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Centre News & Events: 2016
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.

 

 



 
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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?

 

 


 
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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.

 

 



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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.

 

 


 
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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.

 

 



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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.

 

 


 
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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
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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).

 

 



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#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

 

 



 
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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?’

Panelists:
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

 

 


 
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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.

 

 



 
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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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Call for Applications: LLM (International Trade and Investment Law in Africa)

17 March 2016 - The International Development Law Unit, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria is pleased to announce that from 2017, its prestigious LLM in International Trade and Investment Law in Africa will commence in January 2017 instead of July as was the case in previous years.

This change has been made in order to enrich the LLM programme, and to make it more responsive to new developments in international trade and investment law such as the growing body of international norms and standards dealing with business and human rights and the growing recognition by business of their social and environmental responsibilities.

As a result of the change in the timing the LLM students will now have the opportunity to interact with the students and lecturers of other master’s programmes in the Centre for Human Rights so that both groups can understand the evolving international approaches to the human rights, social and environmental responsibilities of business and their implications for international lawyers.

 

 


 
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Call for Registrations: 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition

15 March 2016 - The 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition will be jointly hosted by the University of The Gambia and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights from 16 to 21 October 2016 in Banjul, The Gambia.

The African Human Rights Moot Court Competition will be held for the first time in The Gambia, known as the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’. Situated in West Africa and one of the smallest countries in mainland Africa, The Gambia is renowned for its majestic River Gambia, a unique and natural waterway that extends through the length of its territory. The Gambia remains an unspoiled tropical paradise.

From the white sand beaches on the Atlantic Coast to the rural village of Juffureh, a stone’s throw from ‘Kunta Kinteh Island’, the smiling people of The Gambia warmly welcome Africa to the 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition.

 

 


 
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Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea after her interactive dialogue at the 31th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (14 March 2016)

14 March 2016 - The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, today provided an oral update to the Human Rights Council, focusing on the plight of unaccompanied Eritrean children crossing international borders. Since her first report in 2013, the Special Rapporteur has kept a focus on this pressing issue, as the numbers of children leaving Eritrea kept rising.

Ms. Keetharuth reiterated her continuing deep concern about the overall human rights situation in the country, pushing many Eritreans, including children to leave the country. “They embark on the journey across borders into neighbouring countries and further afield. Human rights violations they experienced has a ripple effect, leading to their increased vulnerability”.

Eritrean children constituted the largest group of unaccompanied children arriving in Italy – about 3,092 out of a total of 12,360 in 2015, the Special Rapporteur indicated. During interviews with the Special Rapporteur, the children pointed to the failure of the Eritrean Government to live up to the hopes and dreams of the younger generation, who aspired to a different existence, rather than spending their lives as soldiers. One child said he left Eritrea because he wanted a life of his own, rather than one which would make him “belong to the state.”

 

 



 
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Workshop on the right to access to information held in Mauritius

10 March 2016 - On 26 February 2016, the Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Mauritius Council of Social Services (MACOSS) organised a workshop in Port Louis, Mauritius.

The purpose of the workshop was to create an increased understanding of the right of access to information (ATI) amongst stakeholders in Mauritius and also to begin initial discussions on the content of an ATI law for Mauritius. The workshop was attended by a broad range of stakeholders including government officials, the Law Society of Mauritius, academics, media and civil society organisations.

The workshop began with general discussions were held on the right of access to information, its importance for promoting democracy, good governance and public participation as well as pitfalls to be avoided by Mauritius in the development of its ATI law, by drawing on experiences of other African States. Thereafter, more focused discussions were held on the proposed content of the ATI Bill, using the Model Law as a guide.

 

 


 
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Invitation: 'Brown Bag' Event on Rwanda’s withdrawal of the right of individual access to the African Human Rights Court

10 March 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a panel discussion on the topic: Considering the implications of Rwanda’s withdrawal of the right of individual access to the African Human Rights Court.

Date: Friday 11 March 2016
Time: 12:00 to 13:30
Venue: Moot Court Room, Ground floor, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
Event: ‘Brown Bag’ event - a light lunch will be provided to participants during the discussion.

