Functions, Duties and Responsibilities

The primary function of the Commission as provided by the Constitution and the Act is broad, encompassing the promotion, protection and investigation of violations of human rights accorded by the Constitution or any other law. According to section 12 of the Act, this primary function includes the power to investigate violations of human rights on its own motion or upon complaints received from any person, class of person or body. The functions, duties, powers, responsibilities, competence and methods of operation of the Commission are detailed in the Act

The duties and functions of the Commission are stipulated in section 13 of the Act and these include:

  1. To act as a source of human rights information for the Government and the people of Malawi;
  2. To assist in educating the public on, and promoting awareness and respect for, human rights;
  3. To promote more particularly the human rights of vulnerable groups, such as children, illiterate persons, persons with disabilities and the elderly;
  4. To consider, deliberate upon, and make recommendations regarding any human rights issues, on its own volition or as may be referred to it by the Government;
  5. To study the status and effect of legislation, judicial decisions and administrative provisions for the protection and promotion of human rights and to prepare reports on such matters and submit the reports, with such recommendations or observations as the Commission considers appropriate, to the authorities concerned or to any other appropriate authorities; and
  6. To perform any other function which the Government may assign to the Commission in connection with the duties of Malawi under those international agreements in the field of human rights to which Malawi is a party, without derogation from the fact that the Government shall remain primarily responsible for performing such functions

In terms of section 14 of the Act, the Commission has the following responsibilities:

  1. To submit to the President, Parliament or any other competent authority, on an advisory basis, either at the request of the President, Parliament or such other authority or on its own volition, its opinions, recommendations, proposals or reports on any matters concerning the protection  and promotion of human  rights;
  2. To examine any legislation, judicial decisions or administrative provisions in force as well as bills and administrative proposals and make recommendations as it considers appropriate in order to ensure that such legislation, judicial decisions, administrative provisions, bills and administrative proposals conform to the undamental principles of human rights;
  3. Where necessary, to recommend the adoption of new legislation or administrative provisions, or the repeal, replacement or amendment of legislation or administrative provisions in force and relating to human rights;
  4. To comment publicly or as it sees fit on any general or specific situation of violation of human rights and recommend initiatives or measures to put an end to such situation;
  5. To promote ratification by Malawi of any international human rights instruments;
  6. To promote the harmonization of national legislation and practices with international human rights instruments to which Malawi is a party and to promote and monitor their effective implementation;
  7. To contribute to the reports which Malawi is required to submit pursuant to treaty obligations and, where necessary, express its opinions on the subject matter but always with due regard to its status as an independent national institution;
  8. To co-operate with agencies of the United Nations, the African Union, the Commonwealth and other multilateral or regional institutions and national institutions of other countries which are competent in the area of protection and promotion of human rights;
  9. To assist in the formulation of programmes for the teaching of, and research in, human rights and, where appropriate, to take part in their execution in institutions and other bodies, including in schools, universities and professional circles;
  10. To publicize human rights with the aim of increasing public awareness; and,
  11. To promote ratification by Malawi of any international human rights instruments

In terms of section 9 of the Gender Equality Act, the Commission has the following powers and functions in relation to promoting gender equality:

  1. To monitor and evaluate the policies and practices of Government organs, Government agencies and public bodies as well as the private sector, in order to promote gender equality and make any recommendations to the Minister on any gender issues;
  2. To carry out investigations and conduct searches in relation to any gender issues on receipt of a complaint or on its own accord;
  3. To consider, deliberate on and make recommendations to the Minister on any gender issues;
  4. To provide information to any party in a gender dispute concerning gender issues; and,
  5. To promote the ratification by Malawi of any international gender instruments

Section 7 of the Access to Information Act assigns the Commission the duty to oversee the Implementation of the Act. In terms of section 8 of ATIA, the Commission has the following powers:

  1. To raise awareness of the right of access to information among  members of the public and officials of all information holders;
  2. To advise Government and other institutions to which the ATIA applies on matters related to the coordination and the management of information in custody or under the control of information holders;
  3. To review, on application, decisions of information holders with regard to requests for information and make recommendations to the relevant information holders resulting from applications made;
  4. To make recommendations to Government on the declassification of information which is exempt from disclosure to enable access to that information;
  5. To make recommendations to Government on matters related to the legal framework on access to information and legislation;
  6. To give directions of a general nature to all institutions to which the ATIA applies, in connection with the performance of their duties and obligations under the Act;
  7. To make recommendations to the Minister on the fees payable with regard to processing of requests for information;
  8. To review decisions of information holders with regard to denial of disclosure of information or grant of access to information; and,
  9. To enter and inspect premises to which an application for review relates and inspect, make copies of, and take extracts from, any material relevant to the review process or proceedings as the case may be