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Centre News & Events: 2014
Experts’ Roundtable on a draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa

An Experts’ Round Table on a proposed ‘Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa’ was held at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, on 21 and 22 of August 2014.

The Round Table is part of a consultative process, informing the elaboration of an African-specific treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. The threshold question about the desirability and feasibility of adopting such a treaty with the African Union was also considered against the background of the fact that the UN in 2006 adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 36 AU member states have become party to the CRPD.

The meeting was organised by the Centre for Human Rights and the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA), with participation of representatives from the African Union, relevant ministries, continental and sub-regional organizations of persons with disabilities, leaders of the disability movement from various African countries, parliamentarians, experts and researchers on disability as well as regional and international organisations. A total of some 50 participants from all over the continent participated in the discussion.

 
Deputy Minister for Social Development in South Africa,
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu
 
Clarification: Official South African Cabinet decision on Ebola

The South African government issued a statement on Ebola and travel bans in Africa on 21 August 2014. A lot of newspapers have reported wrongly on this travel ban. For the purpose of clarification, we post the official statement by the South African government.

Related links

Cabinet decision on Ebola

21 Aug 2014

The Cabinet met on 20 August 2014 and was presented with an update on the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

Cabinet noted with concern the extent of the outbreak and the increase of cases in three of these countries, i.e Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, over the last week. Cabinet recognised that even though the outbreak has been limited to these countries in West Africa, the spread to other countries need to be contained. Cabinet recognized that containing the outbreak at source will be essential and limit the spread and mortality caused by the disease to these particular parts of the world.

 
 
Centre alumnus appointed as member of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

At the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014, Dr Sabelo Gumedze, an alumnus of the Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, was appointed as a member of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

The Master’s Programme proudly presented by the Centre for Human Rights has 401 professionals from 36 African countries, Spain and the United States of America. Graduates of the Alumni Association have over the years been involved in human rights advocacy on the continent and beyond. The alumni network has become visible throughout the human rights milieu in Africa with alumni working in the academia, civil society organisations, national and inter-governmental institutions at the sub-regional, regional and global level. Dr Sabelo Gumedze belongs to the alumni association.

Prior to his appointment and following his graduation from the Masters programme in 2001-2002, Sabelo has had working relationships with various institutions including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the University of South Africa (Limpopo Province Campus); the University of Limpopo and the Oliver Schreiner School of Law at the University of Witwatersrand. He has also worked as a consultant, partner and advisor with the United Nations, the African Union and civil societies. In 2012, Sabelo obtained a doctorate from the Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland.

 
 
Professor Hansungule elected for second term as Commissioner on the International Commission of Jurists

The Centre for Human Rights would like to congratulate Prof Michelo Hansungule on being elected as a Commissioner on the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Prof Hansungule will be serving his second term as Commissioner following his election first in 2009 and then re-election in 2014.

The ICJ is composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, and aims to  promote and protect human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems.

Prof Hansungule is currently Professor of Human Rights Law at the Centre for Human Rights where he teaches on various Master's programmes and human rights courses. He has taught international human rights law at several universities worldwide including the University of Lund in Sweden, Mahidol University in Thailand, Essex University in the United Kingdom, University of Abo in Finland and University of Malta. He has taught in outreach programmes in over 48 African and non-African countries on human rights protection to judges, lawyers, governments and NGO officials.

 
 
African Union Press Statement: The War on South Sudan’s children

African Union Press Statement: Advocacy Mission of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) on the situation of children in South Sudan (03-09 August, 2014)

The War on South Sudan’s children
(Juba, 08 August 2014)

1. The Committee has concluded that the present conflict can be characterised as nothing less than a war on the children of South Sudan. We have been exposed to an array of grave violations of their rights, which are interdependent and cumulative. These assault the very future of childhood  in South Sudan. The Committee has heard evidence that the impact of conflict of the last 8 months (since December 15) upon children is greater than in the entire 21 year period during which the war was ongoing. Moreover, the situation is deteriorating as I speak.

2, The following specific concerns have been brought to our attention and, seen together, are perilously close to constituting a crime against humanity that is being perpetrated against the children o South Sudan.

 
 
The role of men and boys the focus of gender equality course

The advanced short course on The Role of Men & Boys in Achieving Gender Equality is currently in progress. The course runs from the 4 to 8 August 2014 at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. The course is presented by Sonke Gender Justice Network in partnership with the Centre for the study of AIDS and the Centre for Human Rights.

