GENEVA (28 JUNE 213) - The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today warned that recent appointments to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) compromise its independence and effectiveness and undermine its high standing with the public and international partners.
On 16 June, after more than 18 months’ delay, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appointed five new commissioners to the AIHRC and retained four other serving commissioners, including its chairperson Dr. Sima Samar.
“National human rights institutions are of crucial importance in monitoring and protecting human rights. Since 2002, the AIHRC, has played an absolutely critical, frontline role in defending human rights in Afghanistan,” the High Commissioner said.
“With the accelerating transition in Afghanistan, this vital national institution will assume an even greater importance. Now is not the time to weaken or undermine it, but to strengthen it and ensure its members are of the highest integrity and are committed to human rights,” she said.
The AIHRC, a permanent national body established under the Afghan Constitution, in its founding law under Article 11 requires that commissioners have a good reputation, demonstrate independence, enjoy popular trust and have a commitment to human rights.
Commissioners should also not belong to any political party during their term of office.
“Serious concerns have been raised whether the new commissioners meet these important eligibility standards,” the High Commissioner said.
“I am alarmed by statements of civil society leaders about the recent appointments. All Afghan people and civil society must have full confidence in the AIHRC if it is to function effectively.”
Pillay also stressed the importance of national human rights institutions complying with international standards called the “Paris Principles” which set out best practice for such institutions to function independently and effectively. The Principles require that that commissioners are widely recognized as independent, expert in human rights and ensure the pluralist representation of civil society and are chosen in a participatory, transparent and consultative selection process with the extensive involvement of civil society.
The High Commissioner observed that the AIHRC's compliance with the Paris Principles would be examined by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions in November 2013, as part of a regular five-year re-accreditation review. A change in AIHRC’s current “A” accreditation would have serious consequences for continued international donor support for both the AIHRC, and for the Government.
This is equally a key benchmark in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. This agreement makes continued international support for the Government of Afghanistan contingent on progress by the Government in meeting its commitments under the Framework.
Pillay urged the Government to reconsider the recent appointments and re-open the selection process in line with the requirements of the AIHRC law and the Paris Principles.
The High Commissioner also called on the Government to implement the International Coordinating Committee’s previous recommendations from 2007 and improve the AIHRC law to ensure its full compliance with the Paris Principles.
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