Within the literature and practice, there has been less discussion of the appropriateness of ADR for resolving disputes concerning human rights. This is despite the fact that at the international level, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) promotes friendly settlements between the applicant and respondent state. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have also noted that national human rights institutions (NHRIs) can play a role in dispute resolution (as well as complaints-handling more generally which may include advice, assistance and representation).
NHRIs include a wide range of bodies with a mandate to promote and protect human rights such as human rights commissions, equality bodies and ombudspersons. For the purposes of our project, NHRIs are those bodies which have had some engagement with the accreditation process of the UN Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) or the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) as it has been recently re-named. Forms of dispute resolution relevant to NHRIs include agreement-based processes such as settlement negotiations, mediation and conciliation. They also include adjudicative forms of ADR where the NHRI issues binding or non-binding recommendations on an individual complaint, for example where ombudspersons carry out investigations and issue recommendations or where an NHRI sits as a quasi-judicial tribunal.
Some NHRIs already offer forms of dispute resolution although this practice has not been mapped comprehensively in the literature. In policy and practice, very little has been discussed about the factors that need to be taken into account when deciding on whether an NHRI should have a dispute resolution role and the form it should take. Likewise, where NHRIs offer a form of dispute resolution, common guidelines are not available on how human rights complaints should be handled and the standards of justice that should attach. This project fills a gap in the literature and practice in this area and in doing so, hope to encourage greater debate and policy discussions on whether and how NHRIs and related bodies should play a role in dispute resolution.