ENNHRI underlines the role of NHRIs in contributing to fundamental rights and rule of law at Council of the EU conference

Lora Vidović speaking at the conference (10 September 2019 - Helsinki, Finland)

On 10 September, ENNHRI’s Board member and Ombudswoman of Croatia, Lora Vidović, spoke at a conference held by the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU in Helsinki, focused on the interaction between democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe. In her speech, she highlighted the role that National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) play in promoting and protecting the right to participation in political and public life.

The conference brought together Member State experts and representatives of EU institutions and agencies, civil society organisations and Eastern Partnership and Western Balkans country representatives to discuss the values and principles that form the foundation of the EU – democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights – and ways to safeguard the resilience of societies in a changing European landscape.

In a panel on the right to participate in political and public affairs, Lora Vidović underlined the right to participation as a precondition for the realisation of all other rights and the importance of ensuring a safe and enabling environment. ‘By ensuring the right to participation,’ she said, ‘a safe, enabling space is being built where there is possibility of free debate, even in cases of disagreement with decisions made by the State’.

She elaborated on how NHRIs contribute to the advancement of this right, including through complaints handling, human rights education and providing fact-based information and advice to governments. In particular, she discussed the importance of reaching unheard or hard-to-reach groups. For example, she mentioned that being able to vote in elections is not always a reality for all, noting ENNHRI’s recent submission to the European Court of Human Rights on the right to vote for individuals under legal guardianship or deprived of their legal capacity.

This role of NHRIs goes hand in hand with their contribution in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, particularly SDG 16 on peaceful, just and inclusive societies. NHRIs in compliance with the UN Paris Principles are a human rights indicator under SDG 16 and their work towards providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions is recognised.

Lora Vidović emphasised that NHRIs are trusted counterparts in regional and global processes, such as those of the European Parliament and European Commission, and that they contribute to a stronger EU rule of law framework, including the protection and promotion of fundamental rights.

Learn more:

» ENNHRI’s submission to the European Commission on the contribution of NHRIs to rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in the EU
» Council of Europe adopts Recommendation on the need to protect and promote civil society space, recognising role of NHRIs
» ENNHRI’s Regional Action Plan to promote and protect Human Rights Defenders
» ENNHRI’s third-party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights on right to vote for persons with disabilities