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Centre News & Events: 2016
HIV and discrimination: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and their unique HIV vulnerabilities in SA

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.

 

 

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A Call to Action to end rights abuses against persons with albinism in Africa

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. The Independent 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.

 

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Ending the Rape Culture

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?

 

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Fourth African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition

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
    South Africa
    National Director
    Albinism Society of South Africa
  • Dr Lungowe Matakala
    Zambia
    Lecturer
    University of Zambia
 

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Participants at high-level meeting call for urgent action to protect the rights of persons living with albinism in Africa

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.

 

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Press Statement: Call to join week of mourning for the demise of the SADC Tribunal

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.

 

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Centre co-publishes litigation and advocacy tool on harmful practices with a focus on female genital mutilation and child marriages

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.

 

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Invitation: 30/30 Colloquium: How far have we come; how far will we go?

9 November 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to the 30/30 Colloquium: How far have we come; how far will we go?

Date: Thursday 8 December 2016
Time: 08:00 – 16:00
Venue: Hellenic Community Hall, Corner Lynnwood road & Roper street (opposite UP), Hillcrest, Pretoria

Colloquium RSVP

Graduation ceremony

You are also invited to attend the Graduation Ceremony on Friday 9 December 2016.

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.

 

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Invitation: Graduation Ceremony for the 2016 Master’s degree students

9 November 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to the Graduation Ceremony for the 2016 Master’s degree students.

Date: Friday 9 December 2016
Time: 14:00 – 17:00
Venue: Musaion, University of Pretoria, Hatfield Campus, Hillcrest, Pretoria

Graduation Ceremony RSVP

30/30 Colloquium

You are also invited to attend the 30/30 Colloquium on Thursday 8 December 2016.

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.

 

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News Release: Top UN Official on Persons with Albinism Calls for Pan-African Action Plan

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.

 

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Media Briefing: High-Level Meeting on Persons with Albinism in Africa in Pretoria, South Africa

7 November 2016 - The United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, will make an important announcement immediately following the High-Level Meeting on Persons with Albinism in Africa.

When:
Tuesday, 8 November 2016 17:00 SAST

Where:
Southern Sun Hotel Pretoria, Corner of Steve Biko and Stanza Bopape, Arcadia, Pretoria 0083

Who:

  • 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.

 

© Lawilink/Amnesty International

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Eritrea: UN Commission has urged referral to the International Criminal Court

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.

 

 



 
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Call for Applications: Open Society Foundations Scholarship Programmes

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.

More information

 

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Op-Ed: Withdrawal from the ICC: A sad day for South Africa and Africa

21 October 2016 - South Africa is withdrawing from the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, signed the Instrument of Withdrawal on 19 October, following a cabinet decision.

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.

 

 



Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir during a rally against the ICC.
Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters
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Press Statement: Centre for Human Rights expresses grave disappointment about withdrawal from ICC

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.

 

 



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Centre for Human Rights deplores the decision of the South African government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court Statute

21 October 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria deplores the decision of the South African government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court Statute.

This is a developing story and the Centre for Human Rights will release an official statement on the matter.

'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.

The Centre for Human Rights urges the governing party to reconsider its view on this matter, for the following reasons:

 

 


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Op-Ed: New Public Protector has to allay apprehensions

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”.

 

 



Prof Frans Viljoen
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Centre for Human Rights launches booklet for AU Year of Human Rights

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.

This publication, A guide to the African human rights system Celebrating 30 years since the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights 1986 - 2016, was launched during the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition, which took place in Pretoria from 3 to 8 October 2016. This year the Moot celebrated its silver jubilee, as the Centre has been hosting it for the last 25 years – without interruption. Fifty nine universities from all over Africa participated in the 2016 edition of the Moot. The Moot Court Competition has indeed been integral to much of the Centre’s 30 years of existence, another landmark acknowledged this year.

The booklet – which is also available in French as Un guide du système africain des droits de l’homme Célébrant 30 ans depuis l’entrée en vigueur de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples 1986-2016 -- will also be disseminated to participants at the session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which will take place in The Gambia from 21 October 2016.

 

 




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Joint Press Release: International and local NGOs, as friends of the court, file submissions before the Constitutional Court in the Al-Bashir Case

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.

 

 




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Invitation: Conference - Advancing the rights of persons with albinism in Africa: A call to action

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.

Invitation

Date: 9 to 10 November 2016
Time: Wednesday 9 November    – 08:00 to 17:30
Thursday 10 November    – 09:00 to 13:00
Venue: Pretoria, South Africa (exact venue to be confirmed)

RSVP: Kindly confirm your attendance by Friday 31 October 2016       by sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Enquiries: Ms Hanifa Gutu   (012 420 5449 / 012 420 4199 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Please indicate in your RSVP whether you have any special dietary requirements, parking needs or if disability accommodations are needed to participate fully in this event.

No registration fee is charged but pre-registration is compulsory. Capacity is limited, so registering well before the 31 October deadline is encouraged.

 

 



Photo: © Dana Ullman
 
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25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition: Day 6 + Results

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.

 

 



 
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