Centre News & Events: 2015
Statement by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, to the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Banjul, The Gambia, 22 April 2015

In this statement, the human rights situation in three countries is addressed: the country from which I come (South Africa); the country in respect of which a Centre report was launched earlier at the session (Eritrea); and the country where we all find ourselves (The Gambia).

South Africa: The African Commission should call for accountability for and a comprehensive approach to xenophobic violence in South Africa, and request authorization to conduct and in fact undertake a mission to South Africa

Like all fellow Africans, I am distressed and appalled by the recent outburst of xenophobic violence in South Africa. As a South African, I am saddened and ashamed of the acts of fellow South Africans, perpetrated against fellow Africans. More pertinently, I am concerned about the lack of a comprehensive and systematic approach by the South African government to effectively deal with this issue.

As we all know, this is part of a series of events. Following similar incidents in 2008, the African Commission, at its 43th session in Ezulwini, Swaziland, adopted a resolution condemning the attacks (the Commission condemned “the attacks and violence perpetrated against migrants in various townships in South Africa”) called for accountability of those responsible (the Commission “called on the South African government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attacks, and to institute further measures to ensure the protection of foreign migrants in South Africa, and their property”) and also urged the South African government to authorize a  visit of the Special Rapporteur on Asylum Seekers and Refugees to visit the country (the Commission “had sought authorization for the Special Rapporteur to conduct a fact finding mission on the situation of migrants in that country”).



Centre launches report on Eritrea in Gambia and calls for decisive action by African Commission

The Centre for Human Rights on 21 April 2015 launched a report deploring the state of freedom of expression, specifically, and the rule of law, more broadly, in Eritrea.

This report, entitled ‘The erosion of the rule of law in Eritrea: Silencing freedom of expression”, was prepared by students from the UN mandated University of Peace, in Costa Rica, and students and staff of the Centre for Human Rights. (The report is available open-access on the web site of PULP, web site link.)

It was launched in collaboration, and under the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to information in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission). 

During the launch, which took place immediately following the Opening of the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission, in Banjul, The Gambia, a panel discussed the situation of human rights, and freedom expression specifically, in Eritrea. The panel consisted of: the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Advocate Pansy Tlakula; the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea; an Björn Tunbäck, from Reporters without Borders.  The Director of the Centre, Frans Viljoen, chaired the panel.



Launch of a Guide to the General Comments on Article 14 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

Tomorrow, on 21 April 2015 at the 56th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) in the capital of the Gambia, Banjul, the African Commission in collaboration with IPAS Africa Alliance will launch General Comments on Article 14 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol). This guide will be distributed next week in Banjul but it is also available for download. 

Our hope is that the guide, together with the General Comments, will serve to strengthen advocacy towards and realisation of the health and reproductive rights of all women in Africa.

General Comments are instruments that are used to explain the meaning of certain rights and to clarify what actions states should take in order fully to realise the rights that are contained in a particular treaty. The General Comments being launched next week relate to article 14 of the Maputo Protocol, a regional human rights instrument that seeks to improve the status of all women in Africa. The Maputo Protocol supplements the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and to date it has been ratified by 36 African states.




Two General Comments have been issued on Article 14 to the Maputo Protocol, which relates to women's health and reproductive rights. The first General Comments, which were adopted in 2012, focus on the provisions of article 14 which relate to STI's, HIV and AIDS. The second set of the General Comments on article 14 speak to the specific actions that states should take in order to guarantee the health and reproductive rights of women.

As a supplement to the General Comments on article 14, the Centre for Human Rights, with the generous support of the Sigrid Rausing Trust and Equality Now in collaboration with The Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition (SOAWR), prepared a guide which is intended to assist states parties to the Maputo Protocol better to understand the commitments contained in article 14. The guide also aims to support civil society in efforts to hold governments accountable for their obligations contained in article 14.

