Human Rights Unit
This unit is responsible to ensure that human rights are promoted and protected by the duty bearer; the state. While there are no genocides or killings of a large groups of people in Lesotho, however, the country does not have a culture of human rights. This is evidenced by the fact Lesotho does not recognise socio-economic and cultural rights as fundamental human rights which can be enforced. Such rights are referred to as falling under “state policies” by the Constitution. They can only be realised progressively subject to availability of the resources. Consequentially, the government justifies its failure to fulfil such rights by claiming that there are no resources or financial means to fulfil such rights. The effect of this is that those people whose socio-economic and cultural rights had been violated are left without redress. Human Rights Unit seeks to lobby the government and relevant stakeholders to ensure that socio-economic rights are recognised as full rights and enforceable rights. The Unit further capacitates communities to claim their socio-economic rights as rights.
Since 1966 independence, Lesotho had been rocked by serious human rights violations perpetrated by state institutions, particularly the army where people were tortured, subjected to serious ill-treatment and killed. Those trends of human rights violations are still continuing up-to-date. State institutions; police, army, national intelligence and correctional services find themselves on the wrong side of the law and violating human rights. It is the responsibility of Human Rights Unit to ensure that security institutions are capacitated and sensitised on the importance of respecting and promoting human rights at all times when executing their duties. The communities are also sensitised on human rights and the roles and functions of security institutions.
Lesotho ratified all the 9 core international human rights treaties, however, the country does not take seriously its obligations under treaty bodies of submitting periodical reports as and when required. In addition, it is not enough to just ratify the treaties, the state has an obligation to ensure that those treaties are domesticated. Lesotho is not that strong when it comes to domestication of ratified treaties. This attest to the submission that there is no culture of human rights in Lesotho. The Human Rights Unit is therefore tasked with ensuring that there is a constructive engagement between the Unit and the government which is aimed at assisting the government to fulfil its obligations under international human rights law of reporting and domestication.
The Unit has two results to achieve;
Human rights institutions strengthened for promotion and protection of human rights
Under this result, the Human Rights Unit must ensure that human rights are protected and where there are violations, there are reparations. The Unit must advocate and lobby for strong and effective human rights protective mechanisms. Special advocacy is on the establishment on a fully fledged Human Rights Commission in Lesotho which shall protect both socio-economic and cultural rights and the first generation of rights. The advocacy seeks to secure an establishment of Paris Principles compliant Human Rights Commission.
The Unit further advocates for independence of oversight bodies in protection and promotions of human rights. Besides the Human Rights Commission, Lesotho has other oversight institutions such as Ombudsman, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences, Police complaints Authority. The mentioned institutions are very weak in fulfilling their mandate of protecting human rights. The Unit is intended to empower them to effectively protect and promote human rights. The Unit must further engage with relevant stakeholders to lobby them to grant independence and autonomy in the founding statutes of these institutions.
Culture of human rights respect improved within communities
It is a common knowledge that the main obligation of the state as duty bearer is to protect human rights. However, a practice in Lesotho has been that the state is the principal violator of human rights. Under this result, there must be a close monitoring, documenting and reporting of human rights violations. Human rights violations remain unreported and undocumented. They happen at all levels of society; at national and community levels. The purpose is to document and report these violations with a view to expose them and assist victims and those affected to get redress.
The result wants to see paralegals being identified within project site who shall be equipped with necessary skills to identify and report human rights violations within their communities. They shall further be capacitated on mediation and conciliation skills when there are disputes within their communities.
Between 2014 and 2015, some members of the Lesotho Defence Force accused of mutiny were kidnapped, tortured and incarcerated at Maximum Prison while others skipped the country to neighbouring South Africa. SADC Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate human rights violations and other circumstances leading to their incarceration. The Commission made findings that there was no evidence that there was ever a mutiny. The commission made observations that the mutiny charges were a mere fabrication. Later on on the 17th December 2017, the Court Martial dismissed mutiny case for want of evidence that mutiny was committed or about to be committed. Hitherto those soldiers and their families which rights had been violated had not received adequate support in terms of counselling and reparations. This result wants to see soldiers and their families dealing with trauma they have experienced. It seeks to ensure that all victims get redress. And most importantly, that those soldiers fully partake in the National Reforms especially security reforms and ensure that SADC Recommendations are implemented fully.