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Centre News & Events: 2014
Stakeholders meeting on Decriminalisation of Laws Limiting Freedom of Expression in Zambia

On 12 and 13 November 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 Southern Africa Zambia (MISA-Zambia), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Lusaka, Zambia.

The meeting brought together civil society organisations working on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression in Zambia, government representatives, representatives of media houses and journalists. At the meeting, participants discussed some of the various criminal laws restricting freedom of expression and how they had been applied by courts in Zambia, the impact of these laws on media freedom, and most importantly the proposed draft bill on decriminalisation of defamation and strategies on how to assure its passage in Parliament.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a National Plan of Action to guide further action towards the repeal of laws criminalising freedom of expression in Zambia.

 

 


 
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Human rights students graduate on International Human Rights Day

On 10 December 2014, the University of Pretoria held a graduation ceremony for students from the Masters programmes offered by the Centre for Human Rights and the Faculty of Law in the University of Pretoria. There were also some doctoral candidates who graduated on this occasion. The Graduation Ceremony marked the 15th Graduation Ceremony of students from the Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa offered by the Centre for Human Rights. Each year, the Centre's human rights students graduate on International Human Rights Day (10 December 2014).

The graduates on the day were as follows:

  • 27 students graduated from the Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa.
  • 18 students graduated from Masters in International Trade and Investment in Africa.
  • 2 students graduated from the Masters in Multidisciplinary Human Rights.
  • 1 student graduated from the Masters in Procedural Law.

 

 


 
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Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition: Celebrating International Human Rights Day at the United Nations in Geneva

The 6th Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition was held in Geneva, Switzerland from 8 to 10 December 2014. Established in 2009, the main objective of the competition is to bring together students, law professors and human rights lawyers from different legal systems to debate and discuss contemporary cross-cutting human rights issues. The competition is organised in collaboration with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

After being held in Pretoria for the 5 past years, the United Nations Offices in Geneva hosted the Competition for the first time in 2014. The executors of the estate of the late President Nelson Mandela granted permission for the competition to be named after the great statesman and human rights icon, Nelson Mandela (the event was previously simply called ‘World Human Rights Moot Court Competition’).

Prospective particpants had to submit memorials in order to be chosen to compete in Geneva and 13 teams from 12 countries from the 5 UN regions were selected to compete in the pre-final rounds in Switzerland. Over 40 participants were welcomed at Palais Wilson, the former headquarters of the League of Nations and currently the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights. At the Opening Ceremony participants were welcomed by Mr Eric Tistounet, the Chief of the Human Rights Council Branch and  Prof Christof Heyns, the Co-director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria and United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The President of the Human Rights Council Mr Baudelaire Ndong Ella encouraged participants to use this opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the UN mechanisms and other international instruments.

 

 


The winning team:
Sumar Dayal and Ashna Taneja from
the University of New South Wales (Australia)
who argued for the Respondent
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African Court: Imprisonment for defamation violates freedom of expression

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, has welcomed a decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the case of Konaté v Burkina Faso to rule that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression and that criminal defamation laws should only be used in restricted circumstances.

The highest court in Africa, in its judgement handed down on 5 December 2014, in Addis Ababa, sent a strong message that governments may not use severe criminal penalties to stifle public debate and reporting on matters of public interest.

“This is a landmark decision that will change the free expression landscape on the African Continent. The decision will not only give impetus to the continent-wide campaign to decriminalise defamation but will also pave the way for the decriminalisation of similar laws such as insult laws and publication of false news” said Adv Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.

In March 2014, 18 non-governmental organisations intervened as ‘friends of the court’ in the Konaté case at the African Court in Arusha, Tanzania, to address growing concerns over the use of criminal defamation laws to censor journalists and others in Africa.

 

 


 
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Centre for Human Rights and OHCHR host the 6th Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court competition

The Sixth Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition will be held from 8 to 10 December 2014, at Palais des Nations in Geneva, and will bring together 45 participants from 15
universities in 12 countries, representing all 5 United Nations regions of the world.

Teams from universities in the following countries have qualified to participate in the final round of the 6th World Human Rights Moot Court Competition, which will for the first time be called the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition: Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya,  Singapore, Slovenia, Poland, Switzerland and South Africa.

The Competition has been jointly organised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.