With over 30 participants drawn mostly from across Africa and expert facilitators in the field of gender justice, this year’s programme focuses on very germane issues which include: the challenges and opportunities of engaging men and boys in gender transformation in Africa; feminist critique to some approaches and interventions for engaging men and boys for gender equality, amongst other stimulating discussions.

Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo (Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Town) presented an interesting and engaging topic titled ‘Culture, tradition, religion and women’s human rights in Africa.’  He most brilliantly un-packed the dynamics around culture, identity, historical order and belief systems. Prof Nhlapo identified and interrogated the following components - gatekeepers (traditional leaders), contestations, dynamism and voluntariness as key features of culture.

 
Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo
Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Town
 
The Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria signs a generous funding agreement with the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, to strengthen governance, the rule of law and human rights in Africa
The University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights is delighted to announce the signature of a funding contract with the Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria valued at NOK 11 million.

Spread over three years – from 2014 to 2016 – the grant is intended to help strengthen institutions in Africa dealing with governance, the rule of law and human rights in general.

In particular, the grant will support six related projects, to be undertaken by the Centre for Human Rights, namely:
  1. a series of one-week training courses aimed at strengthening the capacity of African institutions in the field of human rights;
  2. support to the Human Rights Clinics of the Centre, which aim to undertake advocacy and litigation before African institutions, to fully exploit the potential of these institutions;
  3. an annual colloquium of African experts on an aspect of democratic consolidation and regionalism in Africa;
  4. training in state reporting under the African Women’s Protocol and the creation of a web-based platform to further enhance this capacity through the exchange of information and experience;
  5. capacity building for the Master’s programme (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa), through support for partner institutions, strengthening the network and impact of graduates through the Alumni Association, and including support to regional institutions dealing with human rights by placing alumni as legal interns to strengthen the inadequate secretariats of these institutions;
  6. and a project on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, including support for the research conducted by Prof Christof Heyns, a professor of law at the Centre for Human Rights, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on this topic, and support for regional efforts on this thematic area.
 

Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Norwegian Ambassador Kari Bjørnsgaard at the contract signing ceremony
 
Invitation: LGBTI Forum on Partnering with Straight Allies for Safe Schools and Communities

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in partnership with the US Embassy in Pretoria invites you to an LGBTI Forum
on Partnering with Straight Allies for Safe Schools and Communities

Guest speaker: Jody Huckaby (Executive Director of PFLAG)
Date: Friday 15 August 2014
Time: 12:00 for 13:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Classroom, Room 2-2.1, Law Building, University of Pretoria (Hatfield Campus)
A light lunch will be served

RSVP: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by 13 August 2014

For too many LGBTI students, attending school can be a frightening experience. Many face harassment or mistreatment by colleagues or professors. These challenges are compounded in some cases by unsupportive families or friends back home. Come and discuss strategies for building allies in the straight community to make your school and community safer. Learn how to engage families, friends and fellow students in a constructive discussion about your identity and enlist them as supporters.

 
 
African Commission adopts resolution on Freedom of Expression in Swaziland

The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a Resolution on Freedom of Expression in Swaziland at its 16th Extraordinary Session held from 20 to 29 July 2014, in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda.

In this resolution, the Commission:

  1. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly as provided for in the African Charter, the UDHR, the ICCPR and other international and regional human rights instruments;
  2. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to take the necessary measures to stop all acts of harassment and intimidation carried out against human rights defenders and media practitioners working in the Kingdom of Swaziland and to respect and guarantee their right to freedom of opinion and expression.
 
 
Human rights student wins European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights photography competition

The Centre for Human Rights is proud to announce that Adebayo Okeowo, an LLM student on the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa programme recently won the first prize in the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights (EIUC) Human Rights Global Campus Photo Competition. This annual amateur photography competition is open to current students and Alumni of the Regional Masters Programmes in Human Rights and Democratisation. 

Photographs submitted should illustrate the efforts to realise human rights and allow viewers to creatively reflect on ways forward.  This year the theme of the competition focused on “Migrants and community action” and the aim is to raise awareness on migrants’ rights and cooperation between people by demonstrating how collaboration, participation and trust can build and strengthen the community.

Mr Okeowo won the first prize with his picture The Glue of Africa and was praised for his excellent composition which combines inventiveness with optimism.The description accompanying his winning photo states: “[a]ccording to the International Organization for Migration, South Africa hosts the second highest number of migrants in Africa. From the horn of Africa to its heart, and throughout its length and breath, South Africa draws Africa in. With this diversity should come the understanding of the role it can therefore play as the glue of Africa and as such, issues like xenophobic attacks against migrants should become a distant past!”

