15 December 2016 - On the eve of International Human Rights Day, the Centre for Human Rights held its annual graduation ceremony. This year’s event, which took place on 9 December 2016, was very special for a number of reasons.
The first reason is that the first graduates of the first fully-fledged hybrid Master’s programme presented by the Centre received their degrees at this Ceremony. This Master’s programme, focusing on “Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa”, brings together students from all across the continent in a combination of on-line and on-campus teaching and learning.
A second reasons is that, with 28 students completing the Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA), the number of graduates of this programme has now reached 483. The newly graduated Class of 2016 will join graduates who currently hold prominent positions across Africa, for example: the Chief Justice (Sierra Leone); the Attorney-General (Zambia); the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection (Ghana); the Deputy Secretary to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (South Africa); a Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ethiopia); three 3 Judges of the High Court (Kenya, Ghana, Uganda); two Deans of Law (Malawi, Ethiopia); the Head of African Governance Architecture (Kenya); and the Senate Majority Leader (Kenya).
15 December 2016 - The Vera Chirwa Human Rights award recognises the outstanding professional achievements of a graduate of the HRDA Masters programme, and one who epitomises the true African human rights lawyer. They would have made a significant contribution to human rights promotion and protection in Africa; they would have demonstrated a courageous and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people in Africa; and their achievements will bear the hallmarks of dynamism, originality, and a pioneering spirit.
Following an intense nomination and selection process, two alumni were chosen as recipients of this year’s Vera Chirwa award. From anglophone to francophone Africa; from east to west, this year’s recipients mirror the diversity of the HRDA alumni network: Mr. Patrick Eba is from Cote d’Ivoire (West Africa) and graduated from the HRDA programme in 2004; Mr. Adrian Jjuuko, from Uganda (East Africa) is an alumnus from the class of 2013.
Together, they reflect the true nature of our alumni, who work both locally and globally; within academic circles and at policy/advocacy levels – engaging with communities, defying ruthless dictators, influencing legal systems, speaking truth to power, daring to challenge status quo, and sometimes even paying with the ultimate price – their life. If human rights work is a life of sacrifice, these men are living it!
Patrick Eba and Adrian Jjuuko,
the 2016 recipients of the Vera Chirwa Award
15 December 2016 - In a recent Colloquium of graduates of the Centre for Human Rights, participants agreed that the greatest challenges for human rights in Africa lie in the effective implementation of rights, and the independent functioning of institutions. This event, which took place on 8 December 2016, brought together some hundred current Centre Master’s students and graduates of its various programmes under the theme “How far have we come; where do we go from here?”
Implementation of human rights norms was the focus of the first Colloquium panel. As part of this panel, a compilation of essays by graduates, tracing the impact of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and the Protocol thereto on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) in selected African states, was launched. (See V Ayeni (ed) The impact of the African Charter and Maputo Protocol in selected African states, PULP, 2016).
A number of Centre graduates have come together to write essays about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons across Africa. These essays are coming out at the end of 2016 (in A Jjuuko and S Namwase (eds) Protecting the human rights of sexual minorities in contemporary Africa, PULP). A number of these authors shared insights about the situation of LGBTI persons on the continent. The provocative question was posed whether activism – even culminating in legal victories - has had a positive impact on the lives of LGBTI persons in countries such as Uganda.
15 December 2016 -Dr Cristiano d’Orsi is a postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for Human Rights. His research focuses on the plight and legal position of what he calls ‘people on the move’ in Africa – migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers.
His first encounter with migrants from Africa was when he was still at university in Italy and started interning for a small NGO in his home town, Perugia. His internship began in the early 2000s when there was an influx of asylum-seekers from Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Angola. Faced with this situation, he and his colleagues realised that they did not know what the legal position of these forced migrants was. This triggered his interest in the area of public international law.
Dr d’Orsi’s paper on the legal protection of refugees in Africa, published in the ZaöeRV of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, opened the door for him to become known among refugee law academics. Apart from Italian, which is his mother tongue, he speaks French fluently. This enabled him to publish articles in French on the conflict in Casamance, Senegal, focusing on the legal situation of the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques (Democratic Forces Movement), and on International Migration through The Hague Academy of International Law. He has also been invited to teach in French at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC) at the University of Yaoundé.
15 December 2016 - 3 December 2016 marked the 24th anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Currently, around one billion people live with a disability, making up 15% of the world’s total population.
The Open Society Foundation (OSF) supports the implementation of Disability Rights education in selected law faculties in Africa. In pursuance of this vision, the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria in collaboration with the Disability Unit, embarked upon a support visit to the University of Zambia (UNZA) in efforts to advance inclusive policies and practices.
Ms Thuto Hlalele from the CHR and Ms Maria Ramaahlo (Manager: Disability Unit - UP) met with key stakeholders involved in Disability Rights at UNZA.
The purpose of the support visit was to strengthen the disability rights curriculum and clinical legal education. Furthermore, to gain a comprehensive understanding of Disability Rights issues relating to the support of students of disabilities at the university. Discussions were held with both students with disabilities and staff members championing disability support at UNZA.
14 December 2016 -As we recently observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we have reason to see the glass as half-full. In the past ten years, there has been a discernible shift towards raising the profile of disability in our human rights systems. The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 was a pivotal event at the global level. Conceptually, the CRPD is paradigm-setting; it constitutes a shift not just from a charity model of disability to a rights-based social model, but also in the way we look at disability.
It is no longer notions of individual impairment that should preoccupy us when thinking about disability, but rather our collective failure to accommodate persons with disabilities so that they partake in society on an equal basis with others. Accommodating persons with disabilities should now be our key focus. The CRPD requires us as society, including the state and its organs, to overcome the legacy of systemic inequality and discrimination that persons with disabilities have historically endured. The Convention's social model of disability enjoins us not to stand by as persons with disabilities make individual attempts to assimilate into a society intended for persons without disabilities, but to take positive steps to dismantle disabling barriers and create an inclusive environment for all.
The ADRY publishes once a year with a focus on disability rights issues and developments of contemporary concern to persons with disabilities on the African continent. It comprises three sections – Section A containing doctrinal articles and for which we are calling for papers; Section B containing country-focused overviews of developments in disability rights in selected African countries; and Section C containing brief overviews of developments at the
African regional and sub-regional levels.
The ADRY is a peer-reviewed open-access journal. It was launched in 2013 and has been accredited by South African Department of Higher Education and Training. The ADRY can be accessed at http://www.adry.up.ac.za.
Articles for Section A of the ADRY - the subject of this Call - should be original and not under consideration for publication by another journal. An article should not exceed 10 000 words, including footnote references. When preparing an article, contributors are advised to follow the guidelines which are available online at http://www.adry.up.ac.za.
8 December 2016 -During 2016, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is celebrating its 30th anniversary, coinciding with the entry into force of the most important human rights treaty on the continent, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This year is also the African Union’s Year of Human Rights (with a focus on women’s rights) as well as the 20th anniversary of the South African Constitution.
Over the past 30 years, the Centre’s academic programmes, projects and partnerships have focused on the African regional human rights system, with the African Charter at its core. The Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, in particular, with its 14 partner faculties across the continent, and 456 graduates around the continent and beyond, has seen a convergence between the agendas of the Centre and the African human rights system.
6 December 2016 - During 2016, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, is celebrating its 30th anniversary, coinciding with the entry into force of one of the most important human rights treaties on the continent, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
This year is also the African Union’s Year of Human Rights (with a focus on women’s rights) as well as the 20th anniversary of the South African Constitution.
On 8 December 2016, the Centre will be hosting a 30/30 Colloquium, to celebrate the co-existence and convergence over the 30 years of the Centre and the African human rights system.
5 December 2016 -The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Unit (SOGIE) of the Centre for Human Rights conducted a ‘Sexual minority rights in Africa training and dialogue’ from 23 Nov to 25 Nov 2016 at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Pretoria.
The aim of the training and dialogue was to train and dialogue with government department officials, the police, national human rights institutions, human rights NGO workers, and LGBTI activists on the human rights of sexual minorities (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons, and intersex persons) in Africa, basing on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The change expected is that relevant government departments and NGOs will put more effort in enabling the rights of sexual minorities through the right policies, domestic laws, action and advocacy plans.
Participants came from South Africa and outside South Africa (Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and Namibia). The training was sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Pretoria, the donors for the SOGIE Unit.
5 December 2016 - Reflections on a visit to Chancellor College, University of Malawi as part of the Disability Rights Law Schools Project
When we turned off the main tarmac road into the villages, we were faced with a rocky dirt road. For a while it seemed like our car was no match for the rugged terrain with the wheels churning a huge spray of dust and the engine struggling and coughing violently as we chugged along. Shortly thereafter, we crossed a narrow bridge and with a spirited lurch we were on our way. The bumpy and long drive through scattered mud huts, grazing goats and waving children brought us to our destination, Ntungulutsi Primary School in Chingale. We were greeted by the sight of school children singing and dancing, their laughter filling the air as their parents chatted away.
My colleague Adebayo Okeowo and I had come to witness the community outreach activities being undertaken to raise awareness of disability rights by staff and students from the Chancellor College, University of Malawi. If there is anything to be said about the Centre for Human Rights, it is that we are travelling people. We cross villages, towns, cities, nations and continents to promote human rights.
