Research and analysis

Researchers and projects


Ken Setiawan

  • Realising Rights: the National Human Rights Institutions of Indonesia and Malaysia

    This research explores how NHRIs mediate human rights discourses in developing countries with a high degree of social and religious pluralism and a history of authoritarian government. For this purpose two case studies will be conducted on the Indonesian and Malaysian NHRI.

    Indonesia and Malaysia are both rife with value pluralism and both countries experience increasing influence of political Islam. Both have a heritage of authoritarian rule and were strong protagonists of the so-called Asian Values debate in the 1990s, and as most developing countries have judiciaries which have been less than responsive to human rights claims. Certain differences also render the research attractive.
    Indonesia has seen more numerous and serious human rights violations than Malaysia, is poorer and its size provides a higher degree of social and political complexity. The Indonesian NHRI (Komnas HAM) was established in 1993 and the Malaysian (Suhakam) in 2000. Surprisingly, Suhakam has seen much more hardship than Komnas HAM although in New
    Order (until 1998) Indonesia the political context was much more repressive. Komnas HAM's legal status and mandate are stronger as they have been reinforced in line with the Paris Principles in 1999.

    This research combines an analysis of human rights discourses with an analysis of institutional factors. It explores human rights discourses at local and national levels, analyses how NHRIs influence them and tries to assess which institutional factors shape this influence. It is hoped that this research will not only tell us more about relatively new and important actors in the Indonesian and Malaysian legal systems, but will also further develop theory about institutional influences on human
    rights discourses.

    Ms Ken Setiawan, M.A. is a PhD Candidate with Van Vollenhoven Institute, Faculty of Law, Leiden University, The Netherlands. Ken Setiawan has previously conducted research on the educational activities of Komnas HAM (M.A. thesis).

    Comments are most welcome and can be sent directly to


Reenu Paul

  • National Human Rights Commission of India: A Human Rights Evaluation

A dissertation by Reenu Paul, a human rights lawyer from India, to the London School of Economics & Political Science(LSE), in part completion of the requirement for the MSc in Human Rights, September, 2003.

There are different ways of protecting human rights. A pluralist and accountable parliament, an executive who is ultimately subject to the authority of elected representatives and an independent, impartial judiciary. Besides these basic ‘institutions’ there may be other mechanisms whose establishment and strengthening will enhance the excising mechanisms. As a general point this dissertation looks at the National Human Rights Commission as an alternative way of protecting human rights.


Generally two questions have been explored-

First is up to what extent National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) can help in holding government accountable by making government conscious of the fact that it is the primary duty bearer;

And second is why NHRC India has been relatively effective in protecting human rights, given the widely accepted and acknowledged appreciation of its role in promoting awareness of human rights, despite the relative weakness of its formal powers. What does this phenomenon tell us about human rights protection in general including protection of economic, social and cultural rights? In this regard the National Human Rights Commission of India has been taken as a case study to explore how human rights protection can become effective beyond the limits of the courts.


All comments and suggestions are most welcome.


Read full dissertation here



Valentin Aichele

  • National Institutions and national implementation

    The research project of Valentin Aichele, an enrolled Ph.D. student at the University of Mannheim (Germany), explores the role of national human rights institutions in the process of implementing international human rights law at the national level. 

    Implementation is the process of putting into effect international human rights norms. This process is primarily linked to those legal obligations that States decided to fulfill when ratifying international treaties. Implementation also implies the promotion of human rights „standards“ which are international norms having not yet or only partly acquired the status of a legal obligation. 

    Against that background, the study looks into various modes by which National Institutions can support and complement public authorities at their efforts to translate obligations into practice. It also investigates which sort obligations national institutions are competent to fulfill. The bottom line might be that states - to some extend - can discharge their obligations to promote and protect human rights by setting up an effective and independent national human rights institution.

    In order to draw a clearer picture of this new type of institution, the project plan foresees to elucidate the normative framework of National Institution (the "Paris Principles") by using a legal approach. An institutional analysis of different models of National Institutions within their specific legal and political backgrounds traces the variety of institutional designs in a comparative perspective.

    The research project is finished and the Ph.D was published in 2003:

    Nationale Menschenrechtsinstitutionen - Ein Beitrag zur nationalen Implementierung von Menschenrechten, Valentin Aichele, Peter Lang Verlagsgruppe, 2003, [pp 225], ISBN 3-631-51551-0 

Anna-Elina Pohjolainen


  • The Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions:
    The Role of the United Nations

The research project of Anna-Elina Pohjolainen, conducted as part of the Ph.D. programme of the Department of Law of the European University Institute (Florence, Italy), assesses the role of the United Nations in the establishment of National Human Rights Institutions.

The thesis takes its starting-point from international relations theories asserting that international organisations are not mere “passive arenas” but can play a proactive role in the development and diffusion of new ideas, rules and institutions. It is argued that the United Nations as an organisation has contributed to the evolution and spread of the idea of National Human Rights Institutions in an important way, although its role has changed over time.

The thesis proceeds in three steps. First, it traces the evolution of the concept of National Human Rights Institutions and studies how and why the idea of supporting such institutions has developed in the United Nations framework. Then, it explores the various support activities that have been carried out in the 1990’s in particular under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Programme and often in co-operation with other international actors. Finally, to elucidate the complexity of the establishment process, it explores the role of the United Nations in the light of national case studies.




Read the study based on Anna-Elina Pohjolainen's PhD dissertation “Establishing National Human Rights Institutions: The Role of the United Nations”, defended at the Department of Law of the European University Institute on the 8th
of November 2004.


The Evolution of National Human Rights Institution, Anna-Elina Pohjolainen, The Danish Institute for Human Rights, 2006.

Download here

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