Continuing Commonwealth support is being provided in eSwatini to help ensure the country’s national human rights institution meets international standards.
The 2005 constitution of eSwatini established the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration (CHRPA).
Technical assistance in the setting up of the commission and training of commissioners was given by the Commonwealth over several years.
Since its inception the commission has operated within the constitution but without legislation which clearly defines the parameters for how it operates.
It is therefore not compliant with the Paris Principles, the international benchmarks against which national human rights institutions are accredited by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.
This issue was raised by the United Nations Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review process of eSwatini in 2016.
When eSwatini next reports to the Human Rights Council it will need to show how progress has been made on this issue.
Revised legislation will set out more specifically issues around the structure, appointments process and mandates for the commission in addition to how it can operate independently and effectively have a voice on national human rights concerns.
The Commonwealth has been working with stakeholders across government, civil society, the legal profession and academia to ensure all views are taken on board.
A virtual workshop this week will result in a report with recommendations as well as draft legislation which will be presented to government.
Karen McKenzie, head of human rights at the Commonwealth, said: ‘’We have been working with eSwatini over a number of years now to ensure its human rights commission is able to add value to the promotion and protection of human rights at the national level, which in turn will lead to the enjoyment of these rights by the people of eSwatini.
“Our technical assistance has also been aimed at making the commission compliant with the international standards for such institutions, namely the Paris Principles.
“Under the Sustainable Development Goals, the existence of a national human rights institution compliant with the Paris Principles, is an indicator of implementation.
“We look forward to the new legislation being tabled in parliament so that there is clarity of independence and mandates of the commission.’’
Another example of commitment to strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in eSwatini came last year when a working session was convened by the Commonwealth’s Human Rights Unit.
This allowed for senior officials from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a commission which is fully compliant with the Paris Principles, to share more than 23 years of experience with its more newly formed eSwatini counterpart.