Former European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) boss Nils Muižnieks has today taken up the post of Commissioner for Human Rights.
Elected last January by the Parliamentary Assembly, the Latvian Muižnieks, aged 48, is the Council of Europe’s third commissioner, succeeding Thomas Hammarberg (2006-2012) and Alvaro Gil-Robles (1999-2006).
“I intend to build on the work done so far in order to develop the contribution of the Commissioner’s Office to the effective observance and full enjoyment of human rights in member states” said Muižnieks.
“One essential element in this endeavour is maintaining the independence and impartiality of the Office. I will also continue the country and thematic work, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. This is all the more important in a period when the economic crisis may undermine the protection of human rights.”
The commissioner will also focus on the human rights of migrants, including, aslyum-seekers and refugees; women’s rights and gender equality; minority rights; and the importance of respecting human rights standards within the information society, in particular as regards media freedom, data protection, social networking and access to digital literacy.
He added: “Proximity to people and objectivity in my dialogue with national authorities will characterise my mandate. These qualities are indeed essential requisites for anybody committed to making human rights a reality for all.”
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner for Human Rights, Muižnieks was Director of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Latvia in Riga (2005-2012); Chairman of ECRI (2010-2012); Latvian minister responsible for social integration, anti-discrimination, minority rights, and civil society development (2002-2004); and Director of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies – now Latvian Human Rights Centre (1994-2002).