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‘Govt committed to human rights’


Limpho Sello

ATTORNEY-GENERAL (AG) Tšokolo Makhethe says the government is committed to adhering to all the international human rights treaties to which it is a party.

Advocate Makhethe made the remarks during a three-day training workshop in Maseru for stakeholders in human rights treaty reporting which ended on Friday. The workshop was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with various stakeholders, including civil society, sharing ideas on the roles they can play in ensuring Lesotho reports to treaty monitoring bodies.

When a country ratifies a treaty, it assumes a legal obligation to implement the rights recognized in that treaty. However, becoming a party to a treaty is only the first step, because recognition of rights on paper is not sufficient to guarantee that they will be enjoyed in practice.

So, in addition to the obligation to implement the substantive provisions of the treaty, countries are also under an obligation to submit periodic reports to the relevant treaty body on how the rights are being implemented.

Among the international treaties Lesotho is party to is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as well as Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Advocate Makhethe said ratification of human rights treaties was important because it committed a state to take specific measures to improve the human rights situation on the ground.

“Such commitments are very important, but it is the implementation of these commitments which really matters,” he said.

“The ambition of Lesotho is to move expeditiously towards the best practices in the field of human rights. Lesotho has therefore ratified the core international human rights instruments.

“However, we are faced with a huge backlog of state party reports as a result of inadequate resources and capacity.”

The government, Advocate Makhethe said, has “spared no effort” in advancing the human rights treaties implementation “be it civil, political, socio-economic or cultural”.

“Indeed, reporting remains an important element to ensure transparency. In fact, the principle of transparency in this process cannot be over emphasized,” he said.

The AG added that while the government bore the primary duty of promoting and protecting human rights, non-state actors and other stakeholders played an important role in ensuring the enjoyment of human rights becomes a reality.

“We all have a collective responsibility in ensuring that the present accumulation of state party reports and lack of domestication becomes something of the past,” he said.

On his part, Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) Programmes Director Kanono Thabane expressed hope that the workshop would help expedite the state’s reporting on the nine conventions it has ratified.

“Treaty bodies except the sub-committee on the Prevention of Torture receive and consider reports submitted by state parties, yet Lesotho’s reporting has been dismal,” Mr Thabane said.

“Some of these treaty body reports are 15 years overdue, while in some instances there has never been an initial report submitted. LCN is concerned about the lack of political will by Lesotho to comply with the reporting requirements to the treaty bodies.”

He said they were also concerned with the government’s failure to review laws that discriminate against women.

“On numerous occasions, we have collectively requested the Government of Lesotho to review the discriminatory provisions in the Constitution and other legislation which promote discrimination on the grounds of gender,” Mr Thabane noted.

“We are also concerned about human rights violations as documented in United States Department of State: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. These annual reports showcase an alarming increase in violation of human rights, detention, arbitrary arrest and poor detention centre conditions.

“In this regard, LCN strongly recommends the government of Lesotho to submit overdue initial and periodic reports to the various human rights treaty bodies, some of which have been overdue since 1994. “They also need to fully operationalise the National Human Rights Commission and ensure that it functions in conformity with the Paris Principles.”

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