European Parliament, EU Council and Council of Europe.

The Poland chapter of the European Commission’s new report on the rule of law in the EU states that the Polish NHRI “plays an important role in defending the rule of law”. The NHRI’s work in promoting judicial independence standards, the rule of law and fundamental rights is acknowledged, as well as the increasingly challenging environment in which the NHRI is functioning.

Download the full Opinion