Qatar is the only country in the Gulf and among the four states in the Middle East to have a national human rights committee with legal powers, says a senior official of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF).
Suraina Pasha, project manager (regional training) at APF, is in Doha to attend a human rights workshop APF is organsing jointly with Qatar's National Human Rights Committee (NHRC).
Established in 1996, APF is a member-based organisation that supports the establishment and strengthening of national human rights institutions in the region.
Talking to The Peninsula yesterday on the sidelines of the workshop, Pasha said only four countries in the Middle East have so far established national human rights institutions - Jordan, Egypt, Palestine and Qatar.
"Egypt is not part of the Asia Pacific Forum as it comes under a different region. Qatar is the only member country from the Gulf to have a national human rights committee," said Pasha.
APF currently has human rights institutions from 17 countries in the Asia Pacific region as its members. The region, stretching from the Pacific to the Middle East, is home to more than half of the world's population.
Besides Qatar, delegates from six countries are attending the Doha workshop - Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Iran and Afghanistan.
"Jordan and Afghanistan currently have national human rights committees, while Iran and Iraq are in the process of establishing such bodies. We have heard from delegates from Bahrain that the country is also moving towards this goal," said Pasha.
Asked about the performance of the national human rights institutions in the region, Pasha said they could play an effective role in promoting human rights in their respective countries since they have the legal powers to take up issues and force the governments to act.
"This workshop is focusing on how the national human rights institutions can support and safeguard the rights of NGOs in their respective countries. Most NGOs are also defenders of human rights, but they don't have the legal powers enjoyed by the human rights committees," explained Pasha.
She said wars and conflicts and a lack of security and freedom are among the issues that lead to human rights violations in the region.
"APF is not directly addressing country-specific issues. Its role is to provide a framework for national human rights institutions to work together and cooperate on a regional basis through a wide range of services, including training, capacity building, networks and staff exchanges," said Pasha.
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