Human Rights Commission
The South African Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to entrench constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and the protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.
What are human rights?
Human rights are the basic rights that everyone has, simply because they are human. The list of human rights protected in South Africa is contained in the Bill of Rights, Chapter 2 of the South African Constitution, the highest law in our country.
What are human rights violations?
If someone ignores or abuses your rights, it is called a violation of those rights. For example, if someone treats a person differently because of his or her race, gender, age or ethnic group, that person's right to equality is being abused or violated.
What does the Commission do?
In accordance with the Constitution and the Human Rights Commission Act of 1994, the tasks of the Human Rights Commission are to:
- Develop an awareness of human rights among the people of South Africa.
- Make recommendations to the state to improve the carrying out of human rights.
- Undertake studies and report to Parliament on matters relating to human rights.
- Investigate complaints of violations of human rights and seek appropriate relief.
The Commission works with government, civil society and individuals, both in South Africa and internationally, acting as both a watchdog and a visible route through which people can access their rights.
- What can the Commission do for you? See the box on the right.
While the handling and management of complaints about human rights violations lies at the heart of the Commission's work, it also aims to create a national culture of human rights through its advocacy, research and legal functions. In addition, the Commission monitors and develops standards of human rights law.
Typical recent, current and future projects include:
- A school racism study.
- An inquiry into racism in the media.
- The Roll Back Xenophobia Campaign.
- Monitoring socio-economic rights.
- A child participation study and report.
- The National Conference on Racism.
- An investigation into racism in the justice system.
- An investigation into child sexual abuse.
- Human rights in farming communities.
- Constitutional legislation (equality and access to information legislation).
- A national action plan on strategies to combat racism.
- A national action plan to promote and protect human rights.
- The UN 3rd World Conference on Racism
- Socio-economic rights of refugees and non-nationals.
- Monitoring South Africa's international human rights obligations.
The Commission's structure
The Human Rights Commission is made up of the commission, which sets out policy, and a secretariat, which implements policy. The chairperson is overall head, and there are up to 10 other commissioners, each responsible for a particular aspect of human rights - children, disability, civil rights, etc - as well as for a South African region.
The Commission has set up provincial offices to ensure that its services are widely accessible - see the box on the right.Source: South African Human Rights Commission
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