 
 
Centre for Human Rights launches Gender Adit Tool

The Centre for Human Rights recently launched a Gender Audit Tool for gender inequality at higher education institutions in Africa. The tool, developed with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is designed to introspectively investigate the state of gender (in) equality at higher education institutions across Africa with a view to fostering greater gender parity.

The aim of this tool is to guide transformation and gender mainstreaming at the University of Pretoria, and should form part of the strategic plans of all departments and faculties, said Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights.

The launch took the form of a panel discussion and reflected on the value of tools such as the one developed by the Centre. In opening, Ms Patience Mushungwa, Executive Director for Human Capital and Management at the University of Pretoria, expressed her appreciation at the development of the tool in light of the recent institutional culture survey. She reiterated the need for a deeper introspection of the true state of inequality at UP and other higher education institutions as the mere reliance on numbers is not sufficient to indicate true transformation.

 
 
Centre for Human Rights calls on South African government to engage Swaziland government on encroachment of free expression

Centre for Human Rights calls On South African government to engage Swaziland government on encroachment of free expression

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, learnt with great disappointment that Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu have been sentenced to terms of two years’ imprisonment each, without the option of a fine. The magazine and published were fined E100 000 (USD10 000). These sentences confirmed our worst fears. We therefore reiterate our call to the South African government to take diplomatic and other steps to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland to release Thulani and Bheki. We further urge the government to engage with the Swaziland government about its encroachment of free expression.

The crime these two men committed was to criticize the arbitrary conduct by a Judge – who happens to be the Chief Justice of the country. Using the offence of contempt of court to stifle and punish free expression is the hallmark of an undemocratic and closed state, which Swaziland undeniably is.  The conviction and harsh sentence should be understood within the broader political context, in which the rule of law has largely been replaced by royal rule, and in which the independence of the judiciary has been compromised.

 
 
Centre presents second edition of the Advanced Short Course on Children’s Rights in Africa

An advanced short course on Children's Rights in Africa is currently underway at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. This course, which runs from 21 to 25 July, is being presented by the Centre for Human Rights, Save the Children International, the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape and the Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria.

The course brought together over 50 child rights researchers, practitioners and policy makers across Africa. The Course was facilitated by renowned African child rights experts including

  • Prof Benyam Mezmur, Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and Vice Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child;
  • Prof Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Chairperson of Children’s Rights in the Developing World, University of Leiden and Vice Chairperson of ACERWC;
  • Prof Ann Skelton, UNESCO Right to Education Chair and Director Centre for Child Law,
  • Prof Michelo Hansungule, Centre for Human Rights and
  • Prof Frans Viljoen, Director Centre for Human Rights.
 
Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur
Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and Vice Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
 
Centre for Human Rights calls on South Africa government to ensure University of Pretoria graduate is released

Centre for Human Rights calls on South Africa government to ensure University of Pretoria graduate is released

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, calls on the Government of South Africa to take suitable measures to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland to ensure that Thulani Maseko, a graduate of the University of Pretoria, be released from prison and not be sentenced to imprisonment.

Who is Thulani Maseko?

Thulani Maseko graduated with a Master’s degree in Human Rights from the University of Pretoria in December 2005. After graduation, he returned to Swaziland to work as a lawyer and human rights activist. He is also a senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights, Swaziland. In 2011 Thulani received the Vera Chirwa Award from the Centre for Human Rights awarded to a graduate who has made a significant difference to the protection of human rights in his or her home country.

 
 
Multi-stakeholder dialogue on business and human rights in South Africa

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), together with the United Nations Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) of the OHCHR and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), hosted a multi-stakeholder dialogue on business and human rights at the University of Pretoria on 21 July 2014.

The aim of the dialogue was to bring stakeholders together from different backgrounds and representing different sectors. The event was attended by representatives from the United Nations, government, business, civil society, academia and communities. The dialogue also served to inform the agenda of a similar multi-stakeholder engagement scheduled for 16 – 18 September 2014, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The dialogue was opened by a presentation by Ms Lene Wendland, the Advisor on Business and Human Rights to the OHCHR, and co-author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Some of the topics discussed on the day included inclusive economic development, community engagement and participation, responsible contracting and lending, and access to remedies.

