07 Dec 2022

Council of Europe Guidelines on preventing and remedying European Convention on Human Rights violations promote greater role for NHRIs

In this guest article, Dr Simona Drenik Bavdek, Counsellor to the Ombudsman and Assistant Head of the Center for Human Rights at the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia, discusses the Council of Europe’s recent guidelines on preventing and remedying violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention).

I very much welcome the Committee of Ministers’ adoption of the guidelines. This represents an important step to further promote national implementation of the Convention in all 46 Council of Europe Member States. Indeed, the Guidelines are much more than merely soft law, they can also assist Member States to comply with their own international obligations to respect the Convention.

From October 2020 to March 2022, I had the privilege of representing ENNHRI as an observer in the drafting group for the Guidelines (DH-SYSC-V). We highlighted the need to recognise and integrate existing international standards on National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) – including the Council of Europe Recommendations CM/Rec(2021)1 and CM/Rec(2019)6 – into the new Guidelines. We also advocated for building on Member States’ good practices on implementing the Convention and enforcing European Court of Human Rights’ judgements at national level.

I am satisfied, as a representative of both ENNHRI and the Slovenian NHRI, that the Guidelines strengthen the role of both NHRIs and civil society organisations. This was neither self-evident nor easy to achieve, however, as certain delegations expressed doubts about the need and usefulness of fostering stakeholder participation in the implementation process.

Seven of the 17 guidelines recognise the specific role of NHRIs, with Guideline 7 in particular crucial. Entitled “strengthening the role of NHRIs, civil society organisations and other key bodies”, it gives authorities clear direction on how they can cooperate with various stakeholders.

Beyond this, the Guidelines set out that Member States should encourage greater NHRI involvement in:

  • Raising awareness of and conducting training on the Convention system (Guideline 2);
  • Improving verification of the compliance of draft laws and administrative practices with the Convention (Guideline 5);
  • Promoting experience sharing (Guideline 8);
  • Strengthening co-ordination structures (Guideline 13);
  • Improving the publication and dissemination of information on the execution of judgments of ECHR Court (Guideline 14); and
  • Fostering stakeholder participation in the execution of judgments process (Guideline 17).

We are all in the same boat as we strive to make human rights a reality for all. It is crucial that we, as NHRIs, promote these Guidelines at the national level. In doing so, we can help ensure that authorities take concrete steps to prevent and remedy violations of the Convention – not just in theory, but in practice.