For more information, please contact:

Katy Hindle
Programme Manager: Gender Unit
Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law
University of Pretoria
Tel: (012) 420 4525
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Disability Rights and Law Schools Project in Southern Africa Partner’s Meeting

The Centre for Human Rights coordinates a project aimed at promoting disability rights awareness, education and scholarship in Southern Africa. As part of this project, the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria hosted the Disability Rights and Law Schools Project in Southern Africa Partner’s meeting between 8 - 10 April 2015. In addition to the CHR, the meeting brought together the following partner institutions: Midlands State University, Zimbabwe, University of Zambia, Chancellor College Malawi, Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique, University of Dodoma, Tanzania, University of Namibia, University of Botswana, University of Nairobi, Kenya and Makerere University, Uganda.

The objective of the meeting was to provide a space for the partners to update each other on ongoing project activities at each partner institution and to plan for the next project cycle while reflecting on sustainability of the project. The meeting included discussions between the partner institutions, Open Society Foundations’ Disability Rights Scholarship Program and the global consortium on disability rights which includes the National University of Ireland, Galway; Cardiff University; University of Leeds; American University, Washington DC; Syracuse University and McGill University. The final day of the meeting featured a workshop on teaching disability rights.



Centre for Human Rights partners with other leading academic centres to research implementation and compliance with international and regional human rights law

An 'implementation crisis' is widely acknowledged to be afflicting regional and international human rights mechanisms posing a grave threat to their integrity and perceived legitimacy. Against this backdrop, regional and international bodies are pursuing efforts to strengthen their mechanisms for ensuring redress for victims of human rights violations and to ensure the swift and effective implementation of their decisions. This situation adds urgency to a debate which is long-established but remains unresolved: what does it mean to comply with international and regional human rights law and what factors influence whether States comply or not?

In order to explore this question in more detail, four leading academic human rights centres have come together in a unique partnership, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  These are the Human Rights Implementation Centre at Bristol University; the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex; Middlesex University; and the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. The Open Society Justice Initiative, part of the Open Society Foundations, will also serve as a partner organisation for the research, which will bring together policy makers, practitioners, and academics.



Press statement: Government, ANC should make words matter to combat xenophobia

The Centre for Human Rights is appalled and deeply concerned not only about the recent recurrence of xenophobic violence, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, but also by its persistence, and its widespread nature and severity.

These incidents take place against the background of highly publicized utterances inflaming animosity, stoking the fires of hatred towards non-South Africans from Africa who find themselves in South Africa. 

In response, the Presidency issued a statement. As too often, however, it smacks of formalism and did little to change the public discourse. For the most part, the voice of the government and the ANC has remained mute on this issue. On a number of occasions, statements from these quarters have even contributed to a climate of hostility towards non-nationals.

It seems important to us that President Zuma, government ministers, and the ANC leadership unequivocally distance themselves from all statements that foment xenophobic violence.  “We need to hear language that makes a difference, words that loudly and clearly counter the toxic discourse that has been allowed to take us down a spiral of violence”, said Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre.



The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for Africa undertakes advocacy visit to Mauritius

From 8 to 10 April 2015, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to the Republic of Mauritius. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the adoption of an access to information law 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 4 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur met with several government Ministers such as: Honourable Pravind Jugnauth, Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation; Honourable Fazila Daureeawoo, Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions; Honourable Prithvirajsing Roopun, Minister of Social Integration, Empowerment and Training and Honourable Soodesh Callichurn, Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations, Employment and Training.



Opening Ceremony for LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) students

On 8 April 2015, the Centre for Human Rights welcomed the 16th set of students for its Masters Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa.

The class of 2015 is made up of 29 outstanding individuals from 16 African countries as well as from France, Germany and Ukraine.

In recognition of the pivotal role other professions play in the advancement of democracy and human rights on the continent, the class of 2015 has 6 non-lawyers (including a Police officer) whose presence on the course bring fresh perspectives and interdisciplinary approaches. The diversity of this class is therefore not only reflected in the different nationalities but also in the vast array of backgrounds and expertise.

