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Fact Sheet 11: Prioritising groups at risk of human rights violations

Graphic: NHRI official talks with rural women, Nepal

  1. Within their broad responsibility for all people, NHRIs must give priority to those whose rights have been violated and those whose rights are at particular risk of violation.
  2. NHRIs need to identify those groups in their country that are at particular risk of human rights violation and develop programs targeted to their needs.
  3. Promoting gender equality and the rights of women and girls should be a priority for every NHRI.
  4. NHRIs can adopt different mechanisms to support and respond to specific groups, including having a designated NHRI member, sub-commissions, staff units, focal points or advisory groups.

In every country, members of some groups are over-represented among both victims and those at risk of human rights violations.

An important part of each NHRI's work is to analyse and identify those groups in its country that are at risk.


National human rights institutions (NHRIs) have very broad mandate under the Paris Principles to promote and protect the rights of all people in the community.

Within this broad responsibility, however, NHRIs should give particular concern to those groups of people whose rights have been violated and those whose rights are at particular risk of violation.

Victims – those who have suffered harm individually or collectively – have the right to a remedy to which they have "equal and effective access". [1]

The different elements of remedy to which victims are entitled include "restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition". [2]

NHRIs should give attention to each aspect of remedy identified in international law.

In working with groups at risk, NHRIs can offer their services as educators and mediators, to build greater understanding of human rights principles and develop an alternative basis for community well-being and inter-communal peace.


[1] Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, Article 11. See also International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 2(3).

[2] Ibid, Article 18.


Graphic: Inmate sits on the floor in prison corridor


IDENTIFYING GROUPS AT RISK

In every country, members of some groups are over-represented among both victims and those at risk of human rights violations.

An important part of each NHRI's work is to analyse and identify those groups in its country that are at risk. It will generally find them among the poorest, the most marginalised and the least powerful people in the country.

NHRIs should ensure that their work in promoting and protecting human rights is targeted specifically to them.

Some groups are identified internationally as being particularly at risk, including:


Graphic: Community consultation with women, Samoa


FOCUSING ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND GIRLS

International human rights law makes clear that all human rights apply equally to women and girls and that certain rights, such as political or economic rights, cannot be reserved solely for men or otherwise protected and respected differently for women.

However, women are vulnerable to human rights violations in ways that reflect the fact they are women and the structures and expectations that are built into the idea of what it is to be 'female'.

Entrenched roles, attitudes and stereotypes mean that many experience poverty, discrimination and unequal access to resources, health services and the education and justice systems.

Women and girls face other serious violations of their human rights, such as gender-based violence, harassment, human trafficking and harmful traditional practices.

Some women, because they have a disability or are indigenous or are a migrant, face even greater barriers to equality.

NHRIs should make promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls a priority within their institutions. They can do this by establishing specialised programs and approaches, as well as integrating – or 'mainstreaming' – a focus on gender into all aspects of their work. [1]



[1] See Chapter 12, Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Women and Girls: A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions (APF, 2014)


Graphic: Indigenous people collaborating with the NHRI, Philippines


ESTABLISHING EFFECTIVE NHRI APPROACHES

In seeking to promote and protect the rights of groups of persons at particular risk of human rights violations, NHRIs need to develop comprehensive, integrated strategies. This includes working with other organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, to bolster their capacity and maximise their impact.

NHRIs should establish internal arrangements that ensure they have the expertise, knowledge and capacity to work cooperatively and strategically with the groups they have prioritised. This can include:

  • Designating an NHRI member with specific responsibility for a particular group or groups.
  • Establishing a sub-commission of NHRI members and outside experts to act on the NHRI's behalf in relation to the specific group
  • Forming a specialist staff unit, sometimes headed by a member of the NHRI, to take responsibility for the promoting and protecting the rights of particular groups.
  • Appointing a staff member, who may have lived experience of the issues, to be a focal point and act as principal adviser to the NHRI on the human rights issues facing the group
  • Founding an advisory group of experts to provide advice to NHRI members and staff on the issues and assist them establish partnerships with the group
  • Hosting conferences and seminars that provide structured opportunities for experts to present their views and the results of their research, as well for discussion and exchange.

GOOD PRACTICE

An NHRI should be aware of the particular groups within its society that are especially vulnerable to human rights violations, either through their experiences of human rights violations or their particular risks of human rights violation.

The NHRI should then consciously give priority to those groups – and especially women and girls – in its work and plan strategically to address the human rights issues that most affect those groups.



Image credits

  1. NHRI official talks with rural women, Nepal - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
  2. Inmate sits on the floor in prison corridor - APF
  3. Community consultation with women, Samoa - Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa
  4. Indigenous people collaborating with the NHRI, Philippines - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines