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India opens diplomatic channels to ensure NHRC retain its 'A' accreditation status
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), after over two decades of its existence is now facing severe difficult task to retain its 'A' accreditation status.

It is been facing severe challenge from a large number of civil society organisations involved in protection and preservation of human rights, the human rights, accusing that it fails to act impartially and independently in fulfilling its mission.

NHRC-India was under review by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) in November 2017. This review was a repeat exercise after a year. At the last review in November 2016, the GANHRI Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) had deferred the accreditation for NHRC-India, raising serious concerns about its independence, transparency, appointments, investigation and capacities.

The SCA gave the NHRC one year to undertake reforms and demonstrate its compliance with international standards as laid out in the Paris Principles. However, NHRC failed to meet such standards. Surprising Human Rights organisations, it is now learnt that after the November 2017 review, the SCA has recommended that NHRC-India be accredited and granted 'A' status. This was publicly announced by the NHRC Chair Justice (Retd) HL Dattu on December 10, 2017, at a Human Rights Day event. The SCA's recommendation report is not yet public. The intent of this public announcement by the NHRC Chairperson is therefore turned to be a matter of concern for civil society human rights groups.

According to informed sources the NHRC gained accreditation on the basis of its assurance, given to the SCA during the telephonic review, that a proposal for amendment to the Protection of Human Rights Act has been submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

More surprisingly, it was also learnt that an official from the MHA was present at the call and assured the SCA of the Government of India's willingness to consider the amendments proposed by the NHRC. Henri Tiphagne of The All India Network of NGOs and individuals working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI), Kalyani Menon Sen of Feminist Learning Partnerships and Ravi Nair of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center (SAHRDC), asserts that such an intervention of the of the MHA in the review process calls into question one of the cardinal pillars of the Paris Principles - the independence of human rights institutions from the government.

The SCA report will be discussed at the GANHRI Bureau meeting on February 22-23, 2018 in Geneva. The Human Rights activists are stating that it is not a general practice to grant 'A' status to a national human rights institution solely based on 'proposed' amendments. There were several instances in the recent past where national institutions were either downgraded or not given accreditation until the law was either amended or a new law was enacted to satisfy the requirements highlighted in the SCA report. This is clearly a case of differential and privileged treatment to the Indian NHRC.

Some sources have indicated that the government of India launched diplomatic initiatives to influence the governments of Morocco and France to bring pressure on their national human rights institutions who are members of the SCA along with the NHRIs of the Philippines and Canada. Several human rights organisations and activists who have engaged intensively with the national human rights machinery, having strongest stake in ensuring the authority, autonomy and effective functioning of the NHRC, are now preparing to express their collective voice and united action at this critical moment save the NHRC from sliding into total irrelevance.

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