The Parliamentary Ombudsman has today published a proposal for the setting up of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in Malta, to monitor, promote and ensure the observance of fundamental of human rights in the country.
NHRIs are considered as central players in national human rights protection systems and play a crucial part to promote and monitor the effective implementation of international human standards on a national level.
The Office of the Ombudsman has been informally considered to be Malta’s NHRI by international authorities, including the European Ombudsman, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the European Union and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the UNHCR and others.
For the past years the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Chief Justice Emeritus, Joseph Said Pullicino, has been proposing that the Office should act as a catalyst and focal point of other national institutions and authorities both public and private, having a specific human rights mandate to coordinate and converge their activities from a national perspective. This would provide the country with a comprehensive overview of the level of protection of individuals against violations of their fundamental rights.
The Office of Ombudsman is proposing an autonomous Commission headed by the Parliamentary Ombudsman composed of national bodies and representatives of non-governmental organisations having a strong human rights content in their functions. The proposed Commission would be autonomous and not part of government and would carry out its duties in full independence and be accountable to Parliament.
The proposed Commission would not substitute specific authorities and organisations that have a strong human rights element in their functions or hinder them in the proper exercise of their responsibilities. It is intended to act as an umbrella organisation keeping them together with the common purpose to oversee the level of human rights observance in a comprehensive and holistic manner.
This proposal envisages the designation of the Office of the Ombudsman as the Maltese NHRI that would encompass and be required to work in consultation with other local authorities, entities, institutions and NGOs.
To ensure effectiveness and to maximise accessibility to individuals, the proposed Commission would operate in the already existent set up of the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and would utilise the same administrative resources and infrastructure.
In his conclusion to the proposal which was sent to Government, the Parliamentary Ombudsman stated that:
“it is the Government’s prerogative to choose the model of NHRI best suited to Malta’s needs. In making this choice the government should endeavour not only to provide the individual with optimum protection for the enjoyment of his fundamental human rights, and this without unduly burdening the country with unnecessary additional expense, but also and more importantly, it should ensure that the model chosen would merit and receive an – A status with the ICC.
As a member of the European Union that should pride itself on the level of respect of fundamental rights and their observance, Malta deserves nothing less.”
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