The Om­buds­man re­struc­tures to Na­tional Hu­man Rights In­sti­tute

Botswana Guardian - - BGNEWS - 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

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