Steps taken to lodge a complaint:
Step 1: A complaint is received by UHRC through walk-ins, telephone, letter, e-mail or fax or is identified by UHRC through media reports or other sources. Please note that the UHRC does not charge any fees for receiving and processing any complaint.
Step 2: The complaint is assessed using UHRC admissibility criteria to qualify as a human rights violation. If the complaint does not qualify, UHRC refers it to another appropriate body/agency. The complainant may also be given legal advice on the matter.
Step 3: If the complaint is admitted, UHRC carries out field investigations. Part of these is a letter that is sent to the accused (respondent) requiring a response to the allegation within 21 days. If no response is received from the accused (respondent) after expiry of 21 days, a reminder extending the period for 7 days is sent.
Step 4: When investigations are completed, an investigation report is compiled.
Step 5: Thereafter UHRC legal officers analyse the evidence in the investigations reports and write legal opinions recommending one of the options below:
- to resolve the case through mediation
- to consider referral or alternative action
- not to proceed with the complaint (close the file)
- to proceed to the UHRC Tribunal for a hearing
Step 6: In case of mediations, UHRC facilitates the process of the parties resolving the matter. A memorandum of understanding is drawn and signed by both parties. Referrals may be made for example in cases where criminal elements are established and the matter needs to be handled in the criminal justice system, or when a complainant requires counselling or treatment. Files are closed when there is no evidence obtained to sustain the complaint in the Tribunal.
Step 7: Counselling services are offered if considered necessary.
Step 8: If the complaint is for hearing, the file is forwarded to the UHRC Tribunal. At the UHRC Tribunal, the processes below take place:
- The pre-summons process involving allocation of case files, allocating cases to hearing Commissioners (cause listing) and finally, issuing of summons
- Holding of hearings involving the parties and witnesses taking the oath; the Tribunal adducing evidence through examination of witnesses; final submissions by UHRC lawyers for the complainant and lawyers for the accused; and issuing of tribunal decisions (judgements/rulings) with remedies. In principle the burden of proof is on the complainant. Remedies may be in the form of payment of compensation or any other legal remedy or redress. The UHRC Tribunal uses language interpreters when the need arises.
- The Tribunal decisions are published in the Human Rights Reporter.
- The Tribunal decisions may be appealed against in the High Court, if there is any dissatisfaction.