 

 


 
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Centre for Human Rights hosts Colloquium on Sexual Minority Rights

On 8 and 9 December 2014, the Centre for Human Rights hosted a Colloquium on the theme ‘Sexual Minority Rights: Charting the Way Forward’. 

This event comes in the wake of the adoption of increasingly repressive laws in many African countries (such as The Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda), on the one hand, and the adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights of its first resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), on the other. Speakers at the Colloquium touched upon the situation pertaining to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexed (LGBTI) persons in Southern, West/Central and Eastern Africa. 

Two academic papers by internationally renowned experts were presented: The status quo on genetic, scientific and other factors that affect sexual orientation, and its relevance for Africa by Prof Marc Epprecht, Department of Global Development Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada and Prof Rob Wintemute of Kings College, London presented a paper on Can Europe and North America offer any advice on struggles for decriminalization in Africa?

 

 


 
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Invitation: Graduation Ceremony 2014

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) Class of 2014: Graduation Ceremony

During an intensive one-year course, students on this programme are taught by eminent lecturers in the field of human rights and gain invaluable practical exposure. It is the only course of its kind in Africa.

Date: 10 December 2014
Time: 14:00
Venue: Aula, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa

RSVP: Kindly confirm your attendance by Wednesday 3 December 2014 by sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Enquiries: Ms Carole Viljoen (012 420 3810 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Refreshments will follow immediately after the ceremony.

 

 


 
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Capacity building workshop on state reporting on the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

The Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised a 3-day workshop on increasing States’ capacity for reporting under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Women’s Protocol). This was organised in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission), Commissioner Soyata Maiga. The workshop was held from 11 to 13 November 2014 at the Farm Inn Hotel, Pretoria.

Thirty key government and civil society stakeholders involved in the state reporting process in Tanzania, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo attended this workshop.

The main objectives of the workshop were to disseminate and popularise the Guidelines on State Reporting on the Women’s Protocol and to build and strengthen the capacity of the represented states on state reporting under the Women’s Protocol to ensure that more African states comply with their state reporting obligations under the Women’s Protocol.

 
 
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Second Southern African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition

On 3 and 5 November 2014 the Centre for Human Rights, with the support of OSISA, hosted the Second Southern African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition. Participants from the Network of Southern African Law Schools Disability Rights Programme participated in the second edition of this competition.

The problem being argued during the rounds concerned itself with issues regarding the rights of persons with disabilities including the right to vote for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Judges in the Final Round were:

  • Prof Luke Clements (Cardiff University);
  • Prof Bob Dinerstein (Washington College of Law);
  • Ms Yvonne Dausab (University of Namibia); and
  • Justice Monica Mbaru (Presiding) (High Court, Kenya)
 
 
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Conference on women with disabilities in Africa

On 4 and 5 November 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted an academic conference on disability rights with a focus on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa. Fifteen papers were presented at the conference, on a diverse range of issues including political participation, access to education, sexual and reproductive rights, building an inclusive environment, resource allocation, access to justice and violence against women with disabilities. The conference drew participants from more than 15 countries and approximately 50 people attended the conference. Participants included persons with disabilities, their families, civil society groups as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, policy makers, academics and practitioners from around the world.

The Conference coincided with the launch of the second issue of the African Disability Rights Yearbook on the evening of 4 November. The Yearbook’s open-access online journal was also launched and can be viewed by visiting www.adry.up.ac.za.It is anticipated that papers presented at the conference would be subsequently re-worked for consideration for publication in the 2015 issue of the African Disability Rights Yearbook.

 

 
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Pretoria University Law Press launches seven titles and its third open-access journal
The Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) held a book launch on Tuesday 4 November 2014, where seven of PULP's latest titles were introduced. PULP's third open-access online journal, the African Disablity Rights Yearbook, was also launched and can be viewed by visiting www.adry.up.ac.za.

The seven titles launched included:
 

 
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Human rights situation in Eritrea discussed by key decision-makers in Pretoria

The human rights situation in Eritrea was the subject of attention of key decision-makers who met to discuss the challenges faced in that country. The situation in Eritrea resulted in thousands of Eritreans fleeing the country, sometimes under dangerous conditions.

The Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) hosted a seminar on human rights in Eritrea on Wednesday 29 October 2014. Participants in the event included key decisions makers in South Africa and members of the diplomatic corps who were drawn from Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Also present were members of the Eritrean community in the diaspora. The seminar commenced with welcome remarks from Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights.

