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Centre News & Events: 2016
The HRDA Chronicles #2: Maushami Chetty (Novate Legal)

The LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) is the flagship Masters Programme at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. Since 2000, the programme has trained some of the best minds in Africa who have gone on to create change in different parts of the world.

These human rights experts that now make up the HRDA Alumni Association have through their relentless efforts demonstrated unwavering commitment to the values of human rights. Some have indeed laid down their lives in the defence of the rights of others.

It is in recognition of the outstanding work being done by these heroes of the human rights system that the HRDA Chronicles has been initiated to spotlight what members of the Alumni are doing to make the world a better place.

HRDA Chronicles is a video series produced by the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) Alumni Association at the Centre for Human Rights, based at the University of Pretoria.

This series aims to celebrate the work of the members of the HRDA Alumni Association and to encourage other human rights defenders across the globe as they brave the odds to realise the promises of several human rights covenants.



Maushami Chetty (@MaushamiC)
Academic freedom in Africa under attack: A tribute to Professor Gilles Cistac

22 April 2016 - The University of Pretoria joined the Scholars at Risk (SAR) network last year. SAR is an international network of over 250 academic institutions in 30 countries organized to support and defend the principles of academic freedom and to defend the human rights of scholars around the world.

In an on-going attempt to raise awareness of the importance of academic freedom, the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria on Monday 18 April 2016 hosted a public lecture on 'Academic freedom in Africa under attack: A tribute to Professor Gilles Cistac.' It was delivered by a scholar from one of the partners in the Centre’s Master’s programme, Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua,  Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra.

This Master’s programme focus on human rights and democratisation in Africa and is presented in collaboration with 13 law faculties across the continent.



Centre for Human Rights condemns human rights violations in The Gambia and calls for relocation of AU African Year of Human Rights celebrations and seat of the African Commission

18 April 2016 - Centre for Human Rights condemns human rights violations in The Gambia and calls for relocation of AU African Year of Human Rights celebrations and seat of the African Commission.


The past few days, which have seen calls by the opposition for electoral and democratic reform in The Gambia, lead to disproportionate force and deliberate repression on the part of the state.  Since President Jammeh overthrew sitting President Jawara by means of a coup d’etat in 1994, he has put in place mechanisms to entrench his power and close off the democratic space. In March, it was reported that the government plans to introduce a Bill at the next parliamentary sitting, likely to be in April, that will extend the term of the Electoral Commission Chairperson and his entire team from an already expired two-year term limit. The Bill proposes an amendment to section 42 of the Constitution which currently provides for ‘one further term’ and if approved, it would see the electoral Commission members being eligible to serve ‘further terms of office.’ Legal experts suggest this could amount to indefinite terms, as no term limits are stipulated or alluded to in the Bill. Presidential elections are planned for 1 December 2016 and President Jammeh, who has been in power for 21 years, has indicated his intention to run for a fifth term. His candidacy was approved at a meeting of his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party in February 2016.



Activist Solo Sandeng died in state custody
Annual Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture: 2016

14 April 2016 - On 31 March 2016 the College of Law, University of Ghana in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, held the annual Helen Kanzira lecture. The lecture took place at the law auditorium at the College of law, University of Ghana.

The Centre for Human Rights instituted the annual lecture in 2008 after Hellen Kanzira who was an alumna and also part of the pioneer class of the Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. The purpose of this lecture is to give prominence to maternal health issues not only in Africa but to also underscore the maternal health crisis across the world where 830 women die daily from preventable childbirth complications.