2 December 2016 - The past ten years have ushered in a new sense of urgency in efforts to change the quality of life of persons with disabilities in Africa. The African Union and its agencies have made various efforts towards ensuring the rights of persons with disability including through developing an Africa-specific protocol for persons with disabilities.
The Department of Social Affairs of the African Union hosted a validation workshop on the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on the Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa from the 29 – 30 November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The purpose of the workshop was to consider and adopt the Draft African Protocol on Disability to be considered by the 2nd Meeting of the Specialised Technical Committee on Social Development, Labour and Employment and the Specialised Technical Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in 2017.
The workshop was attended by members of the Working group on the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities, Disabled People’s Organisations including the African Disability Forum, Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled, Africa Disability Alliance, Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities, Sight Savers and academic institutions which included the Centre for Human Rights.
1 December 2016 - South Africa is a country that is so diverse and heterogeneous that the term rainbow nation was coined by the late President Nelson Mandela to describe it's characteristics under the new democratic dispensation. The term however does not only apply to the different races that inhabit this great land, but also extends to the diverse cultures, nationalities, religious and political affiliations, sexual orientations and gender identities, and expressions of South Africans and their other non-South African fellow inhabitants.
Sexual and gender-divergent persons form a significant part of the South African population. They include lesbians, gays, and bisexual, transgender, gender-neutral, gender-fluid, and intersex males and females. 'Questioning' and asexual persons could also be added to the list.
South Africa has a sizeable population of persons with different sexual orientations and gender identities other than the mainstream population that subscribes to heterosexuality and cisgender (gender-normative) identities.
30 November 2016 - Violence and discrimination against persons with albinism as well as trafficking and cross-boarder sale of their body parts continues to be a worrying trend on the continent.TheIndependent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism, Ms. Ikponwosa Ero in her report to the Human Rights Council earlier this year reported that over 500 cases of violence against persons with albinism including murder and mutilation have been reported in 26 African countries, since 2006. It is believed that a majority of cases go unreported due to the secrecy of witchcraft and other harmful practices which serve as the context of most of these attacks.
In response to these persistent and egregious violations of the rights of persons with albinism in many parts of Africa the Centre for Human Rights with the support of Open Society Foundation hosted a two-day conference on 9-10 November 2016 which focused on Advancing the Rights of Persons with Albinism in Africa.
30 November 2016 - Gender inequalities are at the heart of rape culture in South Africa and without conscious, sustained and deliberate efforts to dismantle them, the problem will prevail. Gender equality should be understood in a much broader frame than just the equal treatment of all human beings regardless of gender, extending to include the need for creating an enabling social and institutional environment for all women and all men to be able to access equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Inequalities are not just expressed in our beliefs, attitudes and actions, but are entrenched within social structures and institutions to maintain and reinforce the superiority of one gender over another.
We need to reflect continually on how we think of ourselves (our gender identity) and value ourselves. We then need to reflect on how we value others. What is your social standing (gender stratification) and where do you place others? Few of us ever really think about our privilege or lack thereof in terms of gender, nor do we consider how we must change the status quo. Yes, we acknowledge it when it is politically correct do so and join campaigns as a feel-good measure, but to live the revolution on a daily basis is a completely different story. What then is our individual and collective place in the hierarchy?
24 November 2016 - From 7 to 10 November 2016 the Centre for Human Rights, with the support of Open Society Foundations, hosted the Fourth African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition. Participants from the Network of Law Schools Disability Rights Programme participated in the fourth edition of this competition.
The problem that was argued during the rounds concerned itself with issues regarding the rights of persons living with albinism.
Judges in the Final Round were:
Commissioner Nomasonto Mazibuko
Albinism Society of South Africa
Dr Lungowe Matakala
University of Zambia
24 November 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, in partnership with Open Society Foundations and the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, held a high-level meeting on 8 November 2016. This meeting formed part of a number of events that focused on advancing the rights of persons with albinism in Africa.
The meeting was convened by the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, who was grateful to all stakeholders for making the forum a reality at such short notice. The meeting brought together high-level stakeholders from the United Nations, the African Union, government, diplomats, civil society including academia and leaders of organisations representing persons with albinism.
The objective of the meeting was to consult with leaders of influence in the region and receive their input on a draft Action Plan on the rights of persons with albinism which had been put together at an initial forum held 17-19 June 2016 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
15 November 2016 - On 18 November 2005, the Southern African Development Community Tribunal (SADC Tribunal) was inaugurated. It was established to hear disputes of not only Southern African states but also of their citizens. This was a momentous occasion given that a regional court with the power to hear human rights cases is a critical mechanism in the pathway to justice after exhaustion of local remedies. However, instead of this week celebrating the 11th anniversary of this progressive mechanism, we mourn its demise.
In the week of 14 to 18 November we call on all SADC citizens to join us in mourning the SADC Tribunal’s demise. In spite of advice to the contrary from their own legal advisors and attorney generals, the leaders of Southern Africa suspended the SADC Tribunal in 2010. They then came up with a new tribunal with a mandate limited to the adjudication of disputes between member states only.. Individual access has sadly been removed. Through a new Protocol, adopted in August 2014, the leaders effectively buried the SADC Tribunal which used to operate under the 2000 SADC Protocol. In doing so, they took away the power of the SADC Tribunal to hear human rights cases. As it now stands, the 2014 SADC Protocol deprives SADC citizens of their right to refer a dispute between themselves and their government to the SADC Tribunal. Without a meaningful tribunal, justice and redress will remain elusive for people of the region.
11 November 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and Equality Now, in collaboration with the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition developed a tool on harmful practices: Litigation and Advocacy Tool: Litigating cases of harmful practices with a focus on female genital mutilation and child marriages.
The tool is also available in French: Manuel relatif aux droits de la défense dans le cadre d'un contentieux: Guider les litiges et plaidoiries qui se focalisent sur mettre fin aux pratiques nocives en Afrique, l’accent étant mis sur la mutilation génitale féminine et le mariage d’enfants.
Both of these tools are available to download and distribute free of charge.
This tool is intended to guide litigation and advocacy aimed at ending harmful practices in Africa.
The manual is focused on two harmful practices in particular: child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), both of which are practiced extensively in Africa and which have especially harmful and long term effects. The manual is focused on child marriage and FGM in West and Southern Africa although our hope is that it will also be used to inform advocacy and litigation aimed at ending other harmful practices in countries outside of West and Southern Africa.
The Centre for Human Rights was established in 1986 and is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016. The Centre works towards human rights education in Africa, a greater awareness of human rights, the wide dissemination of publications on human rights in Africa, and the improvement of the rights of women, people living with HIV, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities and other disadvantaged or marginalised persons or groups across the continent.
The Centre for Human Rights was established in 1986 and is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016. The Centre works towards human rights education in Africa, a greater awareness of human rights, the wide dissemination of publications on human rights in Africa, and the improvement of the rights of women, people living with HIV, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities and other disadvantaged or marginalised persons or groups across the continent.
Governments can no longer claim ignorance, must act now
8 November 2016 - (Pretoria, South Africa) An action plan to combat attacks and discrimination against people with albinism in Africa is a critical priority for governments and civil society on the continent, declared the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, following the High-Level Meeting on Persons with Albinism in Africa.
“There have been over 600 attacks against persons with albinism since 2007 across 26 countries in Africa—and these are only the cases we know about. Many cases go unreported,” said Ero. “Assaults continue across the continent due to ignorance about albinism, ‘witchcraft’ practices that fuel the use, trafficking, and sale of the body parts of persons with albinism, and insufficient and ineffective responses by governments.”
Today’s High-Level Meeting was hosted by the UN Independent Expert, the Open Society Foundations, and the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights. Participants from 15 countries in Africa included high-profile persons with albinism who shared their experiences fighting stigma, discrimination, and violence. The action plan discussed today should become a continental standard, they said, and hold all stakeholders, particularly governments, accountable.
Where: Southern Sun Hotel Pretoria, Corner of Steve Biko and Stanza Bopape, Arcadia, Pretoria 0083
Ikponwosa Ero UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism
Commissioner Nomasonto Mazibuko
Commission for Gender Equality, South Africa
Violence and discrimination against persons with albinism, as well as trafficking and cross-border sale of their body parts, is a worrying trend on the African continent. In the past decade, over 500 cases of
violence against persons with albinism, including murder and mutilation, have been documented in 26 African countries. This year alone, cases of violence have been documented in at least four countries.
South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December. To create greater disability rights awareness, Open Society Foundations and the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria are co-hosting a number of disability rights events.
1 November 2016 - GENEVA (28 October 2016) – States must heed the pleas of countless victims of crimes against humanity for justice and accountability, Sheila Keetharuth of the former UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea urged the UN General Assembly. The Commission has recommended that the situation in Eritrea be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Speaking for the Commission of Inquiry, Keetharuth, who is also UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, highlighted the Commission’s clear findings that crimes against humanity have been committed since 1991 by Eritrean officials, adding that such a dire assessment left no room for “business as usual” in the international community’s engagement with the Government of Eritrea.
