Dr. Gökhan Güneş
In this article, evaluations on the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (HREIT), which has been granted B status by the Global Network of National Human Rights Institutions, are given.
1. Global Network of National Human Rights Institutions
The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a network of human rights institutions from around the world, was established in 1993. GANHRI supports national human rights institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles and works for the protection and strengthening of human rights.
2. Paris Principles
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) came to the fore as an idea in the period following World War II. In 1991, an international workshop on “national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights” was organized to establish a framework for the status of NHRIs, and this framework was adopted as the Paris Principles at the 1993 Vienna Conference on Human Rights.
Adopted on 20 December 1993 by the UN General Assembly, the Paris Principles are a fundamental text setting out the framework for the qualifications of national human rights institutions, also referred to as “national institutions”.
The importance of the Paris Principles lies not only in determining the structure and function of NHRIs, but also in giving legitimacy and credibility to these institutions. In this sense, national human rights institutions to be established at the national level must be in line with the Paris Principles in order to have the expected impact.
Accreditation is a procedure within GANHRI for the international visibility, recognition and voice of NHRIs, the purpose of which is to establish the national institution’s compliance with the Paris Principles.
According to the GANHRI Statute, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) is the body that accredits national institutions according to their degree of compliance with the Paris Principles.
As of 2021, out of 128 institutions within GANHRI, a total of 118 NHRIs have been accredited, of which 86 are A level and 32 are B level.
Organizations accredited at level A are considered to be in compliance with the Paris Principles. These organizations can participate in all national and international meetings of national human rights institutions at a voting level. They may also attend all meetings of the Human Rights Council and speak on any agenda item.
The countries that received A status in the evaluation are as follows; Colombia, El Salvador, Indonesia, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone.
Organizations accredited at level B may participate as observers in international meetings of national human rights institutions. However,
they are not issued international human rights institution badges and cannot speak at meetings of the Human Rights Council.
Some of the countries, including Turkey, to which the Sub-Committee granted B status are as follows: Nepal, Sri Lanka and Madagascar.
4. A Level B Accredited Organisation; HREIT
The Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (HREIT) has been accredited with “B” status by the Secretariat of the Accreditation Subcommittee of the Global Network of National Human Rights Institutions (Subcommittee). In other words, HREIT is far from meeting the Paris Principles.
It can only participate in international meetings as an observer, but it cannot receive the badge from an international human rights institution and it is not given the right to speak at the meetings of the Human Rights Council.
5. HREIT’s B Accreditation Distortion
In its statement dated 10 October 2022, HREIT presented its B status as a great success and deliberately misled the public opinion.1 In fact, the decision of the HREIT regarding the Committee of granting of “B” status;
-It means that the institution concerned is recognized as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and therefore has the opportunity to participate in international and regional meetings of NHRIs.
-It will have the opportunity to submit parallel reports to the UN Organs and to the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism (UPRM) of the Human Rights Council“, but concealed the fact that it would only participate in the meetings as an observer and have no say in the proceedings, that it would not even be able to receive a badge from an international human rights organization, and
that in the eyes of GANHRI it had the same status as countries such2 as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Madagascar.
6. Reasons for Granting B Accreditation to HREIT
The GANHRI Subcommittee on Accreditation (SCA) published a report on the results of its meeting held in Geneva on 3-7 October 2022.3
In the said Report, criticisms against HREIT were expressed and the reasons why it was given B status were explained. The SCA analyzed HREIT in terms of the following criteria and found it inadequate.
According to the Law on the Organisation of HREIT, the institution lacks independence due to the tutelage of the President over the institution. The Subcommittee on Accreditation emphasized that HREIT
should be independent from the government and parliament in terms of its structure, composition, decision-making and working method.
b) Addressing Human Rights Violations
The Subcommittee found HREIT’s efforts to address all human rights violations and to carry out follow-up activities to ensure that the State fulfills its protection obligations inadequate.
The Subcommittee also recommended to HREIT that its positions on these issues be made public, as this would help promote and protect human rights, as well as strengthen the institution’s credibility and accessibility for all people in Turkey.
c) Promoting ratification of or accession to international human rights instruments
The Subcommittee found that HREIT was not expressly authorized to promote ratification of and accession to regional and international human rights instruments.
d) Interaction with the International Human Rights System
The Subcommittee observed that HREIT did not engage effectively and independently with the international human rights system.
e) Pluralism and Diversity
The Law on Organisation does not contain any provisions on the pluralism and diversity of HREIT members and staff.
The Subcommittee determined that currently only 2 of the 11 members of the HREIT Board are women and one of them is disabled, and reported that 79 of the 180 staff members are women and 6 of them are disabled.
The Subcommittee recommended that the requirement for NHREI to reflect the principles of pluralism and diversity, including gender representation of the members of the NHREI Board, be included in the Law on Organisation.
f) Selection and Appointment
Article 10(2) of the Law on the Organisation provides that the members of the Board will be elected by the President of the Republic. The Subcommittee considered that the selection and appointment process currently enshrined in the law does not ensure broad consultation and participation of civil society.
The Sub-Committee is of the view that the selection process should be characterized by openness and transparency. That is, it should be under the control of an independent and credible organization and should include fair consultation with NGOs and civil society.
The Subcommittee also noted that the Organisation Law did not establish predetermined, objective and publicly available criteria for assessing applicants.
g) Annual Report
The Subcommittee found that there is no provision in the Organisation Law of HREIT on whether the annual and special reports are discussed in the Parliament.
The Subcommittee recommended that the Law on Organisation be amended to enable HREIT to discuss and evaluate the annual, special and thematic reports of the Parliament.
h) Term of Office
Since there is no provision in the Law on Organisation and other legislation on whether the members of the HREIT Board can be re-elected or not, the door is left open for them to serve indefinitely.
The Subcommittee noted that HREIT reported that in practice, four of the current Board members were reappointed for a second term. In order to promote institutional independence, the Subcommittee recommended an amendment to the Law on the Organisation of the NHREI to limit the term of office to a second appointment.
7. HREIT was Monitored for 5 Years
The accreditation process is reviewed every five years. In this sense, after five years, i.e. in 2027, HREIT is required to resubmit the necessary documents to the Subcommittee and fulfill the compliance with the Paris Principles and the recommendations and suggestions of the Subcommittee.
HREIT is an organization that was established as a “friends for friends’ sake“. It has no noteworthy activities regarding the grave human rights violations in Turkey. It is impossible for it to be accredited international organizations with its practices that use the regime’s rhetoric and justify the regime’s unlawful practices. Even a person who defends child marriages and says that preventing the consensual marriages of 15-year-olds is a violation of “human rights” and accuses those who live together without the marriage of having “perverted relationships” has been the president of this institution for years.4