The aim of the seminar was to create awareness about the prevailing human rights situation in Eritrea and to discuss the international response.

Mr Mussie Ephrem, a Swedish-Eritrean who is an analyst specialising in the Horn of Africa, began by providing a comprehensive background into the history of Eritrea. He explained how the country had through the years evolved from efforts to liberate its people from oppression only to descend into one of the most repressive states as far as human rights are concerned. 

 

Mr Kulubrehan Abraham Teweldemedhin, Chairperson of the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights and Mr Mussie Ephrem, Analyst - Horn of Africa with Prof Frans Viljoen and Dr Martin Nsibirwa
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Centre for Human Rights collaborates with the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland. It works in cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights through global dialogue. Its work brings together the full spectrum of national non-governmental and international human rights actors, through international conferences, human rights training, and advice to governments and related agencies.

The Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria is both an academic department and a non-governmental organisation, which was founded in 1986 as part of domestic efforts against the apartheid system of that time. Its work mainly focuses on human rights awareness and education in Africa, as well as on the promotion and protection of the rights of women, indigenous peoples, and other disadvantaged and marginalized persons or groups across the continent.

By virtue of shared values and goals, the Geneva Centre and the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, under which the two parties determined specific areas of cooperation as follows: 1) dissemination of human rights law and practice of universal and regional human rights mechanisms; 2) logistical assistance on projects and policy activities; 3) joint organisation of conferences and other related activities.

 
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Workshop to raise awareness among Southern African CSOs on children’s rights monitoring and advocacy

The Children’s Unit of the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, the Child Rights Networks of Southern Africa (CRNSA) and Plan International is organising a Workshop for Southern African CSOs on Child Rights monitoring and advocacy.

Dates: 11-13 November 2014
Venue: University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

The purpose of the workshop is to raise awareness among Southern African CSOs on children’s rights monitoring and advocacy. Two participants from SADC countries will take part in this exercise.

The workshop will focus on:

The five Child Rights monitoring components:

  • Baseline information, providing data for a certain year or period, against which all future data can be measured to show improvements or deterioration;
  • A system of indicators, (baseline, monitoring and early warning) which can provide integrated information rather than a list of disparate information;
  • Disaggregated data, that can show which group or groups of children have their rights violated or not achieved;
  • An integrated set of age ranges, through which information about children can be compared among Southern African countries or agencies;
  • Child-centred statistics, providing direct information about children rather than about adults or institutions.

Child Rights advocacy focusing on CSO engagement with treaty bodies with a special attention to the ACERWC.
 

 
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Invitation: Conference on the rights of women with disabilities rights in Africa
The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a conference on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa.

The Conference is on the theme ‘Overcoming obstacles: Towards the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa’ and will be presented by scholars, practitioners and disability activists from all over the world, but particularly from Africa.
Date: 4 and 5 November 2014
Time: 09:00 to 17:00
Venue: Auditorium,Plant Sciences Building, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
RSVP:  Kindly confirm your attendance by Friday 31 October 2014 by sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Enquiries: Ms Carole Viljoen (012 420 3810 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )
GPS: 25°45’16.5”S 28°14’01.5”E

No registration fee is charged but pre-registration is compulsory.
 
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Centre for Human Rights celebrates human rights champion Navi Pillay

The Centre for Human Rights was on Friday 3 October 2014 privileged to play host to Ms Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She delivered a public lecture on her work as High Commissioner in the Senate Hall of the University of Pretoria.

In her introduction, Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, spoke of Ms Pillay’s background in the anti-apartheid struggle as the first black woman to qualify as an advocate in the Natal Province, the first woman to open her own legal practice, and the first South African woman to obtain a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University. She described Ms Pillay as a great friend and supporter of the University of Pretoria and especially of the Centre for Human Rights, with which she has been associated for some 20 years. Ms Pillay was awarded the 2001 Women in Law Award by the Centre for Human Rights, and is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Pretoria (December 2009).

In her address, Ms Pillay spoke passionately of her years as the 5th UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the first woman from the global South to hold this position. She took the audience on a whirlwind tour of the challenges and responsibilities that accompany this office, which she decided for herself would mean being responsible for ‘every human right of every person everywhere in the world’.

 
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Land rights, gender views and climate change discussed at recent course on Indigenous Peoples' Rights

The penultimate advanced human rights short course for this year was presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria on - Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. It ran from 15 through 19 September, attracting participants and facilitators from across the world.

