The Ombudsman restructures to National Human Rights Institute
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