The structure of the Human Rights Commission, reflecting the provisions of the Human Rights Commission Act No.39 of 1996, is composed of the Commission and the Directorate.
The Human Rights Commission consists of seven Commissioners- the Chairperson, the Vice Chairperson and five other Commissioners - who are appointed by the President subject to ratification by the National Assembly. Commissioners hold office for a period of three years subject to renewal.
The directorate, headed by the Director who is assisted by the Deputy Director, includes the following departments/sections and programmes:
i. Legal and Investigations
This department primarily investigates cases of human rights violations. It also facilitates visits by the Commission to prisons and other places of detention to assessing and inspecting conditions of persons held in such places and make recommendations to redress the problems. The department uses a variety of techniques in carrying out its investigative functions. These include field or on-site investigation, interviews at the offices of the Human Rights Commission either at the headquarters in Lusaka or at regional offices, telephone interviews or inquiries, including conducting public hearings.
ii. Information, Education and Training
In line with the Commission’s mandate under section 9(a) of the Human Rights Commission Act, this department carries out human rights education and sensitization and conducts training in human rights, to raise awareness and empower people with the necessary information, knowledge and skills in promoting and protecting human rights in Zambia. This is done largely through design and distribution of IEC materials; media training, human rights orientation workshops; TV/radio discussion and dramatised programmes; community theatre shows and a wide variety of other activities all designed to enhance the culture of human rights.
iii. Research, Advocacy and Planning
This department carries out research into identified human rights issues and undertakes advocacy to positively influence as well as monitor the development and observance of key national and international human rights standards by all stakeholders, for the protection and promotion of human rights in Zambia. It also ensures effective liaison and networking between the Commission and other organizations involved in research concerning human rights issues in order to harmonise efforts and maintain standards in the promotion of human rights.
iv. Office of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights
The Office of the Commissioner for Children was recently established with the support of Save The Children Norway and Sweden to enhance the promotion and protection of children’s rights in Zambia in line with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This office will execute its functions, within the mandate of the Human Rights Commission provided for under article 125 of the Constitution of Zambia, which include, but is not limited to investigation of violation of children’s rights, investigation of maladministration of justice, inspection of standards of childcare in prisons and institutions of care as well as research, awareness and sensitization on children’s rights.
Under the auspices of the Office of the Commissioner for Children’s Rigths, the Human Rights Commission carried out visits to state correctional facilities such as Katombora Reformatory School in Livingstone, Nakambala Approved School in Mazabuka, and Insakwe Probation Hostel for Girls in Ndola to assess childcare standards in order to ensure the quality of life for children. Earlier, the Commission had conducted a Public Hearing on violence against children, under the theme “Our Right To Be Protected From Violence” though which it was learnt that vulnerable and disadvantaged children such as orphans and children on the street suffer the most violence.
Withe support of Save the Children Norway and Sweden, the Commission also visited a number of countries including Mauritius, Norway, Nigeria and Sweden, to learn about the establishment and functions of the Office of Commissioner for Children in those countries. The efforts to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children have been supported by many other stakeholders working with the Commission on children’s rights, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Children In Need Network (CHIN).
v. Human Rights and HIV/AIDS
As a contribution towards a rights-based national response to HIV, the Human Rights Commission has initiated a pilot project which will deal with issues relating human rights and HIV/AIDS. Among other things, this project seeks to:
• Create awareness on the relationship between HIV and human rights and on the role of the National Human Rights Commission of Zambia in the protection of HIV-related human rights;
• Empower people infected and affected by HIV, including vulnerable and marginalised groups, to access the judicial and other avenues for the protection of their human rights; and
• Contribute to strengthening the policy and legislative environment for the protection of the rights of people living with HIV.
vi. Human Resource and Administration
This section is responsible for staff recruitment, performance appraisals, staff orientation and everything to do with personnel and general administration.
vii. Finance and Accounts
All financial matters are handled by the Financial and Accounts section.
viii. Provincial Offices
As part of a decentralization programme, five provincial offices have been opened to enhance accessibility and visibility of the Commission. These include Chipata Office in Eastern Province, Kasama Office in Northern Province, Livingstone Office in Southern Province, Mongu Office in Western Province and Ndola Office on the Copperbelt Province.
c) Thematic Committees
In accordance with Section 15 of the Human Rights Commission Act the Commission has established five Thematic Committees as follows:
1) Gender Equality Rights Committee. This Committee is chaired by the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Pixie Yangailo;
2) Civil and Political Rights Committee. The Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, Mr. Palan Mulonda, chairs this committee;
3) Children’s Rights Committee, which is chaired by Commissioner Pastor Godfrida Sumaili;
4) Economic, Social, Cultural and Solidarity Rights Committee chaired by Commissioner Alfred Sakala; and
5) Education and Information Committee being chaired by Commissioner Kenneth Maduma.
Previously, the Human Rights Commission had a special committee on Access to Justice and Freedom from Torture which was merged with the Civil and Political Rights Committee, following the decision of the Commission meeting held on 7th January 2009, to allow for the formation of Education and Information Committee.
In designing and implementing its activities the Commission has been guided by the National Plan of Action which was developed with human rights stakeholders in Zambia for the period 1999 to 2009. The NPA is a guide and framework identifying priority areas, strategies, actions and goals for the effective promotion and protection of all human rights at all levels and for the building of a sustainable human rights culture in the country. In addition, the Commission is guided by its Strategic Plan (2007-2011) whose emphasis is about re-strategizing on the Commission’s activities and developing plans to upscale on some of the viable activities while introducing new activities where necessary.