“The crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder have been committed as part of a widespread and systematic campaign against the civilian population. The aim of the campaign has been to maintain control over the population and perpetuate the leadership’s rule in Eritrea,” Keetharuth told the UN General Assembly.
27 October 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is calling for applications for two Open Society Foundations scholarship programmes: the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme and the Inclusive Education Scholarship Programme.
About the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme
The Disability Rights Scholarship Programme provides awards for master’s degree study to disability rights advocates, lawyers, and educators to develop new legislation, jurisprudence, policy, research, and scholarship to harness the innovations and opportunities offered by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
With the knowledge and networks gained through the program, we expect that fellows will deepen their understanding of international law and education, with a focus on disability rights, and gain the tools necessary to engage in a range of CRPD implementation strategies, such as: challenging rights violations in their home countries by drafting enforceable legislation consistent with the CRPD; utilizing enforcement mechanisms set forth in the convention; taking forward disability rights litigation requesting CRPD-compliant remedies; engaging in disability rights advocacy; and developing law, education, or other academic curricula informed by the CRPD.
It is a sad day for South Africa. It is a sad day for Africa. Why did it come to this?
The minister states that the reason for the withdrawal is that:
[South Africa] has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court.
At a press conference on October 21 South Africa’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Michael Masutha, put forward further reasons. He said the Supreme Court of Appeal had held in the Omar al-Bashir case that the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act, was in conflict with the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act.
21 October 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights expresses its grave disappointment at the news of the entry of an instrument of withdrawal from the Statute of the International Criminal Court by the South African Minister of International Cooperation and Development.
It should be recalled that South Africa ratified the ICC Statute though a parliamentary process. It is our firm view that it is contrary to the spirit of our democratic Constitution for such a consultative, inclusive and democratically-based decision to be undone through a unilateral act by a single government department, acting for the executive. The South African Constitutional Court has emphasised that ours is a participatory democracy, not a democracy where the electorate cedes authority to the executive to govern without its continued involvement. Whenever it is possible, participation and inclusion should be chosen above executive fiat.
Section 231 of the Constitution requires that Parliament approves international agreements before they become binding on us. It flows, logically, that withdrawal from such agreement should follow the same route.
'Five reasons why South Africa should not withdraw from the ICC Statute'
Date: 18 June 2015
by Professor Frans Viljoen,
Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
The brevity of President Bashir’s visit to South Africa is disproportionate to its consequences. For one thing, it poses questions about South Africa’s commitment to upholding the rule of law – both on the international and national plane. But if media reports are correct, the visit may have a much more far-reaching and lasting effect. According to reports, the ANC National Executive Committee has come to the conclusion that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is no longer useful to Africa, and that South Africa should undo its ratification and leave the fold of ICC state parties.
20 October 2016 - Monday 17 October was the first working day for Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, our new Public Protector. President Zuma formally appointed her to the position; she is set to serve her seven-year term. (This is the second Public Protector President Zuma has appointed; he also appointed Thuli Madonsela in 2009.) Parliament overwhelmingly supported her; and civil society organisations such as Corruption Watch endorsed her
If some concerned South Africans still view Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s appointment with some apprehension, it would be up to her to set suspicious minds at ease. Her actions would confound her critics. Regrettably, there indeed seems to be some cause for caution.
Curious career trajectory?
First, there are the unassailable facts. Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane sketched her career path, both in her CV and during the interview for the position. By her own description, her last position was that of a “spy”, at least of sorts. On July 4, 2016 she started working as an “analyst” with the State Security Agency (SSA). This department’s mission is “to provide critical and unique intelligence on threats … to the government to advance South Africa’s national security interests in a changing global environment”.
18 October 2016 - As part of the African Union (AU) Year of Human Rights, the Centre for Human Rights (Faculty of law, University of Pretoria) compiled a publication tracking the historical evolution and providing an overview of the African human rights system.
14 October 2016 - On 28 September 2016, the Peace and Justice Initiative and the Centre for Human Rights (“PJI/CHR”), represented by the Legal Resources Centre (“LRC”), were jointly admitted as amici curiae (friends of the court) in the matter of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Others v. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (CCT 75/16) (“Al-Bashir Case”) before the Constitutional Court of South Africa (“Court”). Yesterday, on 13 October 2016, PJI/CHR filed joint heads of argument in this matter, which can be accessed here, with the aim of utilising PJI/CHR’s collective domestic and international law experience to assist the Court in reaching its decision.
The Al-Bashir Case concerns a June 2015 order of the High Court of South Africa directing South African authorities to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who was attending an African Union Summit in Sandton, South Africa, at the time. President Al-Bashir was, and still is, subject to arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) in connection with allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity (including torture) committed in Darfur, Sudan. President Al-Bashir left South Africa without having been arrested.
14 October 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a conference on advancing the rights of persons with albinism in Africa which will be presented from 9 to 10 November 2016.
11 October 2016 - The final round of the 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition was held at the Constitutional Court of South Africa on Saturday 8 October 2016. The finalist teams consisted of the top Francophone, top Lusophone and two top Anglophone teams who emerged from the preliminary rounds that were held on 3 and 4 October. Appearing for the Applicant team were Stellenbosch University, South Africa and Institute Universitaire d’Abijan, Côte d'Ivoire and arguing for the Respondent team were Makere University, Uganda and the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique.
The bench of judges was composed of Dr Fraida Mamad, a member of the National Human Rights Commission of Mozambique; Advocate Bahame Tom Nyanduga who is the Chairman of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance of Tanzania and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Justice Mumba Mila, Judge of the Supreme Court of Zambia and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Justice Raymond Zondo, a judge of the South African Constitutional Court; Advocate Pansy Tlakula, the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and Maitre Armand Tanoh, a legal practitioner in France and former African Human Rights Moot Court Coordinator at the Centre for Human Rights. Justice Raymond Zondo presided.
9 October 2016 - To commemorate 30 years since the entry into force of the African Charter, 10 years since the African Court became operational and 30 years of the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; a special conference was held on Friday 7 October 2016 as part of the African Human Rights Moot Court competition.
The conference coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Moot Competition organised by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in partnership with the University of The Gambia. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘The African Human Rights System @ 30: Taking stock, moving forward’.
The conference was divided into five sessions and conducted in English, French and Portuguese. The first session commenced with opening remarks by the Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Prof Frans Viljoen. This was followed by presentations on the ‘Reflections on the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ by Prof Barney Pityana (former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights), AdvTom Nyanduga, (chairperson, Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance, Tanzania and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights)and Hon. Mumba Malila (Judge of the Supreme Court of Zambia and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights).
7 October 2016 - Day 4 of the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition is usually set aside for an excursion to a prominent tourist destination in the host country. This year, the participants were taken to the ‘Sun City Resort’ in the North West Province in South Africa to spend the day at the ‘Valley of the Waves’. After breakfast at Holiday Inn Express, participants, faculty representatives, volunteers and organisers filled the buses and headed on a two-hour drive to Sun City.
Sun City is a renowned tourist and holiday attraction with various fun and adventurous activities ranging from zip-lining to swimming, engaging with wildlife and shopping amongst others. The Moot Court participants spent the day at the Valley of the Waves; a special section of Sun City. As the name implies the Valley of the Waves consist of an artificial beach and waves that simulate the ocean. Besides the beach experience, the participants explored the various slides including the infamous ‘Temple of Courage. After lunch was enjoyed at the venue the buses departed for the Holiday Inn Express. The excursion was enjoyed by the participants, volunteers, faculty representatives and organisers and it allowed for further networking and interaction in a more relaxed environment outside the rigours of the competition.
06 October 2016 - Today’s event marked the second and final day of the preliminary rounds (Rounds III and IV). Participants were seen once again in their respective court rooms with the judges moderating the proceedings. Each team continued to argue their case for the Applicant and Respondent before different panels of judges.
After completing all the rounds, the final score sheets were collated and the results for all teams verified by Mr Edouard Jacot Guillarmod, an independent auditor.
Then came the moment everyone had been holding their breath for – the announcement of the finalists. The results were announced at News Café, Menlyn where participants gathered for supper and dance. In accordance with the rules of the competition to celebrate African diversity and promote good sportsmanship, no two teams from the same country can be allowed to qualify for the finals even if they are the top two and this rule had to be applied this year to the qualifying Anglophone teams. The following are the teams that made it to the Final:
Universidade Eduardo Mondlane – for the Lusophone African Speaking Countries
Institute Universitaire d’ Abidjan – for the Francophone African Speaking Countries and
Stellenbosch University; and
Makerere University - for the Anglophone African Speaking Countries.
06 October 2016 - At around 8am, the participants and faculty representatives arrived at the TuksSport High School in different shades of suits and corporate wears for the kick off of the preliminary rounds of the competition. The participants were ready to appear as legal counsels before hypothetical judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights who were in fact the faculty representatives and lecturers from the participating universities.
Preliminary rounds were divided into two - morning and afternoon sessions. Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone participants argued separately and they were judged based on their knowledge of the facts, application of law – particularly African human rights law, articulation, analysis, persuasiveness, ability to respond to questions and oratory skills. No faculty representative could sit as a judge in the session where his or her students were mooting.
With the look of victory on their faces, the participants departed for dinner at the Holiday Inn. It was a challenging but rewarding day.
