Human rights overhaul for security sector

 

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU –  Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) has embarked on a project to nurture human rights observance and compliance within the security cluster.

Financed by the European Union (EU), TRC will be working in partnership with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHDN) and Africa Jurists and Judges Forum (AJJF) has embarked on a project to encourage the security sector to respect, protect and comply with human rights standards.

Speaking during the launch of the project this week, TRC Director Tsikoane Peshoane said the project titled ‘Fostering Security Sector Institutions Compliance with Human Rights Standards’ will, among others, instill the culture of human rights protection and compliance among the Army, Police and the Correctional Services.

He said the project was motivated by human rights violations that the country has been experiencing for more than 50 years of independence.

Peshoane said in recent years, the country has been surrounded by critical political and security sector instability which resulted in tragedies and different episodes of loss of lives at different times.

“To be more specific, what has actually informed ideas of starting this project or programme that will be dealing with issues of human rights standards within security sector is police brutality, army torture, living conditions at prisons and impunity condonation encouragement by political authorities,” he said.

He said one of the key problems they want to address through the project are the living conditions in prisons which include but is not limited to overcrowding in prisons, insufficient food allocation, inadequate hygiene, little to no clothing and inadequate health care services.

He further noted that with the project, they aim to build CSOS driven civilian security institution relations, forge institutionalised and strengthened accountability in security sectors and ensure that the security sectors respect human dignity and adhere to human rights standards.

Peshoane noted that the other issue of concern is absence of a human rights commission in the country. He said the country does not have national human rights institutions that are competent enough to become the custodians of human rights standards in the country which poses a serious challenge of autonomy and structural independence which have been well articulated in the reforms processes.

He also spoke on the remarkable transformation in terms of how the army is now appreciating the issues of human rights standards and their collaboration with other security institutions, civilians and communities in crime prevention.

The initiative has been appreciated by Chief Justice and the Security sectors at large.

Minister of Defence Force and National Security Halebonoe Sets’abi noted that the initiative will be beneficial not just to the security sector but to the country as a whole.

He said the government also has to ensure that when the security sector enforces the rule of law, it also complies with human rights standards.

Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane at the launch of the project noted that there is need to train and capacitate the Army, the Police and Correctional Services to skillfully navigate the intersection between protecting human rights and maintaining law, order and security.

He said when police are seen to respect, uphold and defend human rights, public confidence is built and community cooperation is fostered hence a contribution is made to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and complaints.

“When police respect the law and defend human rights, legal prosecutions become successful in court, police are seen as part of the community, performing a valuable social function and fair administration of justice is served and, consequently, confidence in the system is enhanced.

“An example is set for others to respect the law; police are able to be close to communities and therefore in a position to prevent and solve crimes through proactive policing. Also support is elicited from the media, from the international community and from political authorities,” he said.

He added that police officers and law enforcement agencies that respect human rights reap benefits which advance the very objectives of law enforcement, while at the same time building a law enforcement structure that does not rely on fear and raw power, but on honour, professionalism and legality.

Speaking on behalf of Security Sector Institutions, Colonel Senatla Damane from Lesotho Defence Force noted that issues of human rights and how best they can be respected are very important especially in security sectors where development of discipline of members is paramount.

“Even though within the country’s security agencies individual comfort is secondary to duty, mitigation for individual human rights should be done in a manner that is not offensive and is accepted by human rights standard.

“The launch takes place when the country is in the middle of the ongoing national reforms where all sectors are considering how they can improve operations so that meaningful progress can be achieved.

“It is more important for the security sector to respect and observe the human rights of members of the public for the nation to have peace in such institutions,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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