The lecture was delivered by Ms Bernice Sam and the title of the lecture was: ‘Protecting women’s reproductive health rights in Africa: A moral of legal obligation’



University of Botswana launches Disability Rights Teaching Project

23 March 2016 - The Faculty of Law at the University of Botswana launched the Disability Rights Teaching Project on 23 March 2016. Mr. Tshepiso Ndzinge Makhamisa, coordinator of the Disability Rights Teaching Project at the University of Botswana and an alumni of the LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa speaking at the launch informed delegates that the overall goal of the project is to develop a pool of lawyers with specialised knowledge and skills in disability rights and at the same time promote disability rights awareness, education and raise academic interest (scholarship) on disability rights in Botswana. The University of Botswana commenced the teaching of Disability Rights in 2015 and will continue teaching it as part of the Human Rights Law Module. Plans are underway to establish a Disability Rights Clinic to engage in strategic litigation on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The University of Botswana is part of a consortium of nine universities that are implementing the Disability Rights Law Schools Project in Africa whose objective is to advance disability rights through higher education. The project which is coordinated by the Disability Rights Unit at the Centre for Human Rights brings together law faculties from the University of Zambia, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe; Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique; Chancellor College, Malawi; University of Dodoma, Tanzania; University of Namibia; University of Nairobi, Kenya and Makerere University, Uganda with the aim to:



Centre urges implementation of Shumba case and calls on African Commission to reassert its own independence
Statement of the Centre for Human Rights
(University of Pretoria)
58th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Banjul, The Gambia, 7 April 2016
Resolution 275 
We commend the Commission for adopting Resolution 275 (aimed at the protection against violence and related human rights violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity), and for participating in a joint dialogue, on 3 November 2015, with members of the Inter-American Commission and United Nations (UN) on possible forms of collaboration to attain the objectives of the resolution. We urge the Commission to take action in line with the recommendations contained in the joint report, including exchange of staff and information and learning from with the Inter-American Commission’s Special Rapporteurship on the rights of lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transsexual persons. 


African Commission launches joint report on sexual orientation and gender identity
7 April 2016 - The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) on 7 April 2016 launched a report on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 
This report, titled ‘Ending violence and other human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity’, contains the proceedings and recommendations of a joint thematic dialogue on SOGI, which was held on 3 November 2015 between the African Commission, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms in Banjul, The Gambia, ahead of the  57th ordinary session of the African Commission.  The dialogue, hosted by the African Commission, was supported and organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The dialogue built on recent developments in the African, Inter-American and UN human rights systems in relation to SOGI issues and aimed at sharing experiences and future possibilities and collaboration in ending violence and other human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  


Invitation: Public Lecture - 'Academic freedom in Africa under attack: A tribute to Professor Cistac'

6 April 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a public lecture on 'Academic freedom in Africa under attack: A tribute to Professor Cistac'.

Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua
Member, Ghana Bar and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra

Date: Monday 18 April 2016
Time: 17:00 to 18:30
Venue: Moot Court, Ground Floor, Law Building, Faculty of Law, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 5407 / Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Biography: Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua

Dr Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua is a member of the Ghana Bar and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra where he teaches Public International Law and International Human Rights Law.



CHR and ICAR Release Comprehensive Study of Business and Human Rights Law and Policy in South Africa

5 April 2016 - Today, the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) at the University of Pretoria and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) are pleased to jointly release the  “Shadow” National Baseline Assessment (NBA) of Current Implementation of Business and Human Rights Frameworks in South Africa.

This document represent one of the most exhaustive studies of South African laws, policies, regulations, and standards that pertain to business and human rights at the national level.

CHR and ICAR hope all stakeholders, including South African civil society groups, academia, government representatives, business groups, and investors, will engage with this tool, add to it, and apply it in their efforts to address business-related human rights harms.

For more information, contact Josua Loots, CHR’s Program Manager for Business and Human Rights, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Sara Blackwell, ICAR’s Legal and Policy Coordinator for the Frameworks Program, at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



South African civil society angered by dwindling women's rights across Africa

29 March 2016 - Human rights have taken another knock this past week. On 16 March 2016, Nigeria’s Senate rejected the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, aimed at eliminating “all forms of discrimination” against women. The Bill was set to promote women’s equality in marriage, inheritance and education.