05 October 2016 - The African Human Rights Moot Court Competition aims to advance the cause of human rights in Africa by providing an opportunity to law students from across the continent to prepare and argue a hypothetical case before human rights experts. This year marks the 25th edition of the competition and the issues being argued by students include:
The legality of withdrawal from the African court’s jurisdiction by African states;
Conditions of detention;
Freedom of association; and
Gender and human rights of women.
This year’s edition of the Moot Court Competition is organised by the Centre for Human Rights in partnership with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia. The 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition attracted law students from 54 universities cutting across Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone speaking African countries. While some universities have attended more than 80 percent of the African Human Rights Moot Court Competitions (Rhodes, Fort Hare and Pretoria in South Africa; Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique and Chancellor's College in Malawi) others are participating for the first time. The first time participating universities are: Institute Universitaire d’ Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire); Samara University (Ethiopia); University of Juba (South Sudan) and Universidad Politecnica (Mozambique).
23 September 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law cordially invites you to the Opening Ceremony (3 October 2016) and the Final Round, Prize-giving and Closing Ceremony (8 October 2016) of the 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition.
20 September 2016 - GENEVA (16 September 2016) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, today called on the Eritrean Government to urgently provide information on the whereabouts and state of health of senior government officials and independent journalists arrested on 18 September 2001 and in the following days.
Fifteen years ago, the Eritrean authorities arrested and detained a group of senior cabinet ministers, members of parliament and independent journalists without charge or trial. To date, the Government has refused to share any information on their whereabouts and state of health.
“The Eritrean Government has denied those arrested their fundamental right to liberty and security of the person, right not to be subjected to torture, right to a fair trial as well as right to freedom of expression and opinion,” Ms. Keetharuth said ahead of the anniversary on Sunday. “Those arrested have been detained incommunicado and in solitary confinement. Even family members have never been allowed to have any contact whatsoever with them.”
16 September 2016 - Zambia has undertaken presidential and other elections on 11 August 2016. On 15 August 2016, the Electoral Commission of Zambia declared the incumbent Edgar Lungu the winner of the presidential election. However, presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema has claimed that election results were manipulated by the Electoral Commission to favour the incumbent.
Article 128(c) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act of 2016 provides that the Constitutional Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes related to presidential elections. Article 103(2) sets a timeframe of 14 days within which disputes relating to presidential elections have to be ‘heard’ by the Constitutional Court.
On 19 August 2016, presidential candidate Hichilema has petitioned the Constitutional Court. However, the Court’s record shows that technical irregularities and preliminary applications have consumed the 14 days period.
15 September 2016 - The failure of domestic law makes it important that the avenues of international law be explored. To achieve this objective, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria hosted a training for LGBTI human rights defenders on making effective use of the United Nations and African human rights systems.
14 September 2016 - On 2 September 2016 the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria planted trees in to celebrate Arbor Week, which is held in the first week of September every year. Planting a tree is one of many ways in which we can build a sustainable environment and care better for our world. Centre staff travelled to Ya Bana Village for the children in Winterveld, North West of Pretoria, a place of safety for some 36 children. The children are cared for by house mothers in a set of beautiful homes on a vast well-kept ground. Centre staff was privileged to meet the founders and the staff of Ya Bana Village and observe the remarkable work they accomplish each day.
This Arbor week initiative forms part of a wider series of events celebrating 30 years of the Centre’s existence. What made Arbor Day significant to us at the Centre is that tree-planting symbolises the birth of new life and the beginning of something beneficial to all. Trees are an essential part of life and something we cannot live without. They are some of the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth's greatest natural resources. As we celebrate 30 years of existence this year, we have taken a step back to reflect on our journey. In 1986, we were a mere seed with goals and aspirations. Thirty years later we are offered the opportunity to look back on our contributions to the struggle for equality, justice and freedom in the world around us.
12 September 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, is deeply concerned about the recent protests held by learners at the Pretoria High School for Girls challenging school policy that demanded them to straighten their hair. Even though the protests were aimed at questioning the school’s policy on hair and physical appearance, they obviously represented much more than that. The policy has highlighted an existing institutional culture of exclusion and a lack of appreciation for diversity not only within the school but also alerted us to the more pervasive culture of negating diversity at our educational institutions.
The school’s 2015/2016 Code of Conduct gives the impression that a certain kind of hair texture is the standard of acceptable hair (see Paragraph 6.4). For example, by expressly stating in the Code of Conduct that ‘all hair must be brushed’ and ‘…be tied back neatly in a ponytail’, the school has failed to recognize and accommodate the wide variety of girls’ hair textures – especially black girls’ hair.
9 September 2016 - On the occasion of the 36th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC Summit), we the undersigned members of the Coalition for an Effective SADC Tribunal, are raising serious concerns over state parties insistence in denying access to justice to the citizenry of this region as per the revised SADC Tribunal Protocol. The Protocol strips the Tribunal of its jurisdiction to hear complaints from individual citizens of SADC. This is inspite of the guaranteed right for people’s participation in the SADC Declaration and Treaty under Article 23.
SADC remains an important sub-regional community though still characterized by varying atrocities and human rights violations with impunity, human and drug trafficking, violence against women and children, migration, mineral exploitation, election rigging and other concerns which the SADC Heads of State and Government committed to address in line with SADC Protocols. However therevised SADC Tribunal Protocol is in conflict with the SADC Declaration and Treaty and undermines human rights protection in the region. It further, limits citizens, civil society organizations and other non-states actors’accessto the Tribunal by only granting this access to state parties.
6 September 2016 - The International Development Law Unit, Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the ABSA Chair in Banking Law, Faculty of Law and the Economics Department, Faculty of Economics and Management at the University of Pretoria and the South African Institute for International Affairs hosted a public lecture by Dr Andreas Dombret, Member of the Executive Board, Deutsche Bundesbank on Tuesday 30 August 2016.
The lecture was titled “From Dream to Reality - How Finances Serve the Economy and How Not.”
The lecture was thought provoking and was followed a lively question and answer session. Thanks to the generosity of the South African Reserve Bank, participants were able to continue the discussion with Dr Dombret over tea after the lecture.
2 September 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted a colloquium on adolescent sexual and reproductive rights. The colloquium which focused on the theme Unmet adolescent sexual and reproductive needs in the African region: What can human rights do? was part of scholarly activities celebrating the Centre’s 30th anniversary. The theme of the colloquium was inspired by evidence of unfulfilled sexual and reproductive needs of adolescents across the African region.
During the two days, participants from across the African region presented and interrogated papers on topical issues at the intersection between adolescent sexual and reproductive needs and human rights, including cultural practices, early/forced marriages, contraception, sterilisation, disability, HIV/AIDS, criminalisation of adolescent sexuality, sexuality education, sexual violence, religion and role of regional human rights bodies in advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents. The ultimate focus of each paper was to identify persistent gaps and challenges in the respect, protection, promotion and realisation of sexual and/or reproductive rights of adolescents as well as to advance arguments for addressing the gaps and challenges using human rights jurisprudence and practices.
Papers presented at the colloquium will be reworked by the authors with a view to submission for consideration for publication in a special issue of the African Human Rights Law Journal in 2017.
30 August 2016 - The Advanced Human Rights Courses Programme (AHRC) held its annual short course on the right to development between 22 and 26 August 2016. The course aims to explore the content and scope of the right to development as enshrined in Article 22 of the African Charter as well as explore the challenges and opportunities of other international instruments in relation to development.
This year’s Advanced Human Rights Course on the Right to Development in Africa unlike in previous years has been one with many interesting dimensions and was organised in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development adopted in 1986. It also coincided with 30 years since the coming into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 30 years of the founding of the Centre for Human Rights.
The keynote address delivered by Ms Florence Nazare on behalf of the CEO of NEPAD provided an insight into NEPAD as a supra-national mechanism to drive Africa’s development agenda.
For the very first time, two South African ministers from the Departments of Basic Education and Rural Development and Land Reform taught on the course. Hon Angelina Motshekga gave a lecture on ‘challenges towards universal and compulsory basic education in South Africa’ while Hon Gugile Ernest Nkwinti looked at ‘challenges to rural development in South Africa’.
30 August 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, is deeply alarmed by the deteriorating human rights situation in Ethiopia, and especially, the arbitrary killing, arrest and detention of protesters.
According to reports, the Ethiopian government forces have killed more than 500 protestors since November 2015, and have arrested and detained thousands.
We recall that on the eve of calls for protests, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile-Mariam has warned that measures will be taken against protesters. Eventually, when protests took place in the Amhara and Oromia regions in August 2016, nearly a hundred protesters were killed. The public statements of warning by the senior government officials stirred the suspicion that the ongoing human rights abuses by government forces are happening by the approval of the Ethiopian government.
23 August 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, recently held a focus group meeting on the development of Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections.
The meeting took place at the Aviator Hotel O.R. Tambo, Johannesburg, from 17 to 18 August. The focus group comprised of 12 representatives from civil society organizations and other stakeholders working on Elections, the Media or Access to Information.
