Hu­man rights bill on the cards

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

A BILL seek­ing to op­er­a­tionalise the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion was tabled in the Na­tional As­sem­bly on Mon­day.

The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion Bill 2015 was pre­sented be­fore par­lia­ment by Hu­man Rights, Law and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs Min­is­ter Mot­la­len­toa Let­sosa. Ac­cord­ing to the Bill’s state­ment of ob­jects and rea­sons, it would pro­vide for the ad­min­is­tra­tion and reg­u­la­tion of the ac­tiv­i­ties of the com­mis­sion.

“The man­date of the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion as set out in the Con­sti­tu­tion is, among oth­ers, to in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints of vi­o­la­tions and abuses of hu­man rights and make bind­ing de­ci­sions. This is a man­date which is lack­ing in al­ready ex­ist­ing in­sti­tu­tions such as the Po­lice Com­plaints Author­ity, Om­buds­man and the Po­lice In­spec­torate,” says the state­ment.

The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion’s main ob­jec­tives would be to “pro­mote, pro­tect, mon­i­tor and sus­tain hu­man rights in ac­cor­dance with the con­sti­tu­tion and other laws of Le­sotho and re­gional and Mr Moleleki said as he re­ceived the pe­ti­tions on be­half of his two col­leagues.

“We are go­ing to re­port to cabi­net. We are in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights in­stru­ments to which Le­sotho is a state party”.

The com­mis­sion, says the bill, would be head­quar­tered in Maseru and “shall be in­de­pen­dent and im­par­tial in the per­for­mance of its func­tions and ex­er­cise of its pow­ers”. The ap­point­ment of its mem­bers would be “gen­der sen­si­tive” with a chairperson, deputy chairperson who would act in the ab­sence of the chairperson and com­mis­sion­ers. The ap­pointees would be peo­ple with “ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in hu­man rights and re­lated dis­ci­plines” and would be made by the King act­ing on the ad­vice of the prime min­is­ter.

Among the func­tions of the com­mis­sion would be to: Mon­i­tor the state of hu­man rights through­out Le­sotho; Mon­i­tor the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion of de­tainees; In­ves­ti­gate vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights and, if nec­es­sary, be re­spon­si­ble for in­sti­tut­ing pro­ceed­ings against such vi­o­la­tions in the courts of law; Sen­si­tise the pub­lic on its work, the na­ture and mean­ing of hu- gov­erned by you and the pub­lic should also learn that this is how democ­racy works. If there are is­sues, they should be re­solved man rights; De­velop and de­liver ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grammes as nec­es­sary to the gen­eral pub­lic; Sub­mit opin­ions, rec­om­men­da­tions, propo­si­tions and re­ports to the pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions on hu­man rights is­sues, us­ing the me­dia and other means; Ad­vo­cate for rat­i­fi­ca­tion, and rec­om­mend the do­mes­ti­ca­tion, of in­ter­na­tional and re­gional hu­man rights in­stru­ments; Pro­mote and mon­i­tor the har­mon­i­sa­tion of na­tional laws and prac­tices with in­ter­na­tional and re­gional rights in­stru­ments to which Le­sotho is a state party; De­velop and main­tain work­ing re­la­tions with or­gan­i­sa­tions and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of civil so­ci­ety in Le­sotho; Work in co­op­er­a­tion with the United Na­tions, re­gional mech­a­nisms, na­tional hu­man rights in­sti­tu­tions of other coun­tries in the ar­eas of the pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights; and Un­der­take any other ac­tiv­i­ties or re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that are con­sis­tent with the spirit of the pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of hu­man peace­fully.

“We ac­cept the pe­ti­tions with hu­mil­ity be­cause we are ser­vants of the peo­ple.” rights. Upon re­ceipt of a com­plaint, the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion would de­ter­mine its ad­mis­si­bil­ity. The bill re­stricts the Com­mis­sion from han­dling com­plaints that have been de­cided by a court of law; that will at the time be be­fore any court of law; on a mat­ter in­volv­ing or deal­ing with the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho and the gov­ern­ment of an­other coun­try or an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion. It would also not in­ter­vene on a mat­ter re­lat­ing to the “ex­er­cise of the pre­rog­a­tive of mercy”.

“In all cases in which the com­mis­sion de­cided not to in­ter­vene or end an in­ter­ven­tion, the com­mis­sion shall, within 30 days of mak­ing the de­ci­sion, no­tify a com­plainant of other po­ten­tial reme­dies avail­able and of how they may be ac­cessed,” it says.

The bill also states that the com­mis­sion may also not in­quire on a mat­ter if it is deemed “triv­ial or vex­a­tious or the al­leged vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights is man­i­festly un­founded”. It would also not in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter if the per­son mak­ing the re­quest “has in­suf­fi­cient

in­ter­est in the mat­ter”.

The de­lib­er­ate hin­der­ing or ob­struc­tion of the com­mis­sion’s du­ties and ex­er­cise of its pow­ers would elicit a fine not ex­ceed­ing M10 000 or one year im­pris­on­ment. Among the ac­tions that would con­sti­tute ob­struc­tion would be re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pro­vid­ing tes­ti­mony in bad faith and re­fus­ing to pro­vide ob­jects or doc­u­ments re­quested by the com­mis­sion.

The draft law also states that the High Court would sit as a Hu­man Rights Court to han­dle mat­ters of vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights as they may be re­ferred by the com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion would have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of mon­i­tor­ing the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion of de­tainees by in­spect­ing their places of de­ten­tion.

Said the bill: “The com­mis­sion shall have pow­ers to en­ter a place of de­ten­tion freely and with­out ad­vance no­tice; ex­am­ine all doc­u­ments nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish the ac­tual sit­u­a­tion in the place of de­ten­tion, in­clud­ing pri­son reg­istries; see all de­tainees freely, if nec­es­sary in pri­vate.”

Fol­low­ing its first tabling and read­ing by the house, the bill was re­ferred to the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on Law and Pub­lic Safety by Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker Ntl­hoi Mot­samai.

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