Michael O’Flaherty elected as European human rights commissioner

Michael O'Flaherty elected as European human rights commissioner

Pictured: Michael O'Flaherty.

Irish lawyer Michael O’Flaherty has been elected as the Council of Europe’s next commissioner for human rights, becoming the first Irish person to hold the post.

Dr O’Flaherty won 104 votes in the second day of voting by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), beating Bulgarian nominee Meglena Kuneva and Austrian nominee Manfred Nowak.

His victory seemed all but certain by Tuesday night after he led the first round of voting. In the final result, Ms Kunleva obtained 70 votes and Mr Nowak obtained 37 votes.

Dr O’Flaherty will serve a non-renewable term of six years starting on 1 April 2024.

He has led the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) since 2015 and previously served as chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and as a member of the UN human rights committee.

An alumnus of University College Dublin, he was previously a professor of human rights law and director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the University of Galway. He recently joined UCD Sutherland School of Law as an adjunct professor.

Welcoming the result, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: “I want to congratulate Michael O’Flaherty on his election as commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe.

“Professor O’Flaherty has served with great distinction in several high level positions in the field of human rights and his election as commissioner is a mark of the high regard in which he is held.

“His extensive human rights expertise, strong record of leadership and demonstrated courage, integrity and resilience, are qualities that will benefit him as he takes up his new role.

“The office of commissioner is central to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Never have these ideals and principles been more important.”

The commissioner for human rights is an independent and impartial non-judicial institution established in 1999 by the Council of Europe.

It aims to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the 46 Council of Europe member states; identify possible shortcomings in the law and practice concerning human rights; and facilitate the activities of national ombudsperson institutions and other human rights structures.

The commissioner makes regular visits to the member states to engage in dialogue with governments and civil society and draw up reports on issues falling within their mandate.

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