A delegation of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) represented by Chief Commissioner Dr. Daniel Bekele and Deputy Chief Commissioner Rakeb Messele, participated in the 14th International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in Copenhagen, Denmark from November 6–8, 2023.

The conference was co-organised by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR), and the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (UPCHR) on the theme “Torture and other ill-treatment: The role of NHRIs”. The Conference also marked the adoption of the 30th anniversary of the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (the Paris Principles), the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the forthcoming 40th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

(From left to right) – Deputy Chief Commissioner Rakeb Messele, Chief Commissioner Dr. Daniel Bekele, and Albab Tesfaye Ayalew, Director, Office of the Chief Commissioner

During the conference, EHRC shared its experience as a panellist on “The role of NHRIs in protecting at-risk persons and marginalised groups from torture and other ill-treatment: Critical perspectives on evolving intersectional challenges”, where it presented serious challenges related to its torture and ill-treatment prevention and victim protection work due to legal gaps in the definition of torture and the inadequate sanctions for acts of torture, the imposition of a state of emergency in response to conflict situations in the country, and unofficial or undisclosed places of detention, which increase risks of torture and other ill-treatment.

The event was a platform to exchange experience with NHRIs, Ombudsman offices, and National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) from around the world, independent and other experts representing international human rights mechanisms such as the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) and the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with extensive experience in providing support to victims/survivors of torture and other ill-treatment.

The conference concluded with the adoption of a Conference Declaration in which NHRIs, in line with their mandates, committed to carrying out promotion, prevention, and protection work on torture and other ill-treatment, including advocating for national legal frameworks and reforms that prohibit torture and other ill-treatment according to international and regional human rights standards. NHRIs are also committed to cooperating and continuing partnerships with domestic authorities and proactively engaging other NHRIs and international and regional human rights mechanisms. NHRIs under threat and those experiencing reprisals due to their work were identified as requiring support by GANHRI, regional networks, and all NHRIs.

On November 8, 2023, EHRC, in partnership with DIHR, also organised a side event on the margins of the conference on “Advancing Human Rights in Conflict and Transitional Justice,” where it shared its experience of carrying out monitoring and investigation work in the context of conflict and how it is supporting transitional justice in Ethiopia. NHRIs from Morocco, Colombia, and Northern Ireland shared their experiences and provided constructive recommendations on the work of NHRIs in a transitional justice process. Participants from Tunisia, Greenland, and Nigeria also presented perspectives based on their national experiences.