Michael O’Flaherty takes up office as Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

  • 01.04.2024
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Strasbourg, 01 April 2024 – The Council of Europe’s new Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, begins his six-year mandate today with a pledge to put human rights at the heart of member states’ agendas.

“I intend to inject a human rights perspective into the greatest challenges facing our societies,” said O’Flaherty, noting that he intends to carry out his first visit as Commissioner to Ukraine. “I can think of nothing more urgent than addressing the human rights consequences of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has caused terrible human suffering and destruction”.

The Commissioner also identified other areas where stronger human rights protection is urgently needed, including the climate crisis, the governance of artificial intelligence, freedom of expression, migration and the rise of hate speech, including antisemitism and anti-Muslim attacks.

A significant part of the Commissioner’s agenda will also be devoted to bringing the struggles of marginalised people and victims of discrimination to the forefront of human rights discussions. “In particular, Roma and Travellers face an intolerable situation that requires greater attention,” said the Commissioner.

Finally, the Commissioner highlighted his intention to focus on youth, socio-economic rights and human rights defenders, as well as to use his mandate to contribute to the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

“I step into this new role with a sense of great responsibility, as well as deep appreciation and respect for the work of my predecessor, Dunja Mijatović. Human rights affect every aspect of our lives. At a time when they face multiple challenges, we must recommit ourselves to weaving them into the fabric of our societies. This will require a concerted effort and I intend to play my part to the best of my ability by accompanying and standing up for rights holders across the Member States.”

Michael O’Flaherty was elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2024. He is the fifth Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, succeeding Dunja Mijatović (2018-2024), Nils Muižnieks (2012-2018), Thomas Hammarberg (2006-2012) and Álvaro Gil-Robles y Gil-Delgado (1999-2006). The Commissioner’s mandate lasts for six years and is non-renewable.

An Irish human rights lawyer, O’Flaherty has served as Director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (2015-2023), as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (2004-2012), as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (2011-2013), and in various posts at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, notably in setting up operations in conflict-affected countries such as Sierra Leone and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Throughout his decades-long commitment to human rights, he has made significant contributions to their promotion and protection, including through the publication of books and articles and through teaching at various universities.

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