Botswana Guardian

The Ombudsman restructur­es to National Human Rights Institute

- Ernest Moloi BG reporter

The Office of the Ombudsman is being transforme­d into a National Human Rights Institute (NHRI), Director of the Human Rights Unit in the Office of the President, has said.

Tebogo Mapodisi told Botswana

Guardian in an interview this week that the conferment of the human rights mandate in the Office of the Ombudsman was one of the recommenda­tions that the Internatio­nal Human Rights Council has repeatedly made to Botswana when it appeared for its periodic reviews in Geneva.

Now that the Human Rights Unit is up and running and is looking to monitor the implementa­tion of recommenda­tions arising from the Universal Peer Review (UPR) reports at Human Rights Council and other internatio­nal treaty bodies, Mapodisi said they are working around the clock to ensure that the Ombudsman becomes an NHRI.

The process involves amending the Ombudsman Act, which she said is already “at an advanced stage.” The initial Bill was drafted in 2014 and has been revised on numerous occasions.

Mapodisi explained that the delays for its finalisati­on are due to efforts towards ensuring that the Paris Principles are complied with.

The Paris Principles are standards that govern National Human Rights Institutio­ns. These include ensuing that NHRI has pluralism or broad mandate, (gender parity, civil society, academia and so forth); is adequately financed and enjoys operationa­l independen­ce.

Mapodisi explained that the amended Act also has to go through an accreditat­ion process by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutio­ns (GANHRI), hitherto known as the Internatio­nal Coordinati­ng Committee of National Human Rights Institutio­ns, or Internatio­nal

Coordinati­ng Committee (ICC).

This is a global network of national human rights institutio­ns (NHRIs) – administra­tive bodies set up to promote, protect and monitor human rights in a given country.

The GANHRI coordinate­s the relationsh­ip between NHRIs and the United Nations human rights system, and is according to its website, unique as the “only non-UN body whose internal accreditat­ion system, based on compliance with the 1993 Paris Principles, grants access to UN committees.

Governance Advisor to the President, Dr Kaelo Molefhe explained that once operationa­l, the National Human Rights Institute would have two mandates.

It will retain the traditiona­l function of the Ombudsman, which is to investigat­e maladminis­tration in public service and then have a Human Rights function.

He said that this hybrid model that Botswana chose was benchmarke­d from Ghana and Tanzania. In terms of structure, Mapodisi said the Ombudsman would sit at the apex and have two Deputies, one for Governance (investigat­ing maladminis­tration) and the other for Human Rights investigat­ions.

All this work is being done with the technical support of the United Nations Developmen­t Programme (UNDP), which has assigned a human rights advisor, Joella Marron to Botswana to help develop a Human Rights Strategy as well as set up a National Recommenda­tions Tracking Database.

As a signatory of various internatio­nal human rights convention­s and treaties such as Convention on the Eliminatio­n of Discrimina­tion Against Women (CEDAW), Internatio­nal Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPS) and Convention on the Eliminatio­n of Racial Discrimina­tion (CERD) Botswana is duty bound to comply.

Now this means that the NHRI will henceforth report independen­tly to the Human Rights Council and also carry out investigat­ions of alleged violations of human rights as and when it receives them.

Mapodisi clarified that all countries in good standing at the United Nations have this institutio­n and that it is completely distinct from government as it operates independen­tly.

The NHRI will however not displace the Human Rights Unit which will remain housed at the Ministry of Presidenti­al Affairs, Governance and Public Administra­tion to coordinate all government department­s and give strategic advice on the promotion and protection of human rights by the State.

 ??  ?? Governance Advisor to the President, Dr Kaelo Molefhe
Governance Advisor to the President, Dr Kaelo Molefhe

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