NHRIs are independent bodies established by domestic law with a mandate to protect and promote human rights within a state.
Such institutions are key elements within a strong, effective national human rights protection system, provided they are grounded in national law, independent from government, possessed of a broad mandate to cover all international human rights standards, underpinned by a diverse membership, invested with the responsibility to work with both civil society and the state, and function well.
NHRIs have the power to promote and protect human rights. Human rights promotion includes providing government and parliament with advice on various human rights issues and raising human rights awareness. The power of NHRIs to protect human rights includes the monitoring of human rights violations and making recommendations to improve the human rights situation on the ground. In terms of protection, their mandate can also include the power to receive, investigate and resolve complaints and make appropriate recommendations, such as proposing new legislation, and suggesting revisions to existing legislation or new policy measures.
The wide spectrum of existing NHRIs includes: commissions, ombudsperson institutions, and institutes or centres. NHRIs in some EU Member States, for example, also function as equality bodies under EU legislation.
Based on European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights – FRA (2012). Handbook on the Establishment and Accreditation of National Human Rights Institutions in the European Union.