13 Colum. J. Eur. L. 427 (2007)

Amanda Lee Wetzel. J.D. and Master en Droit Candidate at Columbia Law School and Universitd Paris-I Pantheon, Sorbonne, 2008; LL.M. in Human Rights Law (with Distinction), The Queen’s University of Belfast School of Law, 2003; B.A. in International Politics with Interdisciplinary Honors in Geography, The Pennsylvania State University, 2002.

This Note evaluates the conflict resolution role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in divided societies through case studies of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Bosnia and Herzegovina Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (BiH-HRO). A NHRI’s conflict resolution role is the manner in which is endowed with and uses its mandate to address distinct human rights issues associated with the particular circumstances of a conflict. The mandate and structure of European NHRIs should comply with the requirements of the United Nation’s Paris Principles and are also guided by Council of Europe recommendations. Although some political conditions in post-conflict Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina are similar, the level of civil society and judicial development were divergent when the NIHRC and the BiH-HRO were formed Correspondingly, the NHRIs took the different forms-Northern Ireland gained a human rights commission through the Belfast Agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina gained a human rights ombudsman through the General Framework Agreement. Although both institutions initially exhibited a conflict resolution role appropriate for the needs of their respective societies, this Note advocates that post-conflict NHRIs should be considered on an evolving continuum with strong quasi-jurisdictional functions attributed initially to institutions in societies with weak judiciaries. As civil society and post-conflict judicial systems develop, NHRls should evolve to emphasize a revised conflict resolution role with an organizational structure and work priorities such as human rights education and monitoring that are characteristic of human rights commissions like the NIHRC. While recognizing that the Bosnia and Herzegovina and Northern Ireland institutions are imperfect, this Note concludes that their diverse conflict resolution functions may inform the organizational structure and mandate of other post-conflict NHRIs.