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National Human Rights Institutions (LAWS90141)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90141
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) provide a bridge between governments and civil society and are recognised within the United Nations (UN) system for their credible role in monitoring and advocating for human rights compliance within their country. A distinguishing feature of a NHRI is that, in order to meet the UN’s Paris Principles, it must be genuinely independent of the government that created it and that appointed its president and commissioners. Herein lies an inevitable tension. The obligation of the NHRI to monitor compliance with human rights may fail to meet the policy and political priorities of either or both the government and civil society. The independence of NHRIs is vital to ensuring evidence-based, legally accurate and objective monitoring of human rights compliance. That independence is however under constant threat. The United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders plays a significant role in ensuring that states are held accountable for protecting the independence of their NHRI. So too, civil society can provide vital community support to ensure respect for NHRIs.

This subject examines the role of the 118 or so NHRIs throughout the world and argues for their strengthening and independence of government and for their voice within the UN human rights system.

Principal topics include:

  • The international standards governing National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)
  • The role of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights, from theory to practice; effective strategies; prevention and early intervention
  • International monitoring mechanisms and their relationship to NHRIs; the effect of globalisation
  • The mandates, functions and powers of NHRIs, with specific attention to those in Australia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and references to those in Afghanistan, Jordan and Palestine
  • The relationship between NHRIs and government, parliament, the judiciary, other independent institutions, NGOs and civil society
  • International and regional cooperation among NHRIs.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced understanding of the importance of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in promoting and protecting human rights
  • Have an advanced understanding of the importance of using various strategies (eg national inquiries into systemic violations) to protect human rights and prevent human rights violations
  • Have an advanced understanding of the relationship between NHRIs and: o The executive government o The legislature (parliament) o The judiciary Other independent institutions (eg the Ombudsman, Anti-Corruption Commission) o NGOs and civil society generally
  • Have an advanced understanding of the value of alternative dispute resolution in providing effective and timely remedies for violations of human rights
  • Have a sophisticated working knowledge of the diversity of NHRIs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Last updated: 3 April 2019