The UN Declaration on the Rights’ of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 came to the fore once more as participants engaged on the concept of ‘Indigenous Peoples’, land rights, gender views, international and national standards, regional mechanisms, climate change, challenges of and relevant ILO instruments relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.    

Participant’s views

“This course has given new strength and energy to engage the non-government and government for a process forward. My call is for an African Indigenous Network Alliance.
– Paramount Chief! Kora Hennie van Wyk, South Africa.

“The course provides a golden opportunity to participants from all-over Africa to interact, learn and share ideas and strategies on advocacy for the rights of indigenous peoples’.”
–  Achero David Mufuayia, Kenya.

 
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Pretoria Symposium: Position paper on preventing mass atrocities and protecting civilians at risk

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa, with the assistance of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) through the Africa Military Law Forum (AMLF), held a symposium at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, from 18 to 19 September 2014 on the theme: “All Means Necessary”: Bridging the Gap between the Doctrine of R2P and the Actual Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts.

The Symposium brought together over 80 high ranking military officers of African states, academics, policy makers, and other practitioners in the field of protection of civilians who discussed, shared experiences and provided lessons learnt in order to find solutions to the legal, policy, and practical challenges involved in the drafting and adoption of the mandates for the protection of civilian (PoC) by the United Nations (UN) Security Council and their implementation on the ground.

The objective of the Pretoria Symposium was to identify innovative and effective means of preventing mass atrocities, and in the event of failure to prevent, explore how the humanitarian agencies and military should protect populations at risk, pursuant to Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) and the coercive element of the third pillar of the responsibility to protect (R2P).

 
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Meeting on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda

On 9 and September 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Open Democracy and Sustainable Development Initiative (ODESUNDI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Kigali, Rwanda on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Rwanda, 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 Rwanda. 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 Rwanda was developed.

It is expected that based on the outcome of the requests for information made by local project partners, an advocacy campaign will be developed to ensure the achievement of the project’s objectives.

The financial support of the Open Society Foundation - Human Rights Initiative for this project is gratefully acknowledged.

 
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Alumnus arrested and charged for offensive conduct after reporting on the displacement of residents of Mensah Guinea - a slum in Accra
Mr Joojo Cobbinah, a Ghanaian alumnus of the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) masters’ programme (2013) was arrested on Saturday, 6th September 2014 on the orders of the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), also known as the Mayor of Accra.
 
Mr Cobbinah (the 2011 Human Rights Defender Award recipient and 2009 GJA Best Health Reporter) who is a journalist and a producer with Multi TV had gone with a team to film the living conditions of the people of Mensah Guinea community. This was after the AMA had demolished their houses upon a three days notice, rendering them homeless. As a result some of those displaced including women and children, slept in the open for lack of alternative housing arrangements.
 
Whilst Mr Cobbinah and his team interacted with the displaced people to inquire of their state, the police arrived at the scene with orders from the Mayor of Accra to arrest Mr Cobbinah and his team. The police first arrested the driver who drove Mr Cobbinah and his team to the community; and while the team was at the police station to arrange for the bail of the driver, Mr Cobbinah was also arrested and kept in police custody for three hours.
 
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Invitation to a talk by Prof Nick Huls: 'Rwanda: Rule of Law in the Mist’
The Centre for Human Rights and the Department of Mercantile Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to a talk by Prof Nick Huls from Leiden University, The Netherlands on
‘Rwanda: Rule of Law in the Mist’.

Prof Nick Huls has worked for a couple of years in Rwanda with judges, prosecutors and legislative drafters. After explaining the title of his talk, he will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the core institutions of the Rwandan legal system.

Debates about post-genocide Rwanda are polarized: is it a dicatorship or an African miracle? Huls takes a position in the middle. In his socio-legal approach he analyzes some arena’s for legal change: the extradition court for genocide suspects to Rwanda; a reflexive legal academy; a vital legal aid movement; and Abunzi, a form of conflict resolution without lawyers.

Date: Monday 29 September 2014
Time: 09:30 - 10:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Lecture Room, Room 2-2.1, Second Floor, Faculty of Law (opposite the Centre for Human Rights), Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
Enquiries: Mr Happy Shabangu (+27 12 420 2363 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Tea and coffee will be served after the talk.

 
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