The Commissioner for Human Rights
The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote the awareness of and respect for human rights in 47 Council of Europe member states.
The initiative for setting up the institution was taken by the Council of Europe’s Heads of State and Government at their Second Summit in Strasbourg on 10-11 October 1997. On 7 May 1999, the Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution which instituted the office of the Commissioner and elaborated the Commissioner’s mandate. The first Commissioner, Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles, held the post between 15 October 1999 and 31 March 2006, while the current Commissioner, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, assumed the position on 1 April, 2006.
Mandate of the Commissioner for Human Rights
The fundamental objectives of the Commissioner for Human Rights are laid out in Resolution (99) 50 on the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. According to this resolution, the Commissioner is mandated to:
foster the effective observance of human rights, and assist member states in the implementation of Council of Europe human rights standards;
promote education in and awareness of human rights in Council of Europe member states;
identify possible shortcomings in the law and practice concerning human rights;
facilitate the activities of national ombudsperson institutions and other human rights structures;
and provide advice and information regarding the protection of human rights across the region.
The Commissioner’s work thus focuses on encouraging reform measures to achieve tangible improvement in the area of human rights promotion and protection. Being a non-judicial institution, the Commissioner’s Office cannot act upon individual complaints, but the Commissioner can draw conclusions and take wider initiatives on the basis of reliable information regarding human rights violations suffered by individuals.
The Commissioner co-operates with a broad range of international and national institutions as well as human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Office’s most important inter-governmental partners include the United Nations and its specialised offices, the European Union, and the OSCE. The Office also cooperates closely with leading human rights NGOs, universities and think-tanks.