The meeting was a follow-up to a meeting held in May in Kameeldrift, Pretoria, where more than 25 experts gathered to discuss the development of two sets of guidelines- one on Access to Information and Elections; the other on Access to Information and Record-keeping. The 14 representatives who met in Johannesburg last week were nominated to form the focus group for the development of Access to Information and Elections at this initial meeting.
22 August 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria is proud to announce that Josua Loots, a Project Manager at the Centre, has been selected to participate in the fifth official Dutch Visitors Programme (DVP).
Participants are nominated by Dutch Embassies around the world, who are then submitted to a selection process. The DVP is a special programme conducted by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that brings together eight individuals from eight different countries for a study trip to the Netherlands.
The DVP was originally developed for young future leaders from emerging markets and powers like Brazil, India and China, but gradually expanded its scope to include other countries as well.
Participants of the DVP are hosted by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency for a ten-day visit that includes several individual and group meetings and events that focus on the professional and personal interests of each participant.
Josua works as a Project Manager and Researcher at the Centre for Human Rights, where he primarily focuses on business and human rights, and foreign policy. He is also busy with a PhD focusing on the implications of private investment in public infrastructure projects. The 2016 DVP will take place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 9 - 19 October 2016.
19 August 2016 - The Disability Rights and Law Schools Project in Africa partner universities met for a 3-day meeting at Pandari Hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe. The meeting which was held from the 1st to the 3rd of August was an opportunity for the network of university partners to discuss progress, challenges, opportunities and impact of the project at their respective universities and develop collective strategies for taking the project forward.
The network made up of the University of Botswana; Chancellor College, Malawi; Dodoma University, Tanzania; Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique; University of Nairobi, Kenya; Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa; University of Zambia and the Midlands State University Zimbabwe started in 2009. With the support of OSISA, OSF’s Higher Education Support Programme (HESP) and the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) the network of partner universities has been working to advance disability rights through introducing disability rights teaching into the law curriculum, establishing disability law clinics to identify and engage in litigation of cases pertaining to the violation of the rights of persons with disabilities; undertaking research and advocacy on disability rights issues and promoting awareness of disability rights among relevant stakeholders through community engagements.
18 August 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, is saddened by the fatal shooting of 14-year old Rufino Antonio by members of the Angolan military police during a peaceful protest in Luanda on 6 August 2016.
The peaceful protests, organised by local residents against planned demolition for commercial and industrial purposes by the Luanda-Bengo Special Economic Zone, turned violent when members of the military police opened fire on unarmed peaceful protesters, killing the young Rufino.
The deployment of military police for the purpose of peaceful protests brings to light not only the continued and ongoing systematic failure of Angolan state institutions to deal with legitimate human rights concerns, but also the unnecessary and inappropriate use of force by security services. Recently, security services have brutally clamped down on peaceful gatherings. Many are arrested and detained for gathering in public places without the consent of the provincial government.
Despite the 2010 Angolan Constitution protecting the freedom of expression and speech in article 40 and freedom of assembly of persons in article 47, security forces have been known to impede such action before they even start, and in the process violating the law. Angola is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international and regional instruments. Angola is therefore bound by both international and national law to respect the right of persons to exercise their right to peaceful protests.
18 August 2016 - The possibility of reforming South Africa’s national electoral systems was the topic of discussion at an event co-organised by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, and the Centre for Constitutional Rights. The topic is very timely, in the wake of the recent local elections, with ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe recently calling for a debate about desirability of the proportional representation in the electoral system.
The discussion, which took place over breakfast at the University of Pretoria on 16 August 2016, considered the theme ‘The South African Electoral System, Time to Revisit the Van Zyl Slabbert Report?’. It was supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The panel discussion was moderated by Advocate Pansy Tlakula, former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and current Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The panelists were Justice Johann Kriegler, another former chairperson of the IEC and former judge of the Constitutional Court, and Ms Raenette Taljaard, former Commissioner of the IEC.
The participants agreed that the current electoral system -- even if imperfect -- should not be the primary target of institutional reform. Instead, issues such as the democratic and inclusive culture within the political parties, and the transparency of funding to political parties, need to be more closely scrutinized and reformed. For things to change we need proper civil participation in the elections, extensive voter education, civil education and the meaningful inclusion of the Constitution in the basic educational syllabus.
Justice Johann Kriegler and Ms Raenette Taljaard at the Breakfast Discussion on electoral reform
15 August 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, is deeply concerned by the ongoing human rights violations in Ethiopia following popular anti-government protests in the Amhara and Oromia regional states, as well as in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The Centre is particularly dismayed by the use of force against protesters and the killing of civilians by the police, security and military forces during the protests. According to reports, nearly 100 people have been killed in the recent Amhara and Oromo protests, while more than 400 people have been killed during the earlier Oromo protests which began in November 2015.
The Centre is further concerned by the fact that the government of Ethiopia continues to suppress the human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens including the rights to life, assembly, peaceful demonstration and the freedom of expression and association.
Considering the fact that Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union, and is regarded as a symbol of freedom against colonialism, the Ethiopian government is expected to have an exemplary human rights record to other African states. On the contrary, the government has been continually using force against peaceful protesters, which has often resulted in the death of a considerable number of people so far.
11 August 2016 - Justice Bernard Ngoepe, the first and as yet only South African to have served as a Judge on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Human Rights Court), recently lamented the lack of knowledge, awareness and interest among South African lawyers, and the public more generally, of this Court. The African Human Rights Court, which is the principal judicial organ of the African Union, this year commemorates 10 years’ existence. Judge Ngoepe made his remarks at an event hosted by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, on 4 August 2016, during which a panel reflected on the accomplishments and challenges of the Court’s first decade.
While the 10-year milestone in the operation of the African Human Rights Court is being celebrated in 2016, the legal instrument establishing the Court (a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights) was adopted in 1998, and became effective in 2004. The Court, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, deals with cases of human rights violations in Africa. So far, 30 states have accepted the Court’s jurisdiction. Under the 1998 Court Protocol, states may also accept direct access to the Court by aggrieved individuals in that particular state. To date, eight states have made such a declaration (although Rwanda has recently withdrawn its declaration).
While South Africa ratified the Court Protocol in 2002, thereby accepting the Court’s jurisdiction, it had not made a declaration to allow individuals direct access to the Court. This means that individuals in South Africa first have to approach the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (which makes non-binding recommendations). A case against South Africa can only ever reach the Court if the Commission decides to refer the case to the Court.
Justice Bernard Ngoepe
Retired Judge on the African Court
on Human and Peoples’ Rights
29 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) and the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia invites abstracts for a conference celebrating the African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on women.
At the continental level, the African Union’s Year of Human Rights (with a focus on women’s rights) marks the entry into force of
the African Charter on Human and Peoples’
Rights, 30 years ago.
At the Centre for Human Rights, we mark 30 years of existence.
Over these 30 years, the Centre’s academic programmes, projects and partnerships have focused on the African regional human
rights system, with the African Charter at its core. The Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, in
particular, with its 14 partner faculties across the continent, and 456 graduates around the continent and beyond, has seen a convergence between the agendas of the Centre and the African human rights system.
“The South African Electoral System: Time to Revisit the Van Zyl Slabbert Report?”
Incubating, enhancing constitutional democracy and sustaining the South African national good governance dialogue through a series of strategic and relevant conversations linked to learning governance
Justice Johann Kriegler
(former Judge of the Constitutional Court) and
Ms Raenette Taljaard
(former Member of Parliament, former Commissioner of the IEC)
The Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition has been presented every year for the last 8 years, bringing together some of the youngest and brightest law students from universities all around the globe to debate burning contemporary human rights issues on the basis of a common UN human rights system, influenced by national and regional perspectives and experiences. The Competition is unique in reaching a broad base of participants, including from those parts of the world where regional human rights systems have not been established, or have only been recently introduced.
In 2016, the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition brought together the following participants from the five UN regions:
The winning team (Ms Helaina Hirsch and Mr William Bock) with Justice Johann van der Westhuizen
27 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a Discussion Forum that forms part of a series of events, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Centre of Human Rights in 2016.
The discussion aims to reflect on the achievements of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a continental court established in terms of a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights. The court which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, complements and reinforces the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in relation to its protective mandate.
Date: Thursday 4 August 2016 Time: 12:30 to 14:00, followed by lunch Venue: Room 2-2.1, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, Hatfield Campus (opposite the entrance to the Centre of Human Rights) RSVP: Kindly confirm your attendance by Monday 1 August 2016 by sending an email to
Enquiries: Ms Tokollo Makgalemele (012 420 3810 /
18 July 2016 - The 8th Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court competition is currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland. For the past seven years, the competition was held in December to coincide with International Human Rights Day. From 2016 onwards the competition will be held on and around 18 July to celebrate the birthday of late South African President Nelson Mandela.
This year twenty-five teams coming from the five United Nations regions are participating in the annual competition where a hypothetical human rights case is being argued before a number of human rights experts. The countries represented at this year’s edition of the moot court competition are:
Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe
India, China, Japan, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand
Latin America & Caribbean:
Western Europe and Others:
Australia, United States of America
12 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted its first short course on business and human rights at the University of Pretoria from 4 - 8 July 2016. The course brought together 50 people from across Africa, mainly representing civil society, national human rights institutions, and academia. The course was organised with support from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for Southern Africa.