The event was attended by eminent personalities, from academics to human rights activists, government officials, University of Pretoria staff  and members of the diplomatic corps.



Short course on the effective implementation of disability rights in Africa

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted an advanced short course with a focus on the effective implementation of disability rights in Africa from 9 - 13 March 2015.

Eighteen lectures were delivered at the course on a diverse range of issues including the development of disability as a human rights issue at the global, regional and domestic levels, regulation of disability discrimination in the African, European and American regions, constitutional regulation of disability discrimination, regulation of disability in select countries (Ireland, Kenya, Malawi, United States of America and Zimbabwe) and finally applying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to selected areas (including access to justice, accessibility of goods and services, legal capacity, inclusive education, reproductive and sexual health and national implementation and monitoring).

The course drew instructors from eight countries and about fifty participants coming from at least twenty five countries. Participants included policy makers and implementers, civil society groups as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, and students of the LLM on the Human Rights and Democratization in Africa course.



PULP launches book on sexual and reproductive health rights in Africa
Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) launched its latest publication Strengthening the protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the African region through human rights, edited by Charles Ngwena and Ebenezer Durojaye.
The proceedings were convened by Prof Anton Kok (Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law) and Prof Charles Ngwena explained more about the book and its contributions.
Professor Rebecca Cook (Co-Director, International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme, University of Toronto) was the guest speaker.
Contributing authors to the book include: Onyema Afulukwe-Eruchalu; Rebecca Amollo; Ayodele Atsenuwa; Tiffany Banda; Fana Hagos Berhane; Eunice Brookman-Amissah; Ebenezer Durojaye; Lisa Forman; Tinyade Kachika; Godfrey Kangaude; Simangele Mavundla; Charles Ngwena; Susana SáCouto; Karen Stefiszyn; Jaime Todd-Gher; and Christina Zampas.



City of Tshwane Mayor addresses German delegation and students

Gathered in the very charming auditorium of the Plant Sciences were extra-ordinary guests hosted by the Centre for Human Rights on the special occasion of the German Delegation's visit to the University of Pretoria. Among the German delegates were representatives of the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) and other officials of the German government.

The event which attracted several esteemed personalities from within the University of Pretoria community also featured a lecture delivered by the Executive Mayor of the city Tshwane - Kgosientso Ramokgopa.

His lecture focused on the contribution of science and technology to the realization of human rights and emphasized the need for a demand to be placed on science to serve the majority and not just a few elite.

Being a former graduate and current Doctoral candidate of the University of Pretoria, the Mayor was best suited for the lecture, more so because the City of Tshwane over which he presides has been designated by the Gauteng Provincial government as the hub of research and development.



Human Rights Day 2015 Message from the Vice-Chancellor, University of Pretoria

March 21st is both a celebration of how far South Africa has come, as well as an occasion of sombre remembrance of those who gave their lives so that we can be free. We know it as Human Rights Day, but it is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, World Down’s Syndrome Day, which advocates the rights and inclusion of those with Down’s Syndrome, and World Poetry Day.

As disparate as they may all seem, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was borne out of the horror of the Sharpeville Massacre, as the world remembered the atrocity that took place in 1960 when peaceful protesters who were opposed to having their freedom of movement curtailed by having to carry a pass, were shot down. Sixty nine people were killed and 180 more injured. Today, South Africa commemorates Human Rights Day.

There are still global challenges of inclusion and human rights, as epitomised by World Down’s Syndrome Day, but it is up to each of us to see every person as a valuable, human life regardless of their being different from us.



Invitation: Welcoming Ceremony to welcome the 2015 students on the Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to the 2015 Welcoming Ceremony to welcome the 2015 students on the Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa.

Keynote Speaker:
Adv Mabedle Lourence Mushwana Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

Date 8 April 2015
Time 15:30
Venue Quadrangle, Faculty of Law Building, Hatfield Campus, UP
RSVP This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by 1 April 2015
Enquiries Eric Lwanga, 012 420 5214
GPS 25°45’14.3”S 28°14’02.8”E
Dress: Traditional / Semi-formal

Dinner will be served after the proceedings.



