Strengthening the independence of National Human Rights Institutions and human rights protection in Austria in times of covid-19

January 5, 2021

On 12 January 2021 the Austrian Ombudsman Board, in close cooperation with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) hosted an exchange to shine a light on human rights protection in Austria in times of Covid-19 and to discuss how to strengthen the independence of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). The event was held from 3.00 – 4.30 pm and the speeches were shown in a livestream and through pre-recorded video messages from the premises of the Austrian Ombudsman Board.



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Strengthening the independence of NHRIs

Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) presented a recent FRA report on “Strengthening the Independence of NHRIs”. This presentation was followed by contributions from Austrian Ombudsman Werner Amon, Renate Kicker, Chair of the Human Rights Advisory Council, and Brigitte Ohms, Member of the Human Rights Advisory Council and Deputy Head of the Department for European and International Law and Human Rights Protection at the Austrian Federal Chancellery, who reviewed the FRA report within the Austrian context. After this, Slovenian Ombudsman Peter Svetina and Debbie Kohner, Director of the European Network of NHRIs (ENNHRI), shared the wider European perspective.

Human rights & Covid-19 – Austrian Ombudsman Board and civil society take stock

The second subject area of the event put a special focus on the important role NHRIs play in the protection of human rights. This became all the more evident in the past year, when we all struggled with an unprecedented crisis, which will still effect citizens all over the world in the years to come.

Ombudsman Bernhard Achitz and Ombudsman Walter Rosenkranz reported on the focal points of complaint handling in times of the Corona pandemic. Together with Michael Lysander Fremuth, Scientific Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GMR), and Reinhard Klaushofer, Director of the Austrian Institute for Human Rights, they gave an interim report on human rights protection in times of Covid-19.

German/English simultaneous translation was provided throughout the event.