MASERU – Justice and Law minister Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane says it’s now up to parliament to fast track the establishment of a much needed independent Human Rights Commission in Lesotho.
Rakuoane spoke at the commemoration of international human rights day in Maseru, where the United Nations Development Programme – UNDP, and the Ministry of Justice marked the day.
“Plans are underway to establish the National Human Rights Commission, an independent institution constitutionally mandated to promote, protect and enforce human rights in the country” said the minister.
He says cabinet has endorsed the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Act to pave the way for the commission, and it has now been tabled to the National Assembly and referred to the portfolio committee on justice.
“We have prepared enabling legislation which is ready to be tabled before the National Assembly after the passage of the constitutional amendment.” says Rakuoane.
He thanked the UNDP Lesotho and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who have assisted Lesotho to set the process in motion until it was approved by cabinet.
UNDP Resident Coordinator, Betty Wabunoha says the UN family, including other development partners stand ready to support Lesotho and Basotho to reduce inequalities and advance human rights.
“We have travelled this journey tirelessly, and I believe we are almost at the summit. The Government’s leadership coupled with the tireless effort from all stakeholders has sustained the consistent advocacy required to reach the top with a product that will be accepted by all Basotho.”
“We don’t want to see it rushed, however we don’t want to see it delayed. We look forward to it being passed by parliament, thereafter the commission and commissioners appointed as early as possible in 2022”.” says Wabunoha
This year, Human Rights Day focused on ‘Equality’ and Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Wabunoha says one recent study conducted indicates that in Lesotho income inequalities grew by 13% between 2017 and 2020. Overall unemployment is 32.8%; highest among women at 39,7% and youth at 32.3%.
She says climate change poses a huge challenge with Lesotho ranked 56th out of 140 countries in respect to its vulnerability to climate change.
“Recent floods of November 2021 and the accompanying loss to crops and infrastructure are a recent reminder. Lesotho is also becoming more prone to drought.” she said
UNDP has been a key ally in the Lesotho constitutional, security, public service and media reforms intended to bring lasting stability, but the UNDP notes that instability has already eroded human rights.
“Years of cyclic political instability, insecurity and fractious politics has frayed the peace. This instability is also reflected at the local level with high level of homicides (including femicides) and gender-based violence, some of the highest in the world.” says Wabunoha
In conclusion she said Covid-19 has taught us that human rights and principles like equality and non-discrimination need to be part of the solution, especially on the distribution of vaccines.
“Affordable and non-discriminatory access to the vaccine is a global priority, yet it is still a long way off in the global south. As the Global Dashboard for Vaccine Equity shows, in high-income countries: one in two people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine. Recovery from the pandemic must be an opportunity to expand human rights and freedoms, and to rebuild trust.”