Álvaro Gil-Robles (Spain) was the first Commissioner for Human Rights, holding office from 15 October 1999 to 31 March 2006. He shaped the profile of the Office and its role within the European human rights system, establishing international credibility for the institution. His most noteworthy actions included his engagement in the protection of human rights in the aftermath of the second Chechen conflict, advocacy for improving prison conditions, promotion of minority rights and support to national human rights actors, such as Ombudsmen, other national institutions and non-governmental organisations.
Previously, Mr Gil-Robles was Ombudsman of Spain (1988-1993), lawyer for the Constitutional Court of Spain (1980-1983) and Professor at the Complutense University of Madrid (1978-1980).
Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden) was Commissioner for Human Rights from 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2012. He further developed the system of country visits and dialogue with national authorities, focusing on effective implementation of human rights standards. He raised the profile and visibility of the institution and strengthened its impact. Some of the highlights of his mandate include his humanitarian work following the 2008 conflict in Georgia, the defence of human rights of Roma and migrants, and raising awareness about the human rights of LGBT people.
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, he was Secretary General of the Stockholm-based Olof Palme International Center (2002-2005), Ambassador of the Swedish Government on Humanitarian Affairs (1994-2002), Secretary General of "Save the Children" Sweden (1986-1992), and Secretary General of the London-based Amnesty International (1980-1986).