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Protectors or Pretenders? - Government Human Rights Commissions in Africa, HRW Report 2001




International Standards: The Paris Principles

Important Factors

Examining the Record in Africa

Innovative and Positive Contributions by Commissions

Regional Iniatives

The Role Of The International Community





Staffing and Appointment Procedures

    The CHRAJ is composed of one commissioner and two deputies who are appointed by the president, acting on the advice of the council of state, which is a non-partisan advisory body of respected elders. The only qualification stipulated in the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice Act is that the commissioner should meet the requirements to be appointed as a judge of the court of appeal and the deputies to qualify as high court judges. The commissioner and deputies enjoy the same secure tenure as judges and cannot be removed before retirement age, except in limited circumstances that require the president to refer allegations of misconduct or incompetence to the chief justice to set up a committee and make recommendations to the president once a prima facie case has been determined. Although the appointment process itself does not guarantee independence, the security of tenure enjoyed by commission members gives them the ability to function independently and outspokenly.106

    The commission is currently headed by Emile Short-a lawyer previously in private practice-who has been taken his mandate seriously and not shied away from taking on controversial or politically sensitive issues, such as government corruption. The two deputy commissioners have divided the work load into legal and administrative matters respectively.

    The CHRAJ is divided into four departments: (1) The legal department which includes the research unit and is made up of lawyers with a supporting staff of a registrar and bailiffs; (2) The operations department which is responsible for investigations and public education and is made up largely of investigators; (3) the administration department which deals with personnel, public relations, statistics and computers; and (4) the finance department which deals with accounting, auditing and financing.

    The CHRAJ has a total of over 600 staff. There are offices in all ten regions of the country and in sixty-four of the110 districts. Working conditions, particularly in the rural areas are difficult. Most offices of the CHRAJ are short of space which creates cramped working conditions for the staff and raises concerns of privacy and confidentiality for people seeking to file complaints. There are plans to open offices in all the districts in the next two years and to increase the staff by a further 200 or more.

    Each regional office is headed by a regional director who is a lawyer, assisted by legal officers and investigators. Each district office is headed by a district officer, who must be a university graduate. Typically, a district office may also have an assistant investigator, an assistant registrar, a bailiff, and a secretary. District offices have the power to mediate but not to decide the outcome of a contested case (except in a small minority of instances where the district officer is a lawyer). The region must refer all contested issues to headquarters in Accra for approval. This approach has ensured consistency in the decision-making on the one hand, but slows down the process on the other. At the district level, the number of complaints is relatively few, probably due to the lack of familiarity with the CHRAJ in the rural areas and transportation difficulties in reaching the district capital to file a complaint.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2001

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