President Sheikh Khalifa establishes UAE National Human Rights Institution

The independent body will have its headquarters in Abu Dhabi

UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, attends the final session of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait City on December 15, 2009. Energy-rich states of the Gulf do not feel threatened by Iraq's plans to massively expand its oil production, Kuwait's foreign minister said. The GCC alliance is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP PHOTO / YASSER AL-ZAYYAT
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President Sheikh Khalifa has set out plans to establish a National Human Rights Institution in the UAE.

Sheikh Khalifa issued a federal law to set up the independent body, which will have its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

The institution could open further branches across the country as part of a long-term vision to advance human rights.

"The NHRI aims to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms following the provisions of the UAE Constitution, laws and legislation in force in the UAE, as well as relevant international conventions," state news agency Wam reported.

The body will help develop a national action plan.

It will help to foster a culture of human rights and raise public awareness through seminars, conferences and panel discussions.

As part of its blueprint for the future, the institution will provide information to authorities on whether national laws are aligned with international treaties and conventions on human rights to which the UAE is a signatory.

It will track human-rights breaches and report them to relevant authorities.

The federal law issued by Sheikh Khalifa states that the NHRI should have a board of trustees comprising at least 11 people, half of which will work on a full-time basis.

The institution is key to the UAE's wide-ranging strategy to develop firm foundations for its human-rights policies going forward.

In developing the law, the UAE set out to follow best practices of other countries that have developed similar institutions.

The UAE also sought advice from international organisations, most notably the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which provided legal and technical assistance to draft the NHRI law.

UAE strives to shape human rights strategy

In July, Dr Anwar Gargash, Diplomatic Adviser to President Sheikh Khalifa, highlighted the crucial work being carried out to bolster human rights in the UAE.

Dr Gargash is playing a pivotal role in developing the country's National Human Rights Action Plan.

In December, the National Human Rights Committee launched the first stage of a consultative process to prepare the plan.

He shared a post from the official Twitter account of the National Human Rights Committee, which was set up in May.

"The UAE attaches great importance to the human rights file, and social media is our window for information and the committee’s website is a bridge of communication covering its work and activities," Dr Gargash said.

The 1993 Paris Principles, adopted by the UN General Assembly, encourage countries to establish national human rights institutions based on an internationally recognised set of standards for credibility, independence and effectiveness.

In April, the Federal National Council approved a law establishing the National Commission for Human Rights in the UAE.

Dr Gargash called it an "important step towards strengthening the human rights file in the country and a building block on the road to celebrating the 50 years" since the UAE was founded.

The FNC session was presided over by Speaker Saqr Ghobash and Minister of State Khalifa Al Marar, who said establishing the commission would strengthen the UAE’s efforts in fighting discrimination and its commitment to international human rights treaties.

“There is no doubt that establishing such an authority will strengthen the culture of tolerance and coexistence, and the country’s efforts towards protecting human rights,” Mr Al Marar said.

Updated: August 30, 2021, 8:53 AM