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General News of Monday, 18 June 2018


CHRAJ boss says body ineffective due to laws

Joseph Whittal, Commissioner of CHRAJ Joseph Whittal, Commissioner of CHRAJ

Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) Joseph Whittal has expressed frustration over provisions in the constitution which, he claims, restrict the state human rights body in some investigations.

Speaking on 3FM‘s Sunrise, Mr Whittal indicated that the laws that guide CHRAJ only allows it to investigate issues of corruption and misappropriation of funds, which covers just an aspect of the Commission’s mandate.

He observed that other issues which involve conflict of interest, the violation of fundamental human rights and administrative injustices that occur in the governance system cannot be investigated by CHRAJ unless a complaint is lodged.

Mr Whittal lamented this, stating that the laws ought to be reviewed to allow CHRAJ investigate other issues beside corruption and misappropriation of funds.

“Having worked in the institution for 25 years now, it is clear that human rights and administrative wrongs should also be investigated without a complaint, reason being that some of the people do not even know that their rights are being violated,” he stated.

He argued that CHRAJ should be able to investigate without complaint when it stumbles over any issue bordering on violation of rights in the country.

“I disagree with the position of where the law is now. There are some administrative wrongs that are being done in the public service. Why should we wait for a complaint before we come forward to investigate?” he questioned.

According to him, CHRAJ is privy to some cases in which the rights of young people and adults, in some cases, are violated, but they are unable to investigate to bring perpetrators to book because of restrictions by law.

“When you look at some of the stories that come into the newspapers, for instance, there was a story that a young lady has been married off against her wish, but who would come forward to complain? But we know that child marriage is not right and there is the need to protect the right of the child.”

He noted that the law as it stands now does not help CHRAJ to perform very well, especially as regards the functions which require that a complaint should trigger the mandate.

This, he stated, makes the work of CHRAJ very difficult, and does not allow it perform its functions effectively.

“The complaint filter should be removed, we are aware of wrongs ongoing but we cannot investigate because of the law,” he said.

Mr Whittal stated, however, that the Constitutional Review and Implementation Committee (CRIC) had made some recommendations for all the mandates of the Commission to not require a complaint to trigger them.

He is hopeful the recommendations would be considered in order to make the body more effective and give them room to fully execute their mandate.

“We are waiting for the outcome of the Constitutional Review [and Implementation] Commission to be turned into law,” Mr Whittal stated.

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