Mahao talks tough on rights

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By Teboho Serutla

The minister of law and justice, Professor Nqosa Mahao took part in the Universal Periodic Review 4th meeting on the 46th Regular Session of Human Rights Council, that was held virtually this week.

The Council’s main annual session started off with a high-level segment from Monday to Wednesday, when dignitaries representing more than 130 countries addressed the Council on their governments’ efforts to promote and protect human rights.

On behalf of Lesotho, Professor Mahao said the Session reaffirms the commitments made by the states on the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights, as well as other pertinent, regional and international Human Rights instruments.

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He said Lesotho took part in the third circle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, in January 2020 and the recommendations ensuing from then, are continually being implemented and ultimately, Lesotho will submit her voluntary mid-term report.

“The government of Lesotho has further submitted its responses to lists of issues prior to reporting, on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in April 2020 and it is ready to represent it before the relevant treaty monitoring body.

“I am pleased to report that the amendment bill to its enabling legislation is ready to be tabled before the National Assembly for deliberation. Awareness and educational campaigns on the commission and its work were held in the three regions of the country, where relevant stakeholders such as district administrators, principal and area chiefs, heads of departments and councillors from all 10 districts were all represented.”

In response to the impact of the COVID-19, Mahao noted that this disease is not only a public health emergency but also a human rights crisis since its inception brought about unprecedented disruptions and anxieties that continue to negatively impact on the people’s lives and livelihoods.

He pointed out that COVID-19 is a reminder of the importance of the indivisibility of human rights as well as respect for human rights across the spectrum which will be fundamental to the success of the public health responses.

“The government had to ensure that the health care system has the capacity to carry the increasing burden of treatments for those infected by COVID-19, to save lives while ensuring that the provision of normal health care services is not affected adversely. The government had to impose drastic measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, including implementation of lockdowns, imposition of quarantine or isolation that is limiting the freedom of movement.

“These factors brought economic activities to a standstill, thereby impacting on some fundamental human rights for most individuals and families.

“Although the pandemic threatens to roll back progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and most governments are continually devising strategies on how to curb the virus and protecting their citizens, however challenging, we have to ensure that everybody is protected and included in the various responses and strategies,” Mahao added.

He says it is through concerted efforts of the United Nations system, its international and national partners, the international community and national governments that they will be able to build more effective and inclusive solutions through human rights based approach.

He therefore affirmed Lesotho’s commitment to working in cooperation with the Human Rights Council towards attaining a world that is free of human rights violations, where the cornerstones of democracy, good governance and human rights prevail.

During the session, the Council reviewed reports on a wide range of human rights issues and will engage in over 30 interactive dialogues with human rights experts, groups and mechanisms concerning, among other issues, around 50 countries.  It heard the presentation of about 100 thematic and country reports on a wide range of issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Council also held an annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming; its biennial high-level panel on death penalty; its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child; its annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities; a meeting on the role of poverty alleviation in promoting and protecting human rights; and a debate on the mid-term review of the International Decade for People of African Descent. The final outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of 14 States were also expected to be considered and adopted, namely that of Andorra, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Honduras, Jamaica, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Panama, and the United States.