The Universal Periodic Review of India is due in 2022, the run-up to which has already started. This is an event where the National Human Rights Commission is most likely to get exposed.
NATIONAL Human Rights Institutions across the world are assessed by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (‘GANHRI’) Sub-Committee on Accreditation (‘SCA’) as per their compliance with the ‘Paris Principles’ periodically every five years. During its 2016 review session, the GANHRI SCA recommended the re-accreditation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) be put on hold and deferred till November 2017. This implied that until its re-accreditation, NHRC would not be able to represent India either in the United Nations’ (‘UN’) Human Rights Council or the UN General Assembly. In February 2018, the SCA accredited NHRC with ‘A’ status – giving India the right to participate fully in the activities of the UN.
In recent years, the NHRC has failed to intervene in vital human rights violations, including the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-National Register of Citizens issue, human rights violations in Kashmir, the deplorable condition of thousands of migrant labourers during the pandemic, the harassment of activists, and the rapid practice of hate politics against minorities. Thus, the deferment in the NHRC’s accreditation in 2017 and its subsequent accreditation in 2018 are worth revisiting to understand the workings and shortcomings of the NHRC.
Henri Tiphagne is the founder and executive director of Madurai-based human rights organisation People’s Watch, which works to protect human rights through monitoring human rights violations, ntervention, and building solidarity with people’s struggles for human rights. Having worked closely with the GANHRI SCA, Tiphagne shared his extensive knowledge and views with The Leaflet on the NHRC’s deferment of the accreditation in 2017, the eventual grant of ‘A’ status, and the desperate need for changes.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is the UN body of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)? Why is its accreditation valuable for the NHRC, and what does its deferment signify?
A: The GANHRI, formally known as the International Co-ordinating Committee (‘ICC’) of National Human Rights Institutions (‘NHRIs’) is a body that is formed by national human rights institutions themselves for ensuring standards for assisting and supporting themselves. It aims to ensure that, globally, the movement of national human rights institutions where countries that do not have national human rights institutions could be encouraged to constitute new ones. It is a body created by NHRIs, for NHRIs. India is proudly a founding member of ICC as well.
Globally, GANHRI is the only body that accredits entering and participating in the proceedings of the UN without the involvement of the UN’s Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (‘NGO’). For example, if there is an organization like the Lawyer’s Collective in India which is accredited to the UN, it obtains its accreditation through the NGO Committee to participate in the activities of the UN, that is, to participate in the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, other meetings of the treaty bodies, and so on.