Centre hosts renowned scholar on gender stereotyping Rebecca Cook

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law is very fortunate to be hosting the renowned visiting scholar Prof Rebecca Cook at the University of Pretoria. Prof Cook is Professor Emerita and Co-Director of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Prof Cook will be lecturing on three of the Centre’s Master’s programmes: LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa), LLM/MPhil (Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa) and the LLM/MPhil (Multidisciplinary Human Rights). She will also be the keynote speaker at the launch of the new PULP publication ‘Strengthening the protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the African region through human rights’ which was edited by Charles Ngwena and Ebenezer Durojaye.

Prof Cook’s lectures will be dealing with gender and women’s health issues, with a special focus on gender stereotyping. Gender stereotyping occurs in different sectors of society and Prof Cook’s research examines gender stereotyping in the education, employment, health and military sectors. She is also interested in the impact of gender stereotyping on women’s access to justice.



South Sudan: Seventy-six organisations call for publication of AU Inquiry Report as deadline for peace passes

6 March 2015: The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) should immediately consider, publish and disseminate the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations and abuses committed in South Sudan said 76 organizations in an open letter to the 15 PSC member states.

In January 2015, AUPSC members decided to defer consideration or publication of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) report because they thought it would obstruct the achievement of a peace agreement. But as a 5 March deadline for reaching a final agreement has now passed, the organizations renewed calls for the report to be published.

“A culture of impunity has fuelled South Sudan’s conflict and emboldened combatants to target civilians, commit sexual violence, destroy and loot civilian property without fear of legal consequences,” said Arnold Tsunga, Africa Director of the International Commission of Jurists. “The release of the report could help deter further atrocities, by bringing to light what has taken place and making more real the prospect of accountability,”



Africa consultation on National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), together with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), hosted an Africa regional consultation on National Action Plans (NAPs) for business and human rights. The consultation forms part of a larger project driven by a coalition that consists of CALS, CHR, Singapore Management University (SMU) and other individual experts. The aim of the project is to gather a global South perspective on the content and development process of NAPs for business and human rights. The project was mandated by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (Working Group).

The consultation, which took place at the University of Pretoria, was the second of two scheduled consultations that would feed into an implementation guide on NAPs for business and human rights that is currently being developed by the Working Group. The consultation attracted representatives from international organisations, government, national human rights institutions and the business sectors from 8 African countries.

The programme focused on issues around the development process and content of NAPs, and also asked the participants to identify or highlight pertinent issues within their respective countries that should receive attention by a NAP on business and human rights. The participants also discussed the fundamental question, around what the case for NAPs on business and human rights is in Africa, and whether NAPs could potentially address business and human rights concerns on the continent.



Press release: Centre calls for immediate and independent investigation into the tragic assassination and untimely death of Prof Gilles Cistac, esteemed human rights educator and activist

The Centre for Human Rights has learned with shock and distress of the assassination of Prof Gilles Cistac. He was shot four times in the chest by unidentified gunmen in Maputo this morning, Tuesday 3 March 2015. The Centre wishes to express its sincere condolences to the family of Gilles Cistac for the loss of our good friend and esteemed colleague. We join Gilles Cistac’s friends, colleagues and indeed the people of Mozambique in expressing our sadness and outrage at this huge loss to his family, to academia and the legal profession, and to the fraternity of human rights defenders.

Gilles Cistac was Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo. Mozambique. This institution is one of 14 partners which, with the Centre for Human Rights, collaboratively present the award-winning Master’s Degree Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. Prof Cistac was a senior academic, who is highly respected for the excellent quality of his teaching and research. Born and raised in France, Gilles Cistac made Mozambique his home for the past 21 years, and contributed indelibly and generously to nation-building through legal education.



