Parliaments key actors in the protection of human rights

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recent developments highlight the central role that Parliaments must play in the protection and promotion of human rights. On 23 February 2012, a group of experts from Parliaments, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and universities from 10 different countries adopted the Belgrade principles on the relationship between national human rights institutions and parliaments.

These principles provide a welcome clarification on the fundamental role that Parliaments must play to ensure the independence and efficiency of NHRIs, enshrined in the Paris Principles. Of particular interest for the prevention of torture, section III of the principles addresses cooperation between parliaments and NHRIs in relation to legislation. Section IV provides useful guidance on cooperation between NHRIs and parliaments in relation to International human rights mechanisms.

On 26 April, the APT will address the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced persons during the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Parliamentarian visits to detention centres and the role they can play to protect the rights of migrants.

Engagement with Parliamentarians on the prevention of torture has been a long term feature of APTs work. In 2006, the APT convened jointly with the IPU and the International Commission of Jurists a major conference for members of parliamentary human rights bodies to examine their role in promoting and protecting human rights.

During a side event convened by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in the context of the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, the APT also highlighted the contributions that Parliaments can make in the Universal Periodic Review.  In countries such as Benin, Lebanon, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, Togo, or Uganda, Parliamentarians have played important roles in acting on recommendations from the Council by moving torture prevention forward, APT Secretary General Mark Thomson said during the event.