The short course brought experts on business and human rights from across the globe to present lectures on issues that included a general introduction to business and human rights, business and human rights policy, judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms, the African regional human rights system, illicit financial flows, human rights in the project cycle, access to remedy, debates around a potential treaty on business and human rights, and free, prior and informed consent.
As part of the 2016 short course, participants also had the opportunity to attend the General Assembly of the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA), which took place at the University of Pretoria from 6 - 7 July 2016. The ACCA is a coalition of more than 100 organisations working on business and human right issues in Africa, which spans across the continent to include members from Southern, Eastern, Central and West-Africa. The ACCA is currently hosted by the Centre for Human Rights.
12 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) at the University of Pretoria is seeking an experienced Projects Manager to manage the activities of its flagship Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa and the Human Rights Clinics attached to this programme. The appointment will be on a fixed-term renewable contract for one year, subject to the availability of funding and performance. The Master’s programme has been running since 2000.
In pursuit of the ideals of excellence and diversity, the University of Pretoria wishes to invite applications for the following vacancy.
The University of Pretoria’s commitment to quality makes us one of the top research universities in the country and gives us a competitive advantage in international science and technology development.
12 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), University of Bergen calls for applications for a full-time doctoral candidate with a focus on political and legal mobilisation around sexual and reproductive rights in Africa. The candidate will be based at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
The scholarship is linked to the political determinants of sexual and reproductive health: Criminalisation, health impacts and game changers. The scholarship or research project uses quantitative as well as qualitative methods to investigate the political strategies and dynamics that lead to politicisation, criminalisation or decriminalisation of abortion and same-sex intimacy. The project also investigates the health implications that follow from the strategies and dynamics. The empirical focus of the project is on ten African countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.
This scholarship is comprehensive, covering tuition fees, travel and living expenses and ancillary costs.
11 July 2016 - On 13 December 2016 it will be the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Convention which came into force in 2008 has to date been ratified by 43 African countries including Kenya. The Disability Rights Project at the University of Nairobi’s School of Law hosted a public symposium at its Parklands Campus on the 30th of June 2016 to explore the character, prospects and challenges of realizing the rights of persons with disabilities protected under the CRPD in Kenya and regionally.
Professor Patricia Kameri-Mbote, Dean of the School of Law opening the symposium cautioned that constitutional provisions in law affirming that all people are equal before the law do not automatically make people equal. There is a need particularly in the context of historically marginalised groups to go a step further to dismantle the underlying systems and structures that continues to perpetuate unequal treatment of the group. She added that a lack of recognition of persons with disabilities in the main provisions of law often shields systemic institutional barriers.
Professor Charles Ngwena, Professor at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria reflected on the question of whether the CRPD is a revolutionary paradigm-shifting human rights instrument. He said that the CRPD introduces a new way of thinking about human rights and the rights of persons with disabilities by putting difference and particularity at the centre of the discussion. More than just affirming existing rights, the CRPD amplifies the rights of people with disabilities through innovative affirmation.
8 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, expresses its deepest condolences to the families of Willie Kimani, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri who were killed in Kenya on or around 23 June 2016. On 23 June 2016, Willie Kimani, a Kenyan human rights lawyer working for International Justice Mission, and his client Josephat Mwenda, attended the hearing of a criminal case at Mavoko Law Courts in Machakos County, Kenya. Mr Mwenda, a motorcycle operator, was charged with overloading and possession of marijuana.
It appears that the charges against Mr Mwenda were proffered against him by police officers in an attempt to conceal unprofessional conduct by one officer who had allegedly shot Mr Mwenda unprovoked during a routine traffic inspection. Mr Mwenda had reported the alleged incident to the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the matter was under investigation. It appears that the fabricated charges were designed to intimidate Mr Mwenda into withdrawing the complaint. On the fateful day, Mr Kimani, his client and a taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, who had picked them from court mysteriously disappeared. Their bodies were found several days later in River Ol-donyo Sabuk, stuffed in sacks with heads covered in polythene bags.
Students on the Centre's Master's programme on Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa are asking for justice and to stop extrajudicial killings in Kenya
6 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, notes with regret that the South African government did not support the recent establishment of a United Nations watchdog to monitor and report on violence and discrimination world-wide against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Taken at face value, abstaining from supporting this measure is perplexing. The substantiation given for our vote is not convincing. The onus remains on the government to fully explain to all South Africans why it has taken this approach.
The UN Human Rights Council, the UN’s main human rights body, on 30 June 2016 decided by a vote of 23 against 18 (with 6 abstentions) to create this position. It is formally called the ‘’Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’’, and will serve for a period of three years.
South Africa sits on the 47-member Council. Of the 13 African states on the Human Rights Council, 9 voted against the resolution. These states joined Saudi Arabia, a state infamous for state-sponsored terror against LGBT persons. The six abstaining states are, in addition to South Africa: Botswana, Ghana, India, the Maldives, and the Philippines.
5 July 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, is hosting its first Short Course on Business and Human Rights in Pretoria from 4 - 8 July 2016. This Course was made possible through support received from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for Southern Africa.
The Course brings together 55 participants from 18 African countries to learn about and discuss issues around business and human rights that include access to remedies, free prior and informed consent, extractive industries, illicit financial flows and development finance.
The Course participants will also have the opportunity to attend the General Assembly of the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA), also taking place at the University of Pretoria from 6 - 7 July 2016. The ACCA is a coalition of more than 90 civil society organisations working on business and human rights in Africa.
Dr Solomon Dersso, Commissioner,
African Commission on Human and People's Rights
29 June 2016 - As the spotlight falls on the adoption of South Africa’s landmark Constitution, 20 years ago this year, one of its striking features -- the inclusion of the first-ever constitutional guarantee of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation -- is also under global scrutiny.
The scene is set at the current session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, until Friday 1 July. The Human Rights Council is the UN’s primary human rights body, tasked with advancing and overseeing the protection and promotion of human rights in UN Member States. South Africa is currently represented in the 47-member Council.
Seven Latin American States (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay) have tabled a resolution calling for the establishment of an Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. One of the means through which the Council aims to ensure the realisation of human rights is the appointment of Independent Experts dealing with specific human rights themes (such as torture and violence against women).
27 June 2016 - In a statement released on 12 May 2016, the Centre for Human Rights explained why we agreed, after extensive consultations with our partners, to co-host the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in Banjul, The Gambia, despite issues we had raised in an earlier statement on 20 April 2016, condemning human rights violations in The Gambia and calling for the relocation of the AU’s African Year of Human Rights celebrations away from Banjul.
We stipulated as conditions for the Moot Competition taking place in The Gambia written assurances from the government of The Gambia guaranteeing (i) the security and safety of all participants amid the political turmoil in the country; and (ii) the free and unhindered presentation of the Moot. We had also, in our statement, called on the government of The Gambia to investigate the deaths of opposition politicians and the unlawful detention of peaceful protesters that occurred on 14 and 16 April 2016. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights directed a similar appeal to the government of The Gambia. We had hoped that the celebrations marking the African Year of Human Rights, including the Moot Competition, would serve as a platform to engage the government of The Gambia on the human rights violations in the country.
24 June 2016 - Prof Christof Heyns, former Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Professor of human rights law at the University of Pretoria, was nominated in March 2016 by the South African Government as its candidate to the prestigious 18 member United Nations Human Rights Committee, and was elected as a member in New York on 23 June 2016.
The brochure prepared by the South African Government, as well as endorsements of his candidature by various luminaries in the field, are listed below.
Prof Heyns served as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions over the last six years, and has in that capacity been directly engaged with some of the major challenges of the international community of our time, such as the aftermath of the war in Sri Lanka and the war in Ukraine. In addition to that he is one of the three international experts who are conducting the UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (and he serves as the chair of that body). Very few human rights experts in the world have held such a range of top human rights positions in the international system.
Prof Christof Heyns
Prof Heyns teaches human rights law at the Universities of Pretoria; Oxford; American University in Washington DC; and the University of Geneva. He is the author of numerous international publications on topics such as armed drones, the management of demonstrations, the use of force by law enforcement officials, and human rights law in Africa.
Prof Heyns will be in South Africa from 27 June to 8 July, and will be happy to conduct an interview on his work.
Please contact Pumeza Matwa on
or Tel 012 420 6217
21 June 2016 - In view of assisting and strengthening the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA), on the 8 and 9 June 2016, the Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised and convened a workshop in Cote d'Ivoire on state reporting under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Women’s Protocol). The workshop was held on the 8 and 9 June 2016.
Workshop participants came from relevant government departments, civil society organisations and gender equality commissions from francophone countries in West Africa; Benin, Cote d' Ivoire and Togo. Fifteen key government, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and civil society stakeholders involved in the state reporting process in these three countries attended this workshop.
The main objectives of the workshop were to disseminate and popularise the Guidelines on State Reporting on the Women’s Protocol, to build and strengthen the capacity of the key stakeholders in the three respective countries on state reporting under the Women’s Protocol and to ensure that their respective governments comply with state reporting obligations under the Women's Protocol.
20 June 2016 - On 17 May 2016 the Seychelles parliament passed a landmark bill to amend the country’s Penal Code to decriminalise sodomy. This was fittingly done on the day of the commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-phobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT or IDAHOBiT).
