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Centre News & Events: 2014
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and harsh sentence should be understood within the broader political context, in which the rule of law has largely been replaced by royal rule, and in which the independence of the judiciary has been compromised.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”.

 
 
Implementation meeting on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi

On 19 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with MISA-Malawi and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Lilongwe, Malawi on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi. The meeting discussed the modalities for the implementation of the Plan of Action which was developed at an earlier meeting that took place on 19 and 20 March 2014 also in Lilongwe Malawi.

The initial meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Malawi, with a view to creating a shared understanding of the utility of access to information for the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi.

At the end of that meeting, a Plan of Action setting out in detail the categories of information needed for the improvement of SHRH of women in Malawi was developed.

 
 
Seminar on failed peacemaking in Sudan and South Sudan

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invites you to a seminar on ‘Failed peacemaking in Sudan and South Sudan: Persistent and new wars 10 years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement’

Three years after independence South Sudan is again at war. At this seminar Dr Sharath Srinivasan (University of Cambridge) will share his insights into the conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan based on his extensive research in the region for over a decade.

Speaker  Dr Sharath Srinivasan, Director, Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR), University of Cambridge
Date  Thursday 3 July 2014
Time  17:00 - 18:30
Venue  Centre for Human Rights Lecture Room, Second Floor, Faculty of Law (opposite Centre for Human Rights) Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
Enquiries Dr Magnus Killander (+27 12 420 5407 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

 
 
Students demonstrate human rights and democracy (or the need thereof) through photography

The LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa is a unique programme to which 25-30 individuals from African countries are admitted. The programme is presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

In the spirit of mutual exchange aimed at strengthening the links between the regional human rights master’s programmes, and following the positive experience of the EMA programme in this area, the African Human Rights Master’s Degree introduced an amateur photography competition on human rights and democratisation in 2009.                               

Students of the LLM/MPhil Programme took part in this competition, whose aim it is to promote the ideals of human rights and democratisation through still pictures. Only currently enrolled students of the LLM/MPhil programme may take part in this competition; only photographs taken during the 2014 field trips may be submitted.

 
 
A plea for the children of Eritrea: Unaccompanied, separated and fleeing from a militarised society

Statement by the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria on the Day of the African Child, 16 June 2014 about the state of the child in Eritrea

The Unaccompanied children of Eritrea: a plea for collective responsibility

As the African continent celebrates the Day of the African Child, 16 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria, focuses on the plight of unaccompanied children fleeing from a militarised society that is destabilising the social fabric of the country. Thousands of unaccompanied minors take risky journeys across the borders into Ethiopia, Sudan and further afield.

The Children of Eritrea: No escape from the military

Eritrea’s circumstances are unusual as the country is not at war but the society is highly militarised. The continuing border dispute with neighbouring Ethiopia is cited as the key reason for the prevailing condition that Eritrea terms as ‘no war-no peace’. Eritrea uses this situation to impose a conscription programme that is both forced and indefinite, spawning a constant exodus of refugees out of the county. Youth below 18 years of age often refer to the fear of military service as one of the main factors pushing them to escape. 

 
 
Experts meeting on the Draft State Reporting Guidelines for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance

On 4 and 5 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, held an experts meeting on the draft state reporting guidelines for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (Democracy Charter) in Pretoria, South Africa.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise on human rights, democracy and election issues, to review the current draft State Reporting Guidelines, with a view to facilitating the domestication and implementation of the Democracy Charter by Member States. Participants included government officials, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), Regional Economic Communities, (RECs), academics and civil society organisations focusing on issues of democracy, human rights and governance from across the continent.

The first day of the meeting focused on broader issues of the processes for the preparation, submission and review of State Reports, as well as mechanisms for the implementation of the concluding observations made by the African Governance Platform (comprising organs of the African Union responsible for democracy, human rights and governance issues as well as Regional Economic Communities, charged with the consideration of State Reports under the Democracy Charter) to States Parties following the consideration of State Reports.

 
 
Centre calls for the acquittal and immediate release of alumnus Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu
Statement: Centre for Human Rights calls for the acquittal and immediate release of Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Bheki Makhubu

The Centre for Human Rights expresses dismay at the arrest of MessrsThulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, by the Royal Swaziland Police Service on 17 and 18 March 2014, and their continued detention. Mr Maseko is a Swazi human rights lawyer and graduate of the Centre’s Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa; Mr Bheki Makhubu is the editor of the New Nation magazine.

