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New Ombudsman looking to form human rights institute

Wednesday 8 February 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Culture, Local, National

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New Ombudsman looking to form human rights institute
Cook Islands Ombudsman Niki Rattle 22061210. Photo: Matthew Littlewood

The Cook Islands new Ombudsman will head to Fiji to continue with efforts in forming a Human Rights Institute.

Ombudsman Niki Rattle said the policy document to support the legislative amendments of the Ombudsman Bill to establish the National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) mandate is progressing well. 

“This is continued to be supported by Asia Pacific Forum (APF) and the Cook Islands Crown Law Office,” Rattle said.

“The government has progressively made moves in the human rights space by passing laws and ratifying international conventions, therefore the importance of promotion and protection of human rights and the establishment of an NHRI is another step in the direction of progress for our people.”

As part of their research, Rattle said she and two staff are travelling to Fiji later this month to attend the Pacific Regional Forum on National Human Rights Institutions.

“This forum is being funded and facilitated by Pacific Community (SPC) and APF with technical support from Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),” Rattle said. 

“The forum will focus on the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs in the Pacific.”

Rattle said in the conference, there would be specific focus on the role NHRIs in relationships between human rights, pacific culture, and faith-based values; addressing climate change; and obtaining/maintaining accreditation with The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHR).

“The forum will provide expert capacity building with regional partners and will be a great knowledge-sharing experience for Pacific countries. Ten Pacific Island countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, are expected to attend, to share experiences and good practices in establishing and strengthening NHRIs,” she said.

Rattle said there was still extensive work that needed to be done.

“We hope the Bill goes through parliament, either in the first sitting or failing that sometime this year. It’s currently sitting with Crown Law,” she said.

“But we’re really want to progress on this, there is already a lot of support for establishing this institute from local and international organisations, we don’t want it to go by the wayside.”

Rattle said after the Fiji conference, they intended to host meetings in the Norther Group of the Pa Enua (Outer Islands), in order to educate and get feedback about what people want to get under such an institute. 

“It’s about sharing with people and bringing awareness about what the whole process is about,” she said.

“We also need to work alongside our partners and progress this as much as we can.” 

In the past, Rattle has said the NHRI would have a focus on LGBTQI rights, as well as disability rights.