IDAHOT marks the day on which, 26 years ago in 1990, the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a sexual deviation (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems - ICD 10). It is therefore fitting that the Parliament of the Republic of Seychelles moved to decriminalise what is a human and normal part and being of its gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgendered and Intersex community.
Seychelles ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) on 13 April 1992 and one of its nationals serves as a member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People With Disabilities). Article 2 of the African Charter provides for the protection of the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the African Charter without distinction of any kind. It goes on to mention a non-exclusive list of basis for this distinction and, for emphasis, adds the clause ‘or other status’.
16 June 2016 - Celebrating Youth Day, introduced in the post-apartheid era, always has a historical dimension, but this is even pronounced this year, which marks a landmark 40 years since those fateful events of 16 June 1976.
We are reminded that 16 June 1976 was a turning point in at least three important ways.
Before thousands of school children took to the streets of Soweto to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as language of instruction for three subjects (geography, mathematic and history), it was still possible to sell apartheid as benevolent paternalism. After the blatant authoritarianism of imposing an extremely onerous policy without consultation or any effort at articulating reasonable grounds as justification, the benevolence-defence was no longer legitimately open to apologists of apartheid. The scales fell of the eyes of many, increasingly also white South Africans.
The Soweto-moment, ironically, probably accelerated the advent of a truly free, democratic South Africa, a South Africa in which a culture of authoritarianism has made way for a constitutional culture of justification.
Prof Frans Viljoen
Director, Centre for Human Rights
14 June 2016 - Sunday 12 June 2016 was a sad day in the history of the struggle for LGBTI rights in the world. Fifty revellers were gunned down at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida, USA. The gunman’s actions were apparently inspired by his hatred for persons of a different sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G), both at the University of Pretoria, believe in and work for the realisation of the rights of all persons on the African continent, including sexual minorities, based on the rights protected by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We strongly condemn this heinous act, and call upon all to respect the rights of all persons around the globe irrespective of what or who they are.
Violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is a violation of international human rights law. In its 2015 Report on Violence against LGBTI persons, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights incorporated the concept of violence based on prejudice to examine violence committed against LGBTI persons. The Commission found that violence based on prejudice requires context and social complicity and has a symbolic impact, sending a message to the whole LGBTI community, and that the perpetrator’s motivation needs to be understood as complex and multi-faceted, and not only as an individual act. So these acts, and the gunman in the Orlando massacre, are not individual exceptions, they are socially embedded and socially enabled. To prevent them requires a combination of legal and social reform, and the engagement of multiple actors in all societies.
10 June 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria welcomes the publication of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) confirming that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea. This report comes a few weeks after Eritrea’s jubilant 25th independence anniversary, during which the country celebrated its liberation after a long struggle.
The report of the COIE established that crimes against humanity had been committed in Eritrea since 1991. These crimes include enslavement, torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, rape and murder. The COIE found that “crimes against humanity have been committed in a widespread and systematic manner” over the past 25 years and estimates that between 300 000 and 400 000 people have been enslaved in Eritrea since 1991.
The COI’s mandate, given to it by the UN’s Human Rights Council in July 2015, was to “investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes as against humanity.” This followed the publication of its first report which documented grave human rights violations perpetrated by the state.
Mr Mike Smith, Chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea
8 June 2016 - Malusi Gigaba, the South African Minister of Home Affairs, has admitted that his department has often failed LGBTI South Africans, but says he is finally taking steps to ensure that they are treated as equal citizens.
On Tuesday, Gigaba met with representative of the LGBTI community in Pretoria. The historic meeting was followed by a press conference in which Gigaba outlined new efforts to turn things around.
The minister noted that this year is the tenth anniversary of the Civil Union Act that legalised same-sex marriage and said that this was an opportunity “to look back at the challenges in implementing the act to fulfil the rights of the LGBTI community”.
Gigaba said that in the meeting with the LGBTI representatives four main areas of concern were identified. These were the implementation of the Civil Union Act; changing the sex of transgender people in their ID documents; the registration of adoptions by same-sex couples; and the treatment of asylum seekers on the basis of sexual orientation.
31 May 2016 - The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, symbol of a transformative South Africa emanating from a deeply divided society, was adopted on 8 May 1996. On 25 May 2016, the Centre for Human Rights celebrated Africa Day, as well as the 20-year existence of the Constitution, as part of a series of events commemorating the Centre’s establishment 30 years ago, in May 1986.
The Centre was founded by a small group of academics at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, in the wake of an epoch-making conference reflecting on the possibilities of a Bill of Rights – and a culture of true constitutionalism more broadly – for a post-apartheid South Africa. Three of the speakers at the Africa Day event – founding Centre Director Professor Johann van der Westhuizen (now retired judge of the Constitutional Court), Justice Zak Yacoob (now retired Justice of the Constitutional Court), and Dr Mathole Motshekga (now Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services) – were present at that initial 1986 conference.
On Africa Day 2016, seven guest speakers made presentations as part of a discussion forum “By, for and of Africa? Reflections on the South African Constitution at 20”.
Dr Frene Ginwala,
first Speaker of the National Assembly,
at the Discussion Forum on 25 May 2016
24 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights from 24 to 27 May co-hosted a meeting of experts, together with the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, to contribute towards the adoption of guidelines on access to information in electoral processes in Africa.
This process was launched in August 2015, with a Resolution by the African Commission. The guidelines to be developed aim at building on the basis of existing legal texts (such as the African Charter, the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa), distilling from these clear and specific guidelines to ensure greater transparency during elections. The meeting aims at coming up with a set of issues and preliminary views on these issues to be included in the guidelines.
Transparency in elections is crucial. It bolsters their integrity, thus counteracting political contestation about election results. It also builds public confidence, thus encouraging voter participation.
24 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, congratulates Eritrea on its 25th independence celebrations. Today, 24 May 2016, marks 25 years since Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia after 30 long years of civil war. To the Eritrean people, 24 May 1991 marked the beginning of an era they hoped would bring peace, justice, equality and prosperity. The people of Eritrea had long hoped for a democratic society where human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, upheld and defended and an unrestricted space created for personal as well as community development.
The holders of state power in Eritrea are yet to live up to these aspirations of the Eritrean people. As such, Eritreans have little to celebrate in terms of human rights guarantees and democracy. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea has repeatedly reported systematic human rights abuses by the Eritrean government. The same have been echoed by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The above UN special procedures and treaty bodies have repeatedly called upon Eritrea to honour its obligations under international human rights instruments. The ACHPR has also adopted a number of resolutions condemning the human rights situation in Eritrea and calling upon Eritrea to honour its obligations under international and regional human rights instruments as well as the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
Journalist Dawit Isaak, detained since 2001,
is just one example of those languishing in undisclosed detention facilities without having been accorded
the due process of law.
23 May 2016 - From 3 to 5 March 2016 the South African Human Rights Commission convened an African regional seminar to discuss how to practically end violence and other forms of discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
The ‘Africa regional seminar on finding practical solutions for addressing violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression’ was held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The seminar was a follow up on a number of regional and international human rights resolutions and reports by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Human Rights Council. Among these were Human Rights Council resolution 17/19 titled ‘Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity’ , the UN High Commissioner’s report on ‘discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity’ (A/HRC/19/41) and Resolution 275 of the African Commission on ‘protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity'.
20 May 2016 - The Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised a two day child marriage dialogue with 27 participants from South Africa and Mozambique in collaboration with the Commonwealth Initiative. The child marriage dialogue was held on 5 and 6 May 2016 at the Protea Hotel, Hatfield, Pretoria, South Africa.
The Gender Unit has been providing technical support to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ (African Commission) Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA) in the area of child marriage through the drafting of:
a report on child marriage to be adopted by the African Commission; and
general comments on child marriage to be adopted by the African Commission and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
This child marriage dialogue was held in the context of supporting the mechanism of the SRRWA towards the eradication of child marriage.
Thank you very much for your interest in the Short Course on Business and Human Rights.
Due to the overwhelming number of applications we received, we will only be contacting successful applicants directly. Please keep a look out for future events of the same nature.
20 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is pleased to announce a pilot short course on business and human rights that will be held at the University of Pretoria, from 4 - 8 July 2016.
The course is presented with support from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for Southern Africa.
16 May 2016 - The African Youth Charter (AYC) was adopted on 2 July 2006 during the 7th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, held in Banjul, The Gambia. Its ten year anniversary is celebrated during 2016, as part of the African Union Year of Human Rights. The main celebration centres around 30 years since the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 21 October 1986. A consultative meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the AYC took place on 11 May 2016 at the Women’s Gaol Lekgotla, Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg. The coordinator of the Child Rights Unit of the Centre for Human Rights, Alina Miamingi, attended the event focusing on the AYC.
The event was organised by the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), member of the State of the Union (SOTU), which is a coalition of African civil society organisations operating in ten African States. The meeting brought together various stakeholders for the purpose of assessing the impact of the AYC on the realisation of human rights of young people across the continent.
