The newly formed Mozambican Human Rights Commission is rapidly taking shape. Recently, the five reprsentatives from civil society on the commission's oversight body were chosen and all five of them are representatives of current or former grantees of OSISA - MOCIZA, the Mozambican Human Rights League, Women’s Lawyers Association and the Eduardo Mondlane Legal Aid Clinic/Centre for Human Rights and the Mozambican Law Society.
"We are obviously delighted that our investment in individual and institutional capacity building is bearing fruit and that the premier national human rights oversight body in Mozambique - and through it all Mozambicans - will benefit from this investment," said Leopoldo de Amaral, OSISA's Human Rights Programme Manager.
The other 6 members will be elected by Parliament and appointed by Government as prescribed by the UN Paris Principles, which set the international standard for the establishment of independent national human rights institutions (NHRI).
NHRI are independent permanent organs of the State, which derive their mandate from the Constitution (not from Government) established to promote and protect human rights. Although they do not have judiciary powers they can summon any private citizen or duty bearers to questioning and issue recommendations.
OSISA will be broadening its engagement with these critical institutions across southern Africa since they have the access to information and political legitimacy to call on governments to adhere to the rule of law, good governance and human rights. International bodies that are seized with promoting and protecting human rights, such as the UN Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, have also started paying more attention recently to the importance of NHRIs in improving governance and human rights protection.
Of the 10 countries in the southern Africa where OSISA works, only the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has no independent NHRI - instead there is a Ministry of Human Rights. The rest all have national human rights institutions - Angola (human rights secretary and ombudsman), Botswana (ombudsmen), Lesotho (ombudsman), Malawi (national human rights commission), Namibia (ombudsman), Swaziland (human rights commission), Zambia (national human rights commission), Zimbabwe (national human rights and public protector) and Mozambique.
However, most of them are largely disengaged and dysfunctional due to lack of good leadership, funding and personnel. But with additional support, they could start to play a critical role in protecting human rights across the region.