 
 
Stakeholders meeting on Decriminalisation of Laws Limiting Freedom of Expression in Tanzania

On 8 and 9 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Media Institute of South Africa Tanzania (MISA-Tanzania), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The DOX campaign is a campaign for the repeal of laws on criminal defamation, sedition, insult and false news in Africa, led by the Special Rapporteur. The Centre for Human Rights acts as the secretariat of the campaign with members from several local, regional and international organisations working on freedom of expression.

The meeting brought together organisations that had worked on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression in Tanzania in the past, those that are well positioned to do so in the future, as well as representatives of media groupings whose activities are most jeopardised by the existence of these laws.

 
 
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for Africa undertakes advocacy visits to Mozambique, Ghana and Botswana

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Mozambique, Ghana and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana. The advocacy visits were undertaken to dicuss the implementation of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law).

Mozambique

On 26 June 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Maputo, Mozambique. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the speedy adoption of the Mozambican Right to Information Bill, currently before Parliament, in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 3 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

 
 
New advanced short course highlights the role, efforts and challenges of civil society in Africa

An advanced short course on Civil Society Law in Africa is currently underway at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. This course, which runs from 14 to 18 July, is being presented by the Centre for Human Rights and the International Center For Not-For-Profit Law, Washington DC in the United States.

The objectives of the course are to strengthen capacity, in practice, to identify and analyse legal barriers to the right to freedom of association; to raise awareness of the challenges faced by civil society; and to foster efforts to respond to those threats. The course also aims to build a network of legal professionals working in the field and encourage collaborative efforts within such a network.

The course attracted expert facilitators in the field from around the world. These presenters represent prominent institutions including academic and non-governmental organisations. Amongst the facilitators were
  • Mr Emerson Sykes; Legal Associate, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law(ICNL)
  • Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo; Executive Director, Southern African Trust
  • Dr Maria Nassali; Director, Federation of Women Lawyers, Uganda and
  • Irungu Houghton; Senior Advisor, Society for international Development (SID).
 
Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo
Executive Director, Southern African Trust
 
Invitation to the launch of a Gender Audit Tool for Gender Equality at Higher Education Institutions in Africa

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria invites you to the launch of ‘Gender Equality at Higher Education Institutions in Africa: A Gender Audit Tool’

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) will be launching a Gender Audit Tool developed towards the realisation of gender equality at higher education institutions across Africa. This Gender Audit Tool was developed with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is geared towards the contemplation of greater gender equality at higher education institutions across Africa. The tool will be disseminated to CHR partner universities and other universities across Africa.

The launch will take the form of a panel discussion on the general theme of “Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions across Africa.”

Date: Monday 28 July 2014
Time: 12:30 - 14:00
Venue: Merensky (Main Library) Auditorium, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
Enquiries: Yvonne Oyieke
+27 12 420 5449 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Refreshments will be served.

 
 
Eritrea: UN Special Rapporteur reports that systematic human rights violations have produced a refugee crisis

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Ms Sheila B Keetharuth, has released her latest report detailing the most prevalent and pressing human rights violations within the country.  A context of human rights violations is summarized, followed by a pinpointing of the main issues for concern, namely, the indefinite national service and arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention and inhumane prison conditions; these systematic human rights violations have produced a refugee crisis as hundreds and thousands flee the country.

Situated in a volatile region, the Special Rapporteur summarises Eritrea as living in state of constant combat preparedness, a state that is compromising human liberties. Grave human rights concerns beyond those listed above include extrajudicial killings, detention often preceded by torture, limitations on the freedom of movement, religion and opinion. Furthermore, intimidation of persons who leave the country is rife, and family members of the detained suffer ‘guilt by association’ and are often required to pay substantial fines for those family members that have left the country or are indefinitely detained. These are all widespread human rights violations continuing at unprecedented rates. The Special Rapporteur concludes by appealing to the Government of Eritrea and the international community to addresses these concerns, noting every individual’s right to be treated with humanity and dignity.

 
 
Renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and Establishment of Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea

Press Release: Renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and Establishment of Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, applauds the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) decision to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and the setting up of a landmark Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Eritrea.

Resolution (A/HRC/26/L.6) renewing the mandate and assigning the COI to investigate the human rights situation in Eritrea for a period of one year was adopted without a vote at the close of the 26th UNHRC regular session on 27 June 2014.

Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, expressed the hope that “the Human Rights Council's decision would not only increase the possibility for international engagement, but also see to an actual improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea. I congratulate the Special Rapporteur and her team of researchers at the Centre, for their dedicated work”.

 
 
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