12 May 2016 - In a statement on 18 April 2016, the Centre for Human Rights expressed grave concern about the human rights situation in The Gambia, on the basis of events that took place from 14 to 16 April 2016. The Centre called on the government of The Gambia to diligently investigate the events; bring to justice and punish those responsible; release from detention those involved in peaceful protest; and provide adequate medical attention to those injured in the protests and in detention.
The human rights situation in The Gambia is of particular concern because the Centre, as part of a partnership, has agreed to organise the 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in The Gambia, from 16 to 21 October 2016. The Moot Competition has been scheduled to form part of the events celebrating the African Year of Human Rights. In the light of the alarming human rights violations observed in The Gambia, the Centre committed itself to engaging with its partners – the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the University of The Gambia – with a view to possibly relocating the Competition out of The Gambia.
11 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a Discussion Forum on Africa Day that forms part of a series of events celebrating the Centre’s 30th anniversary during the course of 2016.
The discussion aims to reflect on the extent to which the South African Constitution is African in its inspiration, ownership and solidarity with the rest of the continent.
The Discussion Forum draws inspiration from two historical dates. On 9 May 1996 then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki made his ‘I am an African’ speech, on the occasion of the adoption of the current South African Constitution. His inaugural words grounded the Constitution in an African identity that stretches beyond the borders of South Africa, in a mutually reinforcing manner, with other African countries. On 25 May, Africa Day is annually celebrated in recognition of the formation of the Organisation of the African Union on that day in 1963.
5 May 2016 - The focus of the conference is on developing responses to the persistence and intensity of the violations of the rights of persons with albinism in the African region. The conference will be held at the Centre for Human Rights from 9-10 November 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa. It is anticipated that papers presented at this conference will be reworked by authors and submitted for consideration for publication in 2016 in a peer-reviewed journal. Also we expect that the selected works will propose ideas and solutions which can be further consulted by policymakers and relevant institutions.
27 April 2016 - It’s Freedom Day, a day that reminds us that on 27 April 1994, South Africa had its first democratic elections. All South Africans were for the first time free to vote. Since then, millions of South Africans have expressed their political freedom in numerous elections at various levels of government.
On this historical day, we should recall some of the moments that brought us here. It was also on this day that the Interim Constitution, the predecessor of our current Constitution, came into force in 1994. Although the parties to the Multi-Party Negotiating Process adopted the Interim Constitution in 1993, its operation was postponed until the day of the first democratic elections. The elected representatives then had to agree on the text of a final Constitution, to replace the Interim Constitution. They did so, on 8 May 1996. On this day, then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki greeted the Constitution with his “I am an African” speech.
In the coming weeks, South Africa will commemorate this landmark: 20 years since the adoption of the final text of our current Constitution!
26 April 2016 - Ashwanee Budoo from the Gender Unit at the Centre for Human Rights spoke to SABC Morning Live (video below) on the the naked protest staged at Rhodes University, where female students caused quite a stir last week when they protested against sexual violence half-naked.
Many people view human rights as a set of moral principles that apply to everyone. The recognition of human rights is important to people because they then feel like the society is treating them on an equal basis as others. It affords them the security that they will not be treated inferior to any other human being.
Human rights afford people with the right to protest. Some countries provide for the right to protest in their Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which a formal statement of the fundamental rights of the people. The South African Bill of Rights is similar since it provides for the right to protest in its section 17. Section 17 of the Bill of Rights provides for the right to peaceful and unarmed protests. A protest is basically ‘a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something’. Therefore, any act of protest is linked with an array of emotions.
As we have seen in the recent protests happening in South Africa, these emotions make people go to extremes. People tend to resort to extreme acts because they are frustrated and desperate that their cause fades in the many other existing causes without any concrete steps being taken. Resorting to acts like stripping naked or being violent attract media attention and assures the protesters that they are in focus. Indeed, both the #FeesMustFall campaign and the current alleged rape protests did receive attention from the relevant authorities and there are now steps that are being taken to remedy the situation.
These human rights experts that now make up the HRDA Alumni Association have through their relentless efforts demonstrated unwavering commitment to the values of human rights. Some have indeed laid down their lives in the defence of the rights of others.
It is in recognition of the outstanding work being done by these heroes of the human rights system thatthe HRDA Chronicles has been initiated to spotlight what members of the Alumni are doing to make the world a better place.
HRDA Chronicles is a video series produced by the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) Alumni Association at the Centre for Human Rights, based at the University of Pretoria.
This series aims to celebrate the work of the members of the HRDA Alumni Association and to encourage other human rights defenders across the globe as they brave the odds to realise the promises of several human rights covenants.
22 April 2016 - The University of Pretoria joined the Scholars at Risk (SAR) network last year. SAR is an international network of over 250 academic institutions in 30 countries organized to support and defend the principles of academic freedom and to defend the human rights of scholars around the world.
In an on-going attempt to raise awareness of the importance of academic freedom, the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria on Monday 18 April 2016 hosted a public lecture on 'Academic freedom in Africa under attack: A tribute to Professor Gilles Cistac.' It was delivered by a scholar from one of the partners in the Centre’s Master’s programme, Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra.
This Master’s programme focus on human rights and democratisation in Africa and is presented in collaboration with 13 law faculties across the continent.
The past few days, which have seen calls by the opposition for electoral and democratic reform in The Gambia, lead to disproportionate force and deliberate repression on the part of the state. Since President Jammeh overthrew sitting President Jawara by means of a coup d’etat in 1994, he has put in place mechanisms to entrench his power and close off the democratic space. In March, it was reported that the government plans to introduce a Bill at the next parliamentary sitting, likely to be in April, that will extend the term of the Electoral Commission Chairperson and his entire team from an already expired two-year term limit. The Bill proposes an amendment to section 42 of the Constitution which currently provides for ‘one further term’ and if approved, it would see the electoral Commission members being eligible to serve ‘further terms of office.’ Legal experts suggest this could amount to indefinite terms, as no term limits are stipulated or alluded to in the Bill. Presidential elections are planned for 1 December 2016 and President Jammeh, who has been in power for 21 years, has indicated his intention to run for a fifth term. His candidacy was approved at a meeting of his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party in February 2016.
14 April 2016 - On 31 March 2016 the College of Law, University of Ghana in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, held the annual Helen Kanzira lecture. The lecture took place at the law auditorium at the College of law, University of Ghana.
The Centre for Human Rights instituted the annual lecture in 2008 after Hellen Kanzira who was an alumna and also part of the pioneer class of the Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. The purpose of this lecture is to give prominence to maternal health issues not only in Africa but to also underscore the maternal health crisis across the world where 830 women die daily from preventable childbirth complications.
The lecture was delivered by Ms Bernice Sam and the title of the lecture was: ‘Protecting women’s reproductive health rights in Africa: A moral of legal obligation’
23 March 2016 - The Faculty of Law at the University of Botswana launched the Disability Rights Teaching Project on 23 March 2016. Mr. Tshepiso Ndzinge Makhamisa, coordinator of the Disability Rights Teaching Project at the University of Botswana and an alumni of the LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa speaking at the launch informed delegates that the overall goal of the project is to develop a pool of lawyers with specialised knowledge and skills in disability rights and at the same time promote disability rights awareness, education and raise academic interest (scholarship) on disability rights in Botswana. The University of Botswana commenced the teaching of Disability Rights in 2015 and will continue teaching it as part of the Human Rights Law Module. Plans are underway to establish a Disability Rights Clinic to engage in strategic litigation on the rights of persons with disabilities.
The University of Botswana is part of a consortium of nine universities that are implementing the Disability Rights Law Schools Project in Africa whose objective is to advance disability rights through higher education. The project which is coordinated by the Disability Rights Unit at the Centre for Human Rights brings together law faculties from the University of Zambia, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe; Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique; Chancellor College, Malawi; University of Dodoma, Tanzania; University of Namibia; University of Nairobi, Kenya and Makerere University, Uganda with the aim to:
We commend the Commission for adopting Resolution 275 (aimed at the protection against violence and related human rights violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity), and for participating in a joint dialogue, on 3 November 2015, with members of the Inter-American Commission and United Nations (UN) on possible forms of collaboration to attain the objectives of the resolution. We urge the Commission to take action in line with the recommendations contained in the joint report, including exchange of staff and information and learning from with the Inter-American Commission’s Special Rapporteurship on the rights of lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transsexual persons.
7 April 2016 - The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) on 7 April 2016 launched a report on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
This report, titled ‘Ending violence and other human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity’, contains the proceedings and recommendations of a joint thematic dialogue on SOGI, which was held on 3 November 2015 between the African Commission, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms in Banjul, The Gambia, ahead of the 57th ordinary session of the African Commission. The dialogue, hosted by the African Commission, was supported and organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The dialogue built on recent developments in the African, Inter-American and UN human rights systems in relation to SOGI issues and aimed at sharing experiences and future possibilities and collaboration in ending violence and other human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
6 April 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a public lecture on 'Academic freedom in Africa under attack: A tribute to Professor Cistac'.
Speaker: Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua Member, Ghana Bar and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra
Date: Monday 18 April 2016 Time: 17:00 to 18:30 Venue: Moot Court, Ground Floor, Law Building, Faculty of Law, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 5407 / Email:
Biography: Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua
Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua is a member of the Ghana Bar and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra where he teaches Public International Law and International Human Rights Law.