Commissioner for Human Rights

The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent and impartial non-judicial institution established in 1999 by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe , to promote awareness and respect for human rights in the 47 member states. The activities of this institution focus on the major, closely related areas:

  • country visits and dialogue with national authorities and civil society;
  • thematic studies and advice on systematic human rights work;
  • awareness-raising activities.

The current Commissioner is Nils Muižnieks , a Latvian-American, who began his six-year term on April 1, 2012 (succeeding Álvaro Gil-Robles and Thomas Hammarberg ).

Election by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe , the Commissioner seeks to engage in permanent dialogue with member states, and promotes the development of national human rights structures. The Commissioner conducts visits to each member state, and issues reports, opinions and recommendations to governments.

The Commissioner aussi Co-Operates with a broad ranks of partners, Including the European Union , the United Nations and Its Specialized offices, as well as leading human rights NGOs , universities and think tanks .


The mandate of the Commissioner is based on the resolution (99) 50 of the Council of Europe (adopted on May 7, 1999). [1] It includes the following points:

* 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 the Council of Europe member states;
  • possible shortcomings in the law and practice concerning human rights;
  • facilitates the activities of national ombudsperson institutions and other human rights structures; and
  • provide advice and information regarding the protection of human rights in the region. [2]

The member states are obliged to „facilitate the Commissioner’s contacts, in the context of the Commissioner’s mission and provide information“. While the Commissioner „shall function independently and impartially.“ The Commissioner may act on the information of the Commissioner’s functions.

The Commissioner „may directly contact governments of member States of the Council of Europe“. The Commissioner may also „issue recommendations, opinions and reports.“

The Commissioner enjoys immunity „from arrest and all legal proceedings in the territories of all members, in respect of words spoken and votes cast“. [3]

The Ariticle 36 of the European Convention on Human Rights „third party intervention“ concerning the European Court of Human Rights for the Commissioner states that „In all cases before a Chamber or the Grand Chamber, the Council of Europe and take part in hearings. [4]


The Commissioner is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, from a list of three candidates drawn up by the Committee of Ministers, and serves a non-renewable term of office of six years. According to the Resolution (99) 50: [1]

The candidates shall be eminent personalities of a high moral character having recognized expertise in the field of human rights, a public record of attachment to the values ​​of the Council of Europe and the personal authority of the commissioner. The Commissioner is not engaged in any activity which is inconsistent with the requirements of a full-time office.


Country visits and dialogue with national authorities and civil society

The Commissioner carries out visits to all members states to monitor and evaluate the situation. In the course of such visits, he meets with the highest representatives of government, the parliament, the judiciary, the civil society and the national human rights structures . He also talks to ordinary people, and places of human rights, including prisons, psychiatric hospitals , centers for asylum seekers , schools , orphanages, and settlements populated by vulnerable groups, including Romani , LGBT people, and other minority groups .

Following the visits, a report on the assessment of the human rights situation and the assessment of the human rights situation and recommendations on how to overcome shortcomings in law and practice. The Commissioner also has the right to intervene as a third party in the proceedings of the European Court of Human Rights, by submitting written information or taking part in their hearings.

Thematic reporting and advising on human rights

The Commissioner also conducts thematic work on the subject of the protection of human rights in Europe. He provides advice and information on the prevention of human rights violations and releases opinions, Issue Papers and reports.

Awareness-raising activities
The Commissioner promotes awareness of human rights in member states, by organizing and taking part in seminars and events on various human rights themes. The Commissioner engages in permanent dialogue with governments, civil society organizations and educational institutions in order to improve public awareness of human rights standards. He further contributes to the debate and the reflection on current and important human rights matters through contacts with the media, the publication of periodic articles and thematic documents.

As share of country visits, thematic work and awareness raising activities, the Commissioner country specific focus to the defense of human rights activists and engaged in close co-operation with other Council of Europe bodies and with a broad ranks of international institutions, Most importantly the United Nations and its specialized agencies, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The office also cooperates with national human rights structures, leading human rights NGOs , universities and think tanks .

See also

  • Human rights in Europe
  • European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance


  1. ^ Jump to:b Full text of COE resolution (99) 50
  2. Jump up^ Mandate of the Human Rights Commissioner ArchivedJuly 9, 2010, at theWayback Machine.
  3. Jump up^ Statute of the Council of Europe, Article 40
  4. Jump up^ European Convention on Human Rights, Article 36 – Third party intervention, section 3