The Malawi Human Rights Commission is an independent National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) established by the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi under section 129 with the primary function of protecting and investigating violations of the rights accorded by the Constitution or any other law. The Commission started its operations in 1999 following the enactment of its enabling legislation, the Human Rights Commission Act (Chapter 3:08, Laws of Malawi) in 1998. Section 12 of the HRCA, states that the mandate of the Commission shall be competent in every aspect to promote and protect human rights in Malawi in the broadest sense possible and to investigate violations of human rights on its own motion or upon complaints received from any person, class of persons or body. Section 13 of the HRCA further provides for the duties and functions of the Commission whereas section 14 provides for its responsibilities.
Recently, the amendment of Gender Equality Act, 2013 and the Access to Information Act, 2017 have given the Commission added responsibilities to ensure enforcement of the Gender Equality Act and to have oversight over the implementation of the Access to Information Act.
The Commission comprises nine (9) Commissioners, seven (7) of whom are appointed members with voting rights and two (2) are ex-officio members by virtue of office as Law Commissioner and Ombudsman and do not have voting rights. Decision of the Commission are through voting at meetings. The appointed members of the Commission serve a term of three years and are eligible for reappointment for another term. The process of appointing members of the Commission is initiated by the Law Commissioner and the Ombudsman who forward a list of nominated members to the President of the Republic for formal appointment. To ensure continuity in the Commission, the Human Rights Commission Act requires that Law Commissioner and the Ombudsman must ensure that one half of the appointment members are reappointed.
The Commission is supported by a Secretariat, which is headed by the Executive Secretary appointed in terms of section 28 of the Act. The Executive Secretary attends and serves the meetings of the Commission. Apart from the Executive Secretary, in terms of section 30(1) of the Act, the Secretariat comprises other management, professional, research, technical, administrative and other support staff that are organised into six (6) directorates, with each Directorate headed by a Director. The directorates are as follows:
- Directorate of Civil and Political Rights
- Directorate of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Directorate of Gender and Women Rights
- Directorate of Child Rights
- Directorate of Disability and Elderly Rights, and
- Directorate of Corporate Services