On Friday 11 March the Centre for Human Rights brings together a panel to discuss the legal and political implications of this step. The following brief presentations will be followed by a general discussion:

  • PROF FRANS VILJOEN
    (Director, Centre for Human Rights)
    Prof Viljoen will place this development in a broader international law context.
  • PROF DIRE TLADI
    (Professor, Faculty of Law; Member of the International Law Commission)
    Prof Tladi will set out the relevant international law principles applicable to denunciation and withdrawal of treaties, as they apply in this instance.
  • PROF MICHELO HANSUNGULE
    (Professor, Centre for Human Rights)
    Prof Hansunugule represents some of the applicants and will give an overview of and context to the cases against Rwanda pending before the Court.

 

 


 
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Centre for Human Rights welcomes the 2016 HRDA class

9 March 2016 - On Friday 4 March 2016, the Centre for Human Rights held its annual welcoming ceremony for the students on the Master’s degree (LLM/MPhil) programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA). The 28 students (13 women and 15 men) come from 16 African countries as well as South Korea and Taiwan. This is the 17th successive set of students on the HRDA programme since its inception in 2000.

The ceremony was held in the quaint and historic University of Pretoria Rugby Clubhouse and included the following guests, each of whom delivered a short address:

  • Ms Patience Mushungwa, Director of Human Capital, representing Prof. Cheryl de la Rey (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria)
  • Prof André Boraine, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
  • Ms Geraldine Reymenants, Representative of Flanders in South Africa (donor)
  • Ms Phillina Wittke, Representative of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in South Africa (donor)

 

 



Eusebius McKaiser delivered the keynote address
at the 2016 HRDA Welcoming Ceremony
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South Africa’s second report to African Commission to be considered in April

2 March 2016 - As a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol to the Charter on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol), South Africa has submitted its state report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This report sets out the progress South Africa has made in implementing the African Charter and Maputo Protocol, and the challenges faced in the process.

  • South Africa: 2nd Periodic Report, 2003-2014
    (Republic of South Africa combined Second Periodic Report under the African Charter on Human And People`s Rights and Initial Report under the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women In Africa - submitted 1 February 2016)

The African Commission is scheduled to consider the report at its 58th Ordinary Session (6 – 20 April 2016), which will take place in Banjul, The Gambia. A government delegation will go to Banjul to present the report and answer the Commission’s questions.

Civil society organisations are preparing a ‘shadow report’, which will also be submitted to the African Commission to draw attention to aspects not sufficiently covered in, or omitted from the state report.

 

 



 
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Invitation: Lecture - The Paris Agreement on Climate Change: A landmark in the progressive integration of human rights and the environment

24 February 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights and the International Development Law Unit (IDLU) at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a lecture on 'The Paris Agreement on
Climate Change: A landmark in the progressive integration of human rights and the environment'

Speaker: Marcos Orellano
Director, Human Rights and Environment Program, Centre for International Environment Law (CIEL)

Date: Monday 29 February 2016
Time: 17:00 to 18:30
Venue: Room 1-68, Graduate Centre, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
 
Enquiries: Ms Thandeka Rasetsoke (012 420 5296 /
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Biography: Marcos Orellano

Dr Marcos A Orellana (LLM, SJD) is the Director of the Human Rights and Environment Program at the Centre for International Environment Law (CIEL) and Adjunct Associate Professor at the George Washington University School of Law.

 

 



Dr Marcos Orellano
Director, Human Rights and Environment Program, Centre for International Environment Law (CIEL)
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Invitation: Forum - Reflections of the Constitutional Court term of Justice Johann van der Westhuizen

16 February 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a forum on “Realising human rights in life and law”: Reflections of the Constitutional Court term of Justice Johann van der Westhuizen (Retired Constitutional Court Judge and the founding Director of the Centre for Human Rights). This forum will be chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

Forum: Justice Johann van der Westhuizen

Date: Tuesday 15 March 2016
Time: 16:00 for 16:30 to 18:00, followed by a cocktail reception
Venue: Auditorium, Plant Sciences Building, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
 
RSVP:  Kindly confirm your attendance by Tuesday 8 March 2016 by sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
Enquiries: Ms Thuto Hlalele  (012 420 3587 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )
 
GPS: 25°45’19.3”S 28°14’07.7”E

Please note: Limited seating is available and guests are encouraged to RSVP well in advance

 

 



Retired Constitutional Court Judge
and the founding Director of the Centre for Human Rights
Justice Johann van der Westhuizen
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