Human Rights Committee Role and Impact on Protection of Human Rights

Human Rights Committee Role and Impact on Protection of Human Rights
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  1 THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE: ITS ROLE AND IMPACT ON PROTECTIONOF HUMAN RIGHTS An Analysis by Martha NanjobGo!rnan  Cons#ltant uman rights are those rights which are inherent to the human being. Theconcept of human rights acknowledges that every human being is entitled toenjoy his or her human rights without distinction as to race, colour, gender,religion, political or other opinion, national or social srcin, birth or other status. H Human rights are legally guaranteed by human rights law, protecting individualsand groups against actions that interfere with fundamental freedoms and humandignity. They are expressed in treaties, customary international law, bodies of principles and other sources of law. Human rights law places an obligation on Statesto act in a particular way and prohibits States from engaging in specied activities. However, the law does not establish human rights. Human rights are inherententitlements which come to every person as a conseuence of being human. Treaties and other sources of law generally serve to formally protect the rights of individuals and groups against actions or abandonment of actions by !overnmentswhich interfere with the enjoyment of their human rights. The government of ganda#s $onstitution guarantees civil, political, social andcultural rights for gandans and people living in ganda. The legislature, executiveand judiciary are mandated to protect and enforce these rights. %n promoting arights&based approach to governance, the government is reuired to ensure that itsprograms and activities meet national and international human rights standards.'or legislators, it reuires scrutiny of laws before (arliament and review of executiveaction to ensure compatibility. )n the other hand, a rights&based approach reuiresan independent judiciary to control human rights abuses, all of which contribute toreducing the risk of human rights violations taking place. Man$at o% th H#&an Ri'hts Co&&itt %n ganda, a Human *ights $ommittee of (arliament was established in +-+ with amandate of ensuring that all business before (arliament is compliant with humanrights standards. %n order to eectively undertake its mandate, the $ommitteedeveloped a checklist against which an assessment of human rights compliance canbe made. This has provided certainty to the $ommittee /embers and the 0xecutiveon what they need to comply with before introducing any business in the House. The committee also oversees the human rights situation in ganda, throughmonitoring all matters relating to human rights and government#s observance of human rights. %n this way, the committee operates as a clearing house by testingthe compatibility of policies, practices and legislation and ensures conformity to  1 internationally agreed standards. The Human *ights $ommittee is thereby essentialto the reali1ation of (arliament#s tripartite mandate of2 representation, legislationand oversight. nder *ule -34 of (arliament#s *ules of (rocedure, the Human rights committee#sfunctions are to monitor and report on human rights concerns in every businesshandled by (arliament5 monitor !overnment#s compliance with national andinternational human rights instruments and follow up on !overnment periodicreports to international human rights monitoring bodies5 examine recommendationsof the ganda Human *ights $ommission 6 H*$7 reports and ensure that!overnment is held accountable in this regard5 inuire into any matter relating tohuman rights in ganda5 and carry on such other functions relating to human rightsas may be assigned to it by (arliament under this 8ct or any other law in force. The$ommittee is supposed to make recommendations aimed at improving humanrights and it reports to (arliament at least twice a year, although it can report to(arliament on any issue it has handled. Rol o% th UHRC )ne of the biggest tasks of the human rights committee is to examine therecommendations of the H*$ reports and ensure government accountability forhuman rights compliance. The H*$ is constitutionally mandated to monitor thehuman rights situation in ganda, under 8rticle 9+ of the gandan $onstitutionwhich provides that the H*$ shall among others2  %nvestigate, at its own initiative or on a complaint made by any person orgroup of persons against the violation of any human right5  :isit jails, prisons, and places of detention or related facilities to assess andinspect inmates# conditions and make recommendations5  *ecommend to (arliament eective measures to promote human rightsincluding provision of compensation to victims of violations of human rights,or their families5  0ducate and encourage the public to defend the $onstitution against allforms of abuse and