Lawmakers opposing the Bill said it is unnecessary, stating that the rights of everyone are already recognised in the Constitution. They further stated that the Bill is incompatible with Nigerian culture and religious beliefs. Religious texts and practices were cited as reasons to oppose the Bill.

However, women’s rights in Nigeria are dangerously lacking, as is evident in its discriminatory customary and religious laws pertaining to early and forced marriage, divorce, and ownership of property.

According to a 2015 UNICEF report on child marriage in Africa, 23 million girls and women in Nigeria were reportedly married as girls, making Nigeria home to the greatest number of child brides in Africa. In the southern region, customary laws allow girls to be married between 12-15 years of age, with this age dropping to 9 years in certain other regions of the country. As at 2013, 17% of women reported to have been married by the age of 15 and 43% reported to have been married by the age of 18.



Four CHR academics contribute to Amnesty International publication on human rights in the foreign policy of South Africa

29 March 2016 - Four academics associated with the Centre for Human Rights contributed to the third volume in the Shifting Power and Human Rights Diplomacy series which contains a collection of eleven essays on South Africa’s foreign human rights policy. (Contributors: Prof Magnus Killander, Dr Dan Kuwali, Josua Loots and Bright Nkrumah).

Economic and political power is shifting from the West to the Global South and East. Yet international human rights experts and practitioners seem to only occasionally pay attention to the role of human rights in the foreign policy of emerging powers and the consequences of their rise for the global human rights regime.

The Shifting Power and Human Rights Diplomacy series focuses on rising powers and their current and potential roles in the international protection and promotion of human rights. Will the human rights regime gain more support and legitimacy because of these power shifts, will rising powers try to restore the sanctity of state sovereignty within world politics or are they aiming for other changes in the international order?



Disability Rights in an African Context Course 2016

24 March 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria (UP), hosted the Disability Rights in an African Context advanced short course from 14 - 18 March 2016. The Disability Rights Course which is part of a series of advanced human rights courses offered by the Centre for Human Rights attracted over fifty participants from more than twenty different African countries. Participants included persons with disabilities, their families, civil society groups of persons with disabilities as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, policy makers, policy analysts andLLM/MPhil students taking courses in human rights at the Centre for Human Rights amongst others.

Prof Charles Ngwena from the Centre for Human Rights is the academic coordinator of the short course. The course featured presentations from renowned international disability rights experts Professor Robert Dinerstein, Professor of Law and Director of Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law; Professor Michael Stein from Harvard Law School (who is also an Extraordinary Professor at the Centre for Human Rights); Professor Anna Lawson, Professor at the School of Law at Leeds; Professor Francisco Barriffi from the Centre for Research and Education in Human Rights, Faculty of Law, National University of Mar de Plata and Mr Alberto Enculada, Research coordinator at the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.



Joint NGO statement on assassination of Eastern Cape activist

23 March 2016 - Last night in Mbizana, Eastern Cape, unknown attackers impersonating police officers assassinated the activist and chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee at his home, in front of his young child. Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe from Mdatya village in Amadiba died on the scene after being shot in the head eight times.

Under Rhadebe’s leadership, the Amadiba Crisis Committee has been resisting proposed mineral sands mining at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast by a subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), including through legal action.[1]

There has been a long and well-documented history of conflict around this proposed development, not least because of the inability or unwillingness of the Minister and Department of Mineral Resources to intervene and listen to the concerns of affected people.

We, the undersigned organisations, are shocked by this brazen act of retribution against Mr Rhadebe, and extremely concerned for the safety of other activists of the Amadiba Crisis Committee. We are also alarmed by the trend of violent intimidation of civil society engaged in advancing human rights and environmental justice, fighting corruption and protecting the Rule of Law.[2] Just yesterday, 18 non-government organisations issued a statement condemning the “military style raid” conducted on the Helen Suzman Foundation offices in Parktown, Johannesburg over the weekend. We expressed profound concern about what we regard as a context of increasing hostility by some within the state towards civil society.



