The Australian Human Rights Commission’s status as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) has been reviewed by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) – the international standards body.
This review, conducted every five years, considers whether the Commission continues to meet the UN Principles on National Institutions (commonly known as the Paris Principles), which establish whether national human rights commissions operate with the necessary level of institutional independence to ensure the effective promotion and protection of human rights.
The Commission faced three possible outcomes through this review: reaccreditation as an A-status institution; downgrade to a B-status institution; or deferral of reaccreditation for a period of time in order for serious matters of compliance to be addressed.
The Australian Human Rights Commission was not reaccredited as an A-status national human rights institution. Its reaccreditation was deferred.
The key concern of the Committee that led to the deferral was the selection and appointment process for Commissioners. This latest report of 29 March 2022 reflects feedback from the Committee over a 10-year period about Australia’s appointment processes, with three appointments in this timeframe that did not meet the accreditation requirements.
The Australian Government now has approximately 15 months to address this matter before a final decision on the Commission’s status is taken by the Committee in October 2023. The Committee has indicated that the Commission is at risk of being downgraded to a B-status NHRI if this issue is not sufficiently addressed within this timeframe.
For 30 years the Australian Government has played a key role in promoting the establishment of national human rights institutions across the globe, including by leading resolutions in the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council on the importance of such institutions. This is the first time the Commission has been at risk of losing its A-status as an NHRI since the establishment of international standards for National Human Rights Institutions in 1993.
The Commission’s President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, has shared with the Government the Commission’s concerns over the implications of the deferral and potential risks to the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia, as well as Australia’s reputation internationally.
The Commission continues to advocate for the necessary policy and legislative changes to ensure Commissioner appointments are publicly advertised and subject to an open, transparent and merit-based process, in line with our international commitments. The Commission will continue to work with the Government, the Parliament and civil society to secure a successful re-accreditation as an A-status NHRI in 2023.