02 Oct 2013 10:00
WINDHOEK, 02 OCT (NAMPA) Justice Minister Utoni Nujoma says the baseline study report on human rights in Namibia is a useful barometer to gauge the expectations of the public, and will also enable Government to better focus its work in promoting, fulfilling and upholding relevant human rights standards.
With this study in place, further progress can now be made with the development of the plan.
In this regard, I am informed that a two-day workshop is planned for November, to which all stakeholders will be invited so that the hard part of the work can finally begin, he said at the launch of the Human Rights Baseline Study report here on Wednesday.
Nujoma thus urged all Permanent Secretaries (PS) and captains of industry to attend the workshop, and to throw their weight behind the process to ensure its success.
The Ombudsman is the facilitator of the process, but he cannot take the actions that will be required from different Government ministries in order to ensure Namibia's compliance with international standards and obligations - that will squarely be on the plates of the respective ministries, he noted.
He furthermore reminded the PSs that as heads of governments administrative entities, they have a key role to play in facilitating the implementation of the future action plan; to contribute their inputs in ensuring that Namibia complies with her international human rights obligations; that she implements human rights obligations contained in the Constitution; and that she renders her periodic reports to Treaty bodies.
According to the Justice Minister, there is no country in the world which has a perfect human rights record, but Namibia has to take pride in the fact that at least it strives to uphold its obligation to its people.
The development of human rights action plans is an important component in that quest.
The Namibian Government would now study the baseline study carefully, take account of its conclusion and recommendations and revert to the Ombudsman on how to take them forward.
Speaking at the same occasion, Ombudsman Adv John Walters said this launch was a very important event on Namibia's roadmap to entrench human rights principles more effectively, as it will eventually culminate in a national human rights action plan (NHRAP), which will reflect the strengthened environment of democracy, openness and accountability in the country.
While we all speak out strongly in the denunciation of human rights violations, we at the same time are aware that the promotion and protection of human rights involves more than identifying alleged wrongdoers and exhorting Government to improve its performance by developing and implementing a national human rights action plan.
Government is making an unambiguous statement to the Namibian people and the outside world about its human rights agenda, noted Walters.
Two of the main challenges highlighted by the baseline study are that there is currently no formal legal protection for the rights of elderly people - as a collective - in Namibia, and that a third of elderly persons interviewed were found to be less aware of their human rights.
Furthermore, people with disabilities face a lack of employment opportunities and discrimination, while the absence of Sign Language interpreters at clinics and hospitals countrywide is also a setback.
Other issues highlighted were that the recognition of the indigenous status of persons remains a conceptual challenge and a matter of great controversy, while homosexuality is not legal in Namibia.
Sodomy is also still a crime in the country.