Founding Director welcomed back at the Centre for Human Rights

23 March 2016 - Justice Johann van der Westhuizen retired from the South African Constitutional Court at the end of February 2016, after serving his term of 12 years.  The year the Centre for Human Rights celebrates 30 years of its existence, Johann returns to the Centre he founded in 1986.  He holds a part-time position of Extraordinary Professor in the Centre.

On 15 March 2016, honouring his term at the Court and welcoming him back, the Centre hosted a forum ‘Realising human rights in life and law: Reflections on the Constitutional Court term of Justice Johann van der Westhuizen’.

Two present justices, Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke and Justice Kampepe and one past judge of the Constitutional Court, Justice Zak Yacoob, provided some reflections.

Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke introduced the audience to a number of Justice van der Westhuizen’s most celebrated judgments.



NGO Statement on Helen Suzman Foundation raid

22 March 2016 - On Sunday afternoon the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) offices in Parktown, Johannesburg were the target of a military-style raid. Those conducting the raid clearly knew what they were looking for: computers and other documentation relating to the programmatic work of the HSF were taken. The brazen, co-ordinated nature of the operation and its targeted, selective focus are sinister. So, too, is its timing.

In its bid to promote constitutional democracy, the HSF undertakes vital but often politically sensitive and contentious activity. Among its most recent activities was the launch last Wednesday of an application in the Pretoria High Court to block the head of the Hawks from exercising any of his powers pending the outcome of its application to have his appointment set aside as irrational and unlawful.

We, the undersigned, are alarmed at the raid on the HSF. While we are divergent organisations, with divergent mandates, we all share a common precondition to operating, namely, independence and protection from capricious government intervention. On this principle we all stand united.



Human Rights Day 2016: Take on Racism, Sexism and Heterosexism

22 March 2016 - The week of 14 March to 21 March 2016 is Anti-Racism Week and 21 March 2016 is Human Rights Day in South Africa. This is the day in 1960, on which the police shot 69 people while they were peacefully protesting against the pass laws in Sharpeville, Johannesburg.

The legacy of the racist and skewed apartheid system has to be continually taken on. Transformation needs to be pursued with determination and zeal. Race is one of the divides that was used to disunite South Africa in the past and still continues to rear its ugly head every once in a while in many areas of life, including University life.

There are a number of other divides that have been used to polarise South African society. Among these are sexism and heterosexism. These two isms have come to affect women, homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and intersex persons through discriminating against them, especially socially. This discrimination has manifested itself in violence and other forms of inhumane treatment of persons that are different from the majority in opinion, power or numbers.

Together all of us black and white, gay and straight, male and female and everything in between must work together towards a democratic and equal South Africa.



Photo: MambaOnline.com
Report: Rwanda’s withdrawal of its acceptance of direct individual access to the African Human Rights Court

22 March 2016 - On 11 March 2016, the Centre of Human Rights,  Faculty of Law,  University of Pretoria, held a panel discussion on the legal and political consequences of Rwanda’s withdrawal of its declaration under article 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court Protocol), which provides for the right of individual access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Human Rights Court). The panel discussion consisted of Professor Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights; Professor Dire Tladi, Professor, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria and a member of the International Law Commission; and Professor Michelo Hansungule, Professor,  Centre for Human Rights; and legal counsel in two of the cases against  Rwanda submitted to  the Court.

Legal background

Having started operating in 2006, the African Human Rights Court in 2016 marks ten years of existence. However, these ten years have yielded a meagre crop of judgments. So far, the Court has delivered only one advisory opinion, in which it regrettably adopted the position that the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is not competent to refer cases to the African Court. The Court decided only four cases on the merits, two against Tanzania (Mtikila and Alex Thomas) and two against Burkina Faso (Zongo and Konate).



