The Federal Institute for Human Rights (FIRM/IFDH) strives for a society where everyone’s human rights are respected equally. It is an independent institution which protects and promotes human rights in Belgium. It was created by the Organic Law of 12 May 2019 to establish a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles.


The law provides FIRM/IFDH with a federal, residual mandate. This means that the institute is competent for matters that are decided at the federal level. The law offers the perspective of interfederalisation. This means that, in the future, FIRM/IFDH would also be able to work (alone or with others) on matters that fall under the competence of the communities and regions.

In addition, FIRM/IFDH has a residual mandate, which means that it is competent for all matters relating to the protection of human rights for which no other independent public body in Belgium (e.g. Unia, Myria or the Combat Poverty, Insecurity and Social Exclusion Service) is competent. It can also work on other issues in cooperation with those other independent public bodies. FIRM/IFDH does not handle individual complaints.


The missions of FIRM/IFDH were also defined by the law.

  • Writing advices, recommendations and reports for the federal government, the federal chambers and other government institution on all matters related to the promotion and protection of human rights
  • Promoting the harmonisation of legislation, regulations and practices with international human rights instruments to which Belgium is a party
  • Monitoring the implementation of international obligations by the Belgian authorities
  • Encouraging the ratification of or accession to new international human rights instruments
  • Cooperating with the United Nations bodies and the regional organisations for human rights
  • Cooperating with existing bodies and civil society in Belgium
  • Promoting fundamental rights

Governing board

The 12 members of the Governing Board were appointed by a vote in Parliament. Ms. Eva Brems and Mr. Olivier De Schutter are Chair and Vice-Chair.

More information

Advices, reports and other information can be found on the website and social media (Twitter and LinkedIn).

Head of institution

Martien Schotsmans



Leuvenseweg 48, 1000, Brussels

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Core functions

  • Monitoring
  • Publishing research, recommendations, opinions
  • Reporting to international and regional human rights mechanisms
  • Advising federal government, Federal Chambers and other public authority
  • Supporting the work of human rights defenders
  • Cooperation with civil society organisations
  • Human rights education and training
  • Awareness raising activities