KT Exclusive: How UAE's independent institution will protect human rights
The NHRI will be responsible for human rights issues in the UAE, such as the rights of women, children and workers.
The UAE National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), formed in accordance with the Paris Principles, will work to promote and protect human rights in the country, a top official said.
Saeed Rashed Al Hebsi, Director of the Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), said that the competence, composition, responsibilities and independence of the NHRI, according to the draft law approved by the Federal National Council (FNC), are in line with the Paris Principles of 1993, which were adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly with Resolution 48/134. The Paris Principles relate to the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.
The FNC discussed and approved the draft law on the establishment of the NHRI, said Al Hebsi, who noted that the new body would ensure that rights enshrined within the UAE Constitution are always protected.
“The NHRI will be responsible for human rights issues in the UAE, such as the rights of women, children and workers. The institution will also contribute to the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. As part of its mandate, the institution will share recommendations on human rights issues with ministries and other UAE-based entities and follow up at a later stage on this progress,” Al Hebsi told Khaleej Times during an interview at his office in the ministry.
According to UAE law, he clarified, the NHRI is distinct from government bodies such as the National Human Rights Committee, which was established at the end of 2019 under the chairmanship of the MoFAIC.
“The institution will be an independent mechanism and not physically linked to government authorities or the Cabinet. It aims to protect and develop human rights in cooperation with the National Human Rights Committee and concerned entities in the UAE.”
The formation of the draft law, Al Hebsi added, began in 2019 with the creation of a temporary committee by the UAE Cabinet, led by the MoFAIC and comprising other ministries and entities.
“We reviewed many laws and institutional frameworks by other countries both in the region and globally. We also received amendments and comments from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.”
The temporary committee drafted the law, which was then referred to the UAE Cabinet and discussed in detail by the FNC. Additionally, meetings were held with the Defence, Interior, and Foreign Affairs Committee of the FNC. The draft law was approved by the FNC on Tuesday night and will now be sent to the Cabinet for approval and issuance of the law.
The NHRI is expected to begin operating at its new headquarters in Abu Dhabi, with the possibility of opening branches in other emirates. The independent institution will manage its own budget.
Distinguished individuals from civil society, academia, non-governmental organisations, and other sectors will comprise membership of the NHRI.
“There are several conditions and criteria for membership to join the institution. Gender balance will be ensured,” Al Hebsi noted.
Al Hebsi, a seasoned diplomat with years of UN field experience in New York and Geneva, said that globally, 117 institutions come under the umbrella of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). The UAE aims for the NHRI to obtain an ‘A’ rating in the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions for its compliance with the Paris Principles.
The NHRI will also organise workshops, events, conferences, and initiatives to enhance awareness on human rights.
“I am very pleased that we have established this mechanism, which will contribute to enhancing human rights in the UAE through partnership with other entities. This will also strengthen the UAE’s position on the regional and international levels,” Al Hebsi concluded.
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