Who protects human rights?

The State is the main human rights guarantor. However, if the national protection scheme is not sufficient to address the problem, there are international institutions that supervise and enforce human rights obligations on the States.

State, the Ombudsman and national authorities

As the State is the main human rights guarantor, it has to ensure that human rights are respected and protected in the country. Human rights have to be respected and included in the decision making and in actions by all state institutions – courts, law enforcement, governmental and municipal institutions etc. In addition to this requirement, in France, the national ombudsman – the Défenseur des droits – oversees the respect and protection of human rights in the country. The Constitutional Council of the French Republic – the Conseil Constitutionnel – can review whether different laws and regulations violate human rights.

Read more about the Ombudsman (Défenseur des Droits).

Read more about the Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel).

In addition to these two institutions, France has a rich ecosystem of independent administrative authorities and other bodies responsible for defending, advising, promoting and monitoring respect for human rights in France. For example, the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights has the task of contributing to reports addressed to international bodies on the state of human rights in France. It then helps the government to address the international recommendations. The Contrôleur general des lieux de privation de liberté ensures that persons deprived of their liberty are treated in accordance with human rights.

This list should not be considered exhaustive: many other institutions protect and ensure the respect of human rights on a daily basis. Read more about these institutions.

European & International institutions

Often, when a State is responsible for human rights violations, its national protection scheme is not sufficient to address the problem. There are, therefore, several international institutions that supervise and enforce human rights obligations on the States. Such institutions can be international courts (like the European Court of Human Rights) or monitoring types of institutions (like the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment).

Read about which institutions are accessible to you as an individual.


Human rights are also monitored and defended by national and international non-governmental organizations. These are most often private non-profit organizations that work for the advocacy of certain rights at different levels, offer legal aid to the victims of human rights violations and/or organize awareness raising campaigns. Many non-governmental organizations worldwide have been instrumental in achieving changes to combat insufficiently protected human rights.

Read about organisations in France that work with human rights.

Last updated 08/11/2023