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Human Rights Commission must have diverse representation: DPE

Bereng Mpaki

THE Human Rights Commission, when it is finally set up, must be made up of people from diverse backgrounds to protect the interests of people from various backgrounds.

Non-governmental organisation (NGO) Development for Peace Education (DPE) said this in its submission to the National Reforms Authority (NRA) on the draft Human Rights Commission Bill of 2020. The draft bill seeks to repeal the Human Rights Commission Act of 2016.

Once passed, the bill will enact a new founding legislation for the Human Rights Commission.

The NRA’s constitutional committee had invited public input into the draft bill following engagements between the civil society and the government in developing the draft bill. The commission will be established as part of the constitutional reforms.

The much-delayed multi-sector reforms include the constitutional, security sector, media, governance and judicial reforms recommended by the regional body way back in 2016.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had given Lesotho a new deadline of Jun 2021 by when to have completed. However, according to NRA deputy chairperson, Liteboho Kompi, the process is now expected to have been completed by September 2021.

The Human Rights Commission has been in the works for the past decade. It seeks to promote, protect, monitor and sustain human rights in accordance with the national constitution, other laws as well as international human rights instruments that Lesotho is party to.

The draft bill says the commission will be independent and impartial in the performance of its functions, which include investigating human rights violations and instituting legal proceedings or mediations where necessary. The draft bill further says that the High Court shall sit as a Human Rights Court to handle matters of human rights violations referred to it by the commission.

In its submission to the NRA, the DPE recommended that the number of the commissioners be increased from three to five to accommodate diverse sections of the society like civic society, women and people living with disability.

While the draft bill says persons with the highest qualifications will be considered for commissioner positions, the DPE’s education researcher Lemohang Molibeli said high qualifications alone would not guarantee that the commission will be diverse enough to appeal to all.

He said the DPE also wants the commissioners not to be employed full-time but be engaged on a part-time basis to reduce the commission’s operational costs to be shouldered by taxpayers.

“The bill has proposed for the commission to have three commissioners but we believe that is not enough and we propose that the number be increased to five,” Mr Molibeli said.

“The DPE has also suggested that the commissioners should not be employed on a full-time but part time basis. This is to reduce the significant financial burden that would come with employing them on a full-time basis as that would call for more public spending on their monthly salaries, allowances, and their aides like secretaries and drivers’ remuneration,” Mr Molibeli said.

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