Human Rights and Access to Justice
The human rights and access to justice programme focuses much on protection and promotion of human rights – respect, advocacy for justiciability and elevation of socioeconomic rights to be part of the Bill of rights in the constitution of Lesotho. It is further particular in strengthening human rights institutions and oversight bodies that human rights violations exposed are documented and victims redressed. It strives to advance constitutional democracy and social justice through the promotion and protection of community welfare and the well-being of poor and vulnerable people. The social justice programme specifically engages corporate projects authorities and government to include the community in social reforms efforts initiated by either corporate bodies or public departments. The Centre partners with Community Based Organizations and non – governmental organizations to develop a common strategy that demands authorities to address social justice issues collectively and jointly plan forward.
Subsequently, the communities which are negatively affected by environmental degradation which is consequential of land dispossession and /or property loss because of land expropriation and relocation are mobilized to demand reparation and justice with the assistance of TRC. Some programme components comprise community annual property registration sessions, assets evaluations and production of community development manual. The property registration provides a database to be shared among stakeholders for accurate reparation and identification of viable economic projects that should be supported by compensation funds.
The TRC supports the community to demand accountability for human rights abuses experienced in their areas. Regarding poor service delivery, the Centre empowers rights – holders to claim their rights and encourage duties bearers either the local authorities or line ministries and or corporate enterprise to meet the obligations of their social contract as it has been committed by the government.
The programme hosts biannual submissions of human rights violations to National Human Rights institutions to seek reparations. In circumstances where noncompliance to human rights standards is observed, legal counselling of victims is provided while the Centre undertakes legal action for constitutional protection of socio-economic rights and provides community sensitisation on environmental and economic risks mitigation initiatives and continues to monitor violations. There are lobbying and advocacy efforts for legal framework review that enhance social protection of grass-roots Institutions – self-help groups, local savings and credit associations that have mutual assistance to their members in case of shocks. Regarding the submissions to human rights institutions, cases earmarked are further taken to the constitutional court for interpretation with approval of affected marginalised households on possible legal actions. These planned out interventions enable civil society groups negatively affected by the public sector or corporate sector projects to access legal resources to demand compensation/reparations.
TRC strategy constantly strives at advancing progressive interpretation of laws and statues to enhance constitutional democracy in the country this programme undertakes initiatives proposing enactment of pro-citizen protection laws, like the criminalization of torture and a Public Interest Law. It further strengthens social audit and communities’ access to justice and rule of law in public and corporate sector’s activities of mining, dams and cannabis projects located in poor development areas.
Human rights and access to justice is one of the TRC key anchors of interventions to fight for human rights abuses in the country especially perpetuated by law enforcement agencies such as police, army, and other security establishments.
Basically, the Centre provides legal aid and legal representation assistance to indigents and groups in vulnerable situations. In the scenario where advocacy is fully exhausted TRC invokes public interest law or rather legal actions and research on issues of concern, developing law reforms proposals, lobbying, and campaigning for amendment of legal frameworks. Additionally, the Centre also engages in community legal education that raises community awareness of the law among disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of the society. Subsequently TRC uses public interest litigation in a strategic manner to advance the position of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups influencing courts of law that they should practice judicial activism such as to be mindful of broader implications of their decisions about protection of human rights and service delivery.
In identifying existing gaps and mapping civilian – security institutional arrangements for accountability, the programme hosts inter – institutional security consultative sessions. It has Security Sector Legal framework review Dialogues that produce model Bills establishing public complaints mechanisms, security sector inspectorate, internal disciplinary mechanisms and civilian–security sector relations platforms for adoption by Parliament. For purpose of popularizing public complaints mechanisms and establishment of security sector inspectorate that resolves conflict between security sector institutions and civilians, there are Media Advocacy on Public Complaints mechanisms that regularly reports on activities executed under the programme.
In reduction of unresolved human rights violations and better application of human rights standards within security agencies and in relation to the citizens, the programme hosts Human rights education and training for members of security agencies, judiciary, and magistracy. There are CSOs capacity building trainings on civilian and security sector institutions relations that facilitate regular engagement with parliament, defence and police management, and public sector authorities on security institutions compliance with human rights standards. The programme also advocates for offender’s prosecution and internal disciplinary measures within security institutions. Basically, this programme endeavors that the legal framework establishing the Security Sector institutions be revised to enhance rule of law. Moreover, in an attend to have consistent monitoring and reporting of human rights violations, the committed abuses are documented and reported and / or CSO litigation seeking redress is instituted especially in the scenario where the state fails to prosecute security sector details for rights violations.