A bronze statue of blind Lady Justice holding scales in front of a background featuring a bloom of light
28 Aug 2023

NHRIs recommend how to advance the rule of law in Europe

For the fourth year running, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in Europe have reported on the rule of law situation in their countries. They identify rule of law challenges and how ENNHRI and NHRIs are addressing them. Building on this, they recommend what state authorities and regional policymakers should do to counter rule of law deterioration. 

This year ENNHRI members from 40 European countries contributed to the joint report, providing comparative information and key recommendations. They focused on certain rule of law topics: state authorities’ and NHRIs’ follow-up to regional actors’ recommendations; and the implementation of European Courts’ judgments. In addition, ENNHRI’s report provides information on the progress in establishing NHRIs in European countries where no NHRI is yet in place.

What are the report’s main findings?

Strong and independent NHRIs in compliance with the UN Paris Principles are recognised as a rule of law indicator and as critical to a healthy national system of checks and balances. In the last year, there have been positive developments in securing the establishment of NHRIs in some countries, such as in the Czech Republic, Iceland and Switzerland. Yet, at the same time, there has been insufficient or no progress towards establishing a Paris Principles-compliant NHRI in other European countries, such as Italy and Malta.

Furthermore, ENNHRI’s reporting reveals numerous issues affecting the enabling space for NHRIs across Europe. This includes unsatisfactory cooperation from state authorities; states providing insufficient resources; shortcomings in the appointment and dismissal procedures of heads of institutions; and, in some cases, the harassment of NHRIs and the obstruction of their work.

Beyond this, NHRIs indicate that human rights defenders and civil society organisations operate in worsening conditions and in numerous countries are subject to attacks and harassment, including Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). NHRIs also point to the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the rule of law, democracy and human rights. While this is significant, its exact nature remains relatively unknown and insufficiently addressed. Furthermore, ENNHRI members raise concerns over the unsatisfactory level of the effective and timely implementation of European Courts’ judgments, hindered by structural, financial and political obstacles in-country.

What do NHRIs recommend to improve respect for the rule of law?

To address these pressing issues, ENNHRI recommends regional policymakers and national authorities to:

  • Take concrete steps to advance state authorities’ timely implementation of regional actors’ rule of law recommendations in cooperation with NHRIs;
  • Firmly support the establishment and enabling space for independent and effective NHRIs in full compliance with the UN Paris Principles;
  • Support, protect and empower human rights defenders and civil society space, which is fundamental for the rule of law;
  • Prioritise and support the implementation of European Courts’ judgments, in consultation with NHRIs and civil society;
  • Ensure a human rights-based approach to the use of AI, including through cooperation with NHRIs;
  • Address other persistent rule of law challenges, including structural human rights issues.

Dive into the report and its findings by visiting the interactive webpage. This features all country reports, as well as the executive summary and key recommendations.

Explore an online tool for NHRIs on executing European Court of Human Rights’ judgments and an online resource on human rights defenders. Read more on ENNHRI’s work on democracy and rule of law.