According to news reports, Mr Maseko is charged with “scandalising the judiciary and contempt of court”. Mr Maseko’s arrest arises out of his exercise of freedom of expression through newspaper articles that he has authored, including articles critical of the continued retention of Mr Michael Ramodibedi, the man who ordered Mr Maseko’s arrest, as Chief Justice of Swaziland. It should be noted that the Chief Justice resigned from the Judiciary of Lesotho amidst impeachment charges on 22 April 2014.

The Centre for Human Rights regards these charges as orchestrated measures to shut down the voice of democracy even in violation of the Constitution of Swaziland.

 
 
Invitation to a public screening of the documentary film 'Paragraph 175'

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in association with the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre invites you to a public screening of ‘PARAGRAPH 175’

During the Nazi regime, there was widespread persecution of homosexual men and women. Thousands were murdered in concentration camps. Paragraph 175 – a powerful and disturbing documentary, narrated by Rupert Everett – presents for the first time the largely untold testimonies of those who survived.

Venue:    Law Auditorium(1-54), Law Building , UP
Date:       Friday, 6 June 2014
Time:       12:00 - 14:00

Entrance is free. No RSVP necessary.

This public screening of Paragraph 175  is arranged in conjunction with the ‘In Whom Can I Still Trust?’ exhibition that is on view in the Law Building until 13 June 2014.

 
 
Human rights students participate in the Global Classroom held in Venice, Italy

From 12 - 16 May 2014 three students from the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, participated in the 2nd edition of the Global Classroom held in Venice, Italy.

The Global Classroom (GC) falls under the auspices of the Global Campus programme involving the University of Sydney, University of Pretoria, University of San Martin, Buenos Aires, Yerevan State University, University of Sarajevo and the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation.

The aim of the classroom is to create an integrated, multilateral form of interaction among students across the different regional masters within the network.

At each year’s edition of the Global Classroom, students discuss around contemporary issues of international law, development and human rights.

 
 
African Commission adopts first ever resolution on sexual orientation in Africa

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopts first resolution ever on sexual orientation as it condemns violence against persons on basis of sexual orientation

RESOLUTION ON PROTECTION AGAINST VIOLENCE AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AGAINST PERSONS ON THE BASIS OF THEIR REAL OR IMPUTED SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), meeting at its 55th Ordinary Session held in Luanda, Angola, from 28 April to 12 May 2014:

Recalling that Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) prohibits discrimination of the individual on the basis of distinctions of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or any status;

 
 
Commemoration of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and launch of the photographic exhibition: In Whom Can I Still Trust?

On the occasion of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), on Saturday 17 May 2014, the Centre for Human Rights is pleased to host the photographic exhibition In Whom Can I Still Trust?. The exhibition aims to highlight the progress made, and challenges faced, in ensuring the protection of sexual minorities in South Africa.

The exhibition was officially opened a on Friday 16 May in a ceremony in the Faculty of Law, at the University of Pretoria. The opening included a message from the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, delivered by Ms Janine Cohen; a speech by Mr Richard Freedman, Director of the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation; and a welcome message from Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights. An inspiring and uplifting keynote address was delievered the famous South African human rights activist and social commentator Sisonke Msimang.


The exhibition includes archive photographs, personal testimonies and video clips detailing the largely untold history of homosexual oppression in Nazi Germany. It relates the historical narrative to the prejudices that still exist today through additional panels prepared by the Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA) and the screening of the South African version of the global “It Gets Better” advocacy campaign.

 
 
Leading scholar expresses concern about the forced migration and human trafficking of Eritreans

Prof Dan Connell, a visiting scholar from Boston University’s African Studies Centre and senior lecturer in journalism and African Politics at Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, has raised concern about the forced migration and human trafficking situation in Eritrea. He highlighted the grave situation in Eritrea during an open lecture titled ‘Eritreans at risk: Refugees, migrants or migrating refugees?’ hosted by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria as part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness on the human rights situation in Eritrea. The lecture was aimed at situating the refugee and migrant problem in Eritrea in the global discourse on causes, consequences and responses to forced migration and human trafficking.

Prof. Connell has written seven books and numerous articles on the human rights situation in Eritrea since 1976.

Eritrea has been under a harsh dictatorship since 2001. The 1997 Constitution has not yet come into force and this means that most of the rights and freedoms are restricted. Many Eritreans therefore cross the border in search of a better life abroad. Unfortunately, many fall victim to human traffickers, who exploit and torture them for ransoms from family members. According to Connell, ‘human trafficking has become a contagious disease, so lucrative, it attracts many new copycats and there is now a huge network of trafficking through the Sahel region.’

 
 
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