National Human Rights Office in the making

Plans are in the making to broaden the scope and function of the Office of the Ombudsman to include the protection and promotion of Human Rights by transforming the office into a National Human Rights Office in 2017.

This is one of the key focus areas listed in the 2017 Budget Plan, which was presented during a recent sitting of the Lower House of Parliament, the House of Representatives.

According to the 2017 budget plan, new office space has also been identified to support this venture.

This development follows a stakeholder’s meeting with officials from the Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat in June 2016, which looked at the best model for the country in going forward.

Additionally, the plan states that the Office of the Ombudsman in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be responsible for ensuring conformity with the fundamental principles of Human Rights in keeping with the Paris Principles, which were defined at the first International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held in Paris in 1991.

The Paris Principles comprises a number of responsibilities for national institutions, which fall under five headings with the first being that the institution should monitor any situation of violation of human rights, which it decides to take up.

Others are that the institution should be able to advise Government, Parliament and any other competent body on specific violations, on issues related to legislation and general compliance and implementation with international human rights instruments.

The institution is also mandated to relate to regional and international organizations, as well as seek to educate and inform the nation in human rights and to be able to operate within the framework of a quasi-judicial competence.

THE NEW TODAY contacted both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Ombudsman for more information in this regard but both offices were unable to give details.

Speaking with this newspaper via telephone last week Wednesday, Complaints Officer and Acting Ombudsman, Ronnie Marryshow, who is holding the position for the country’s first female Ombudsman Nadica Mc Intyre who is believed to be ill in Cuba, said he cannot speak along those lines, as this is an undertaking between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

According to the budget plan for the Ombudsman’s Office, the Estimate of Expenditure for 2017 is projected at EC$376, 371, an increase of $16, 711 in 2016.

The Budget statement said that the increase is reflected in the areas of professional services, office equipment and Administrative/Sundry expenses.

The Ombudsman is an independent officer of Parliament with responsibility to investigate the actions of public authorities including Government departments, prisons, hospitals, and schools among others.

The Office of the Ombudsman’s role is to shield the public from injustice and unfairness in their dealings with public authorities and to operate with autonomy and without control from Government or political or other parties.

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