ENNHRI Statement of
Support for Poland’s Commissioner for Human Rights
Poland’s Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent and respected National
Human Rights Institution (NHRI), fully compliant with the UN Paris Principles.[i] NHRIs are recognised by the UN, the OSCE, the
Council of Europe and the EU as key actors in the national, regional and
international human rights framework.[ii]
As an A-status NHRI, the Commissioner for Human Rights is accredited as being independent, impartial,
pluralistic and accountable in its work to promote and protect human rights in
Poland. It is a valued member of ENNHRI, the European Network of National Human
Further to its Joint statement of March 2016, and the report of the International
Ombudsman Institute’s fact finding mission in July 2016,[iii] ENNHRI expresses its
deep concern that recent developments in Poland could negatively impact on the
Commissioner for Human Rights’ vital role to promote and protect human rights,
further to the UN Paris Principles and the Polish Constitution. In particular,
we draw the Polish authorities’ attention to the following requirements that
could be compromised by recent actions.
First, the UN Paris Principles place independence as
the central and fundamental requirement for NHRIs to carry out their mandate
effectively. One vital component to fulfil this condition is for NHRIs to have adequate state funding, “in order to be
independent of the Government and not be subject to financial control which
might affect its independence.”[iv] In this regard, ENNHRI
shares the concerns of various international bodies, such as the Council of
Europe Commissioner for Human Rights[v] and UN treaty bodies.[vi] ENNHRI calls for prompt
action to ensure the Commissioner for Human Rights has adequate funding to
carry out its mandate fully in line with the UN Paris Principles, as well as its
related mandates, such as National Preventative Mechanism[vii] and the independent
monitoring mechanism for the rights of persons with disabilities.[viii]
NHRIs’ mandate “includes all rights set out in international, regional and
domestic instruments.”[ix] ENNHRI is concerned about
actions taken against the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights,[x] in reaction to its work in
the field of protection and promotion of rights of LGBTI persons in line with
its mandate, and based on binding international human rights standards,
including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Equality Directives.[xi]
Thirdly, the UN Paris Principles require a “stable
mandate for the members of the national institution, without which there can be
no real independence… The grounds for dismissal must be clearly defined and
appropriately confined to only those actions which impact adversely on the
capacity of the member to fulfil their mandate.”[xii] ENNHRI underlines the
importance of respecting the Commissioner for Human Rights’ security of tenure
and authority to promote and protect human rights, as set out in its mandate
and the UN Paris Principles.
Finally, to comply with the UN Paris Principles, it
is “strongly recommended that provisions [are] included in national law to
protect legal liability of members of the NHRI’s decision making body for the
actions and decisions that are undertaken in good faith in their official
capacity. Such functional immunity
reinforces the independence
of a [NHRI],
promotes the security of
tenure of its
decision-making body, and its
ability to engage in critical analysis and commentary on human rights issues.”[xiii] ENNHRI remains concerned by recent developments which facilitated
broadly lifting the immunity of the Commissioner for Human Rights and, as with
the OSCE-ODIHR Opinion, calls for relevant legislation to ensure that
appropriate immunity provisions are in place, in line with the UN Paris
ENNHRI strongly supports the Commissioner for Human
Rights in its work to promote and protect human rights in Poland. ENNHRI urges
all relevant actors to take prompt action to ensure that the Commissioner for
Human Rights has sufficient funding and independence to carry out its mandate in
line with the UN Paris Principles.
Adopted by ENNHRI, the European Network of National Human Rights
Institutions, on the occasion of its General Assembly on 28 October 2016 in
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Europe Regional Office
Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions
International Ombudsman Institute
European Network of Equality Bodies
Download the full statement
[i] Principles relating to the Status of National
Institutions, adopted by General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993.
[iv] UN Paris Principles, Composition and guarantees of
independence and pluralism (2), 1993. See also Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe, AS/Ega (2014)11.
[v] Report by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights, following his visit to Poland, from 9 to 12 February 2016.
[vi] UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination
against Women, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and UN
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
[vii] Article 25,
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (see also G.O. 2.9).
[viii] Article 33(2) Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities (see also G.O. 2.9).
[ix] General Observations of the Sub-Committee on
Accreditation, 2013 (G.O.), 1.2 Human rights mandate.
[x] See IOI Report on Fact Finding Mission, at point 3
[xi] Such as Equality Framework Directive 2000/78/EC.
[xii] G.O. 2.1 Guarantee of tenure for members of the NHRI
[xiii] G.O. 1.2 Human rights mandate.