violation5  'ormulate, implement, and oversee programs intended to increase gandanciti1ens# awareness of their civic responsibilities and an appreciation of theirrights and obligations as free people5  /onitor government#s compliance with international treaty and conventionobligations on human rights.8rticle 9+ 6+7 also reuires the $ommission to publish periodic reports and submitannual reports to (arliament on the state of human rights and freedoms in thecountry. The H*$ thereby plays a pivotal stakeholder role to the human rightscommittee, in that it provides information on the human rights situation in ganda5and also plays an advisory role to (arliament regarding government#s compliance to  1 international human rights obligations. Since the establishment of the human rightscommittee, it has been able to clear a ;&year backlog of H*$ reports. The H*$presents its recommendations on improving human rights in their reports to thehuman rights committee5 and the committee prepares a report which is discussed in(arliament. The committee has also undertaken human rights monitoring in variousagencies in the country, targeting detention centres and health facilities. Li&itations <evertheless, the advice of the H*$ or the human rights committee has no bindingforce on (arliament or government. The advice is not even persuasive, in that(arliament seems not to take human rights into consideration when enacting laws.%nstead, human rights are often subject to politics and=or political will. >ecisions toenact laws, or aspects of the behaviour of some government agencies aremotivated by politics, whose interests may run counter to the protection of humanrights. 8 case in point is the enactment of the (ublic )rder /anagement 8ct and the8nti&homosexuality 8ct. %n +-+, the H*$ advised (arliament not to approve laws that violate human rightsstandards to which government is committed, which included the (ublic )rder/anagement ?ill. However, (arliament passed the (ublic )rder /anagement ?illinto law in 8ugust +-@ without due regard or consideration of the violations of human rights in the 8ct5 and the president assented shortly after, further restrictingspace for dissent and public critiues of governance. Ahereas the bill wasconsiderably amended just before passage, it remains vague, making it open toabusive application. The law still grants the police wide discretionary powers tomanage public meetings, which violates citi1ens# civil and political rights.%n addition, the human rights committee is a relatively young committee, and itsimpact in reducing human rights violations in the country is yet to be felt. 'orinstance, citi1ens# economic, social and cultural rights continue to be violated andthe human rights committees# capacity to make perpetrators accountable is notvisible. Bow wages for teachers, health workers, civil servants and the delayedpayment of pension to retired civil servants have continued to be key human rightsissues that have an impact on service delivery.  The H*$ has been active in monitoring health centres and detention facilitieswhere they unearth key issues aecting the users of the facilities. However,ndings at health centre level are a symptom of a wider problem which thecommittee does not have the capacity to address. 8nother area of concern is theprisons and detention facilities where the high prison population and the detentionof juveniles with adults remain key challenges. However, the high prison populationis caused by several systemic factors which are outside the control of the humanrights committee, factors like the lack of detention facilities for juveniles in someareas, and the limited number of judicial oCcials especially in the country side.  1 *egarding the reali1ation of civil and political rights, the outcomes have not beenthat impressive either. Ahile the H*$ has been instrumental in highlightingabuses of civil and political rights, and the human rights committee deliberates onthe H*$ reports and sends a report to the full house, this has not had a signicantcontribution to the improvement in the reali1ation of civil and political rights. H*$#s -;th *eport to (arliament for +-@ revealed that human rights complaintsincreased by 3@ percent in +-@. The top human rights complaint in +-@ wasdeprivation of personal liberty through detention beyond the 4D&hour deadlineprescribed by the law5 and the brutal crackdown on opposition political partyactivities. 0orts to make police accountable for not detaining people beyond 4Dhours have only led to police excusing its conduct, rather than adhering to the 4Dhour rule. In on l#sion , while the establishment of the Human *ights $ommittee in(arliament is a crucially important aspect of governance and rule of law, a lotremains to be done before its impact is felt in the areas of service delivery, civil andpolitical rights.
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