Ensuring Compliance with the Paris Principles: A Critical Review of the UAE National Human Rights Institution


The Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions, known as Paris Principles, offer a detailed framework for the establishment and functioning of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), emphasizing key characteristics such as a broad mandate based on universal human rights standards, autonomy and independence from government, and pluralism in composition. These principles are vital benchmarks for assessing the effectiveness and integrity of NHRIs globally. The UAE’s NHRI is without a doubt one of the most awaited developments in the area of human rights law in the UAE but multiple aspects of the Institution raise concerns about the fall short of international standards.

Firstly, financial independence is crucial for an NHRI to function without undue influence, ensuring impartiality in fulfilling its mandate. While the UAE Law ostensibly provides for an independent budget for the NHRI, the reality is less clear-cut. The NHRI’s budget is incorporated into the Federation’s annual general budget law, subjecting it to the same approval and allocation processes as other state departments. This arrangement raises significant concerns about genuine financial autonomy. The lack of a truly independent budget line under NHRI control opens the door to potential state interference, undermining the institution’s ability to operate without bias.

Secondly, operational independence, which includes the freedom to address relevant issues, draft procedural rules, and report findings without prior government approval, is another cornerstone of the Paris Principles. However, the UAE Law’s vagueness regarding government involvement in these processes is problematic. Ambiguous legal provisions can lead to inconsistent implementation and allow for governmental influence, which erodes the NHRI’s autonomy. Specifically, the NHRI’s mandate to report its findings is compromised by the requirement to submit its annual report to state leaders before public release, as stipulated in Article 21 of the Federal Law. This pre-publication review by the government fundamentally compromises the NHRI’s impartiality and inhibits its transparency, detracting from its credibility and its role in raising public awareness about the human rights situation in the UAE.

Also, a genuinely effective NHRI should reflect societal diversity, encompassing gender, ethnic, and minority representation to ensure comprehensive human rights protection. While UAE law specifies criteria and terms for NHRI membership, it lacks clarity on the appointment process. The concentration of appointment power in the hands of the President, with scant details on implementation, raises significant concerns about the NHRI’s independence. Without a transparent and inclusive appointment mechanism, the NHRI will be an extension of the executive branch rather than an independent entity.

For the UAE NHRI to truly embody the principles of independence, impartiality, and pluralism outlined in the Paris Principles, substantial reforms are imperative. The current legal framework, with its vague provisions and potential for governmental influence, undermines the NHRI’s ability to function as a robust guardian of human rights.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights calls for the Global Alliance National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) and the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) to urge the UAE to institute clear, transparent mechanisms for financial autonomy, operational independence, and diverse representation. Ensuring that the NHRI has control over its budget, freedom from executive oversight in its operations, and a transparent, consultative process for member appointments, will not only strengthen the NHRI but also enhance public trust in its ability to protect human rights effectively.

These reforms are not merely administrative adjustments but are essential steps towards establishing an NHRI that can stand as an independent watchdog, free from undue influence, and capable of advocating for the rights of all individuals in the UAE. By committing to these changes, the UAE can position its NHRI as a beacon of human rights, setting a standard for other nations and reinforcing its dedication to upholding international human rights norms.