Invitation: Public Seminar on Competition Policy and Human Rights

The Competition Commission in partnership with the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a public seminar on ‘The Contribution and Impact of Competition Policy on Socio- Economic Rights’ which will be presented by Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo

Date: Thursday 19 March 2015
Time: 13:00 - 17:30
Venue: Human Rights Conference, the Constitution Hill, 11 Kotze Street, Old Fort Building, Braamfontein
RSVP: Kindly confirm your attendance by Friday 13 March 2015 by sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Enquiries: Ms Itebogeng Palare (012 394 3189 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )
GPS: 26°11’23.0”S 28°02’37.9”E

Attendance at this event is free and it will be on a first come first served basis due to space limitation



Centre for Human Rights Alumni Association presents gift to Thulani Maseko

Mr Thulani Maseko, 2005 alumnus of the Master’s Degree Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from Swaziland, is serving a two-year prison sentence in his country for criticising the government. Those who have met him in prison speak eloquently of the intelligent, compassionate and tireless human rights activist devoid of bitterness, hatred or anger. Surrounded by prison walls, he has turned his care and commitment to the welfare of his fellow prisoners, relating to everyone – including his gaolers – with generosity and equanimity.

In the spirit of togetherness, alumni of the Master’s Degree programme channelled contributions to his family through the Centre for Human Rights. Thulani’s wife Tanele received the gift on his behalf and, over lunch with staff of the Centre, raised our hopes and reassured us of his unshakeable commitment to defend – on the ground – the principles which we often only evoke from the safety of the classroom.

This 2011 laureate of the Vera Chirwa Award has distinguished himself inexorably as the quintessential African human rights lawyer. The Centre for Human Rights salutes his courageous and untiring struggle for human rights and democracy in Swaziland, and continues to call for his release and acquittal on all charges.



Press statement: Speaker should unconditionally apologise for inflammatory remark

The Centre for Human Rights feels compelled to comment on recent remarks by the South African Speaker of the House of Assembly, when she said "If we don't work we will continue to have cockroaches like Malema roaming all over the place," at the Mmabatho Civic Centre in Mafikeng.

We are saddened and alarmed by the use of the term 'cockroach' to dehumanise a political adversary. Let it be clearly stated: Our concern is not about the personalities involved, but about the principle at stake.

The Speaker is not only a prominent public figure. She is also, above all, the symbol of fair play in the primary space for democratic deliberation in our country. According to Parliament’s web page, she is the ‘leader’ of the National Assembly and should ensure that its processes are in accordance with the Constitution. Her remark can therefore not be brushed aside as a thoughtless utterance in the heat of political debate.

The remark can also not in any way be justified as having been made in her capacity as ANC Chairperson. On the contrary, holding this position adds to her profile, and exacerbates the noxious impact of her remark. In any event, when the ANC Chairperson makes remarks related directly to her function as Speaker, she can hardly hide behind the duality of functions. If anything, the controversy highlights the real potential for conflict arising from the same person holding the offices of both ANC Chairperson and Speaker.



Prof Frans Viljoen addresses Commonwealth parliamentarians at a conference celebrating 800 years of the Magna Carta

On 4 and 5 February 2015, the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Association UK held a conference to celebrate 800 years of the Magna Carta. The Conference 'Human Rights in the Modern Day Commonwealth: Magna Carta to Commonwealth Charter’ brought together nearly 50 Commonwealth parliamentarians to explore the fundamental importance of human rights and the development of protections for these rights in law from 1215 to 2015.

Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights addressed parliamentarians in a session on the conflicts between protection for human rights and cultural values. Prof Viljoen examined the concept of culture, which he suggested was often used as shorthand for ‘the views of the majority.’ He also emphasised that any claim to ‘cultural override’ of a human right could not stand without a proportionality test, and that such a test must be considered within a human rights framework.

In a once-in a generation occurrence, parliamentarian delegates were then joined by Commonwealth scholars for a hugely impressive exhibition in the House of Lords, having come from the British Library, which reunited the four original copies of Magna Carta for the first time since they were sealed 800 years ago.



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