#SayNoToRacism: Centre for Human Rights students speak out against racism on Human Rights Day

21 March 2016 - Human Rights Day in South Africa is historically linked with 21 March 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. On that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws.

This day marked an affirmation by ordinary people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights. It became an iconic date in South Africa's history that today we commemorate as Human Rights Day as a reminder of our rights and the cost paid for our treasured human rights.

On 21 March 2016, Human Rights Day is celebrated with a special focus on the eradication of racism in South Africa.

In this video, students on the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria speak out against racism and calls for an end to racist prejudice . #SayNoToRacism #HumanRightsDay



Invitation: Annual Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture

20 March 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and the School of Law, University of Ghana cordially invite you to the
Annual Helen Kanzira Memorial Lecture.

Keynote address:
Ms Bernice Sam - ‘Protecting Women’s Reproductive Rights in Africa: A moral or legal obligation?’

Dr Lydia Aziato, Dr Amos Laar and Ms Vicky Okine

Date:Thursday 31 March 2016
Time: 17:00 to 19:30, followed by a cocktail reception
Venue: School of Law Auditorium, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

RSVP: Kindly confirm your attendance by Monday 28 March 2016 by sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Enquiries:  Tel:  +233 24 0448627 / Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Historic LEGABIBO judgment important for African countries and for human rights institutions of the African Union

18 March 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights (the Centre) is delighted to note that the Botswana Supreme Court of Appeal ruled against the Attorney General of that country, and chose to uphold the decision of a lower court instructing the relevant government department to register the organisation Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) as an NGO in Botswana.

The following extract from the judgment summarises the rationale behind the judges’ decision:

The argument that asking an NGO that works for the advancement of the human rights and wellbeing of LGBTI persons in Botswana not to be registered was skewed because there is nothing unlawful about advocating for the law to be changed because that in itself is not illegal. It is the democratic right of every citizen to express their opinion on a law. It does not follow that when an organisation advocates for changes in the law on abortion, the death penalty, or same sex sexual acts, that means the organisation or its members is engaging in abortion, or murder or same sex sexual acts. The respondents made it clear that they respect the laws of Botswana and there is no suggestion whatsoever in the objectives of LEGABIBO that they will encourage their members to commit offences against sections 164 or 167 in the Penal Code of Botswana (unnatural offences). Neither is there an indication that LEGABIBO will indulge in ‘’outreach’’ to recruit others to commit such offences. There also exist other organisations and politicians in Botswana that already advocate for gay and lesbian rights and there has been no suggestion that any of those is breaking the law.



Press Release: Implications of the Supreme Court of Appeal Judgment on Omar Al-Bashir case for the ICC debate

17 March 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, welcomes the clarity provided in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment in the case of The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Others v The Southern Africa Litigation Centre and Others, on the matter of the visit of the Sudanese head of state, President Omar al-Bashir, to South Africa, and the failure of the South African government to arrest him in accordance with South Africa’s obligations under the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 (ICC Act).

However, the CHR notes with apprehension the potential political murkiness surrounding the case, and is concerned about the possible reactions from the South African government. In particular, the CHR is alarmed about the possibility of the government using the SCA judgment as coals to stoke the fire on the debate surrounding South Africa’s potential withdrawal from the ICC. The CHR reiterates its position taken earlier, that it is not advisable for South Africa to withdraw from the ICC, and want to raise the following arguments, some of which are based on the recent SCA judgment:

First, withdrawal from the ICC is not in the best interest of South Africa from either an international human rights or an international relations perspective. South Africa has a long tradition of respecting its international human rights commitments, and cooperating with others to uphold those commitments. Notwithstanding South Africa’s support for AU Resolutions calling for the removal of arrest warrants against President Bashir, the South African government made it clear in 2013, during speculation around President Bashir’s presence at the memorial of former President Nelson Mandela, that it would have no option but to arrest President Bashir if he enters the country.



Supreme Court of Appeal, South Africa
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