Lobby group Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) is planning to embark on a sensitisation programme to further put pressure on government about the need to enact the Human Rights Bill 2013.
According to the organisation’s Programme Assistant for Democracy and Human Rights, Likopo Mokhele, the fact that the Bill was not in King Letsie III’s Speech from the Throne on the reopening on the 9th Parliament two weeks ago, was another cause for concern. Once the Bill becomes law, it paves the way for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission, whose mandate would be to investigate human rights abuses, and recommend legal steps to be taken if necessary.
“We were surprised that the issue of the Bill didn’t appear; it was not part of the King’s Speech. That is why in our annual plan, we intend to pressure government more about it and ensure a Human Rights Commission is finally established in Lesotho.
“We are trying to come up with campaigns to resuscitate interest from political leaders about the urgency of this legislation.
“What is also worrying is that the Bill is not among those to be tabled before parliament during this session.”
Ms Mokhele on Tuesday also told the Lesotho Times that the TRC had informed the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, as well as the Principal Secretary in the same ministry, about the urgent need to establish the Commission.
“The TRC has been at the forefront of lobbying government to enact the Bill into law since December 2011. The advocacy was sponsored by the European Union, but it has stalled for political reasons,” Ms Mokhele said.
The Bill, she added, had been approved by the previous government but the prorogation of parliament from June to December 2014, meant it could not be passed into law.
Since Lesotho would be among nations at the Human Rights Summit to be held in South Africa next month, the TRC wants government to “clean our house first” before the symposium.
TRC’s Democracy and Human Rights Officer, ‘Makatleho Mohase, emphasised it was important for the new government, which came to power after the 28 February 2015 snap elections, “to show political will” in the establishment of the rights body.
Ms Mohase said: “Having the Commission will illustrate that there’s good governance in the country. Donors will turn away from us if there are human rights abuses in Lesotho, and there is unnecessary delay in establishing a Commission which is supposed to investigate such cases, and advise on litigation that could be taken if need be.”
Repeated attempts to get a comment from the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Motlalentoa Letsosa, were fruitless.