Centre News & Events: 2015
Opening Ceremony for LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) students

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

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

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

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



Short course on the effective implementation of disability rights in Africa

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

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

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



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



City of Tshwane Mayor addresses German delegation and students

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Dinner will be served after the proceedings.



Centre hosts renowned scholar on gender stereotyping Rebecca Cook

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Africa consultation on National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights

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

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

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



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

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

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



Invitation: Public Seminar on Competition Policy and Human Rights

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

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

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



Centre for Human Rights Alumni Association presents gift to Thulani Maseko

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

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

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



Press statement: Speaker should unconditionally apologise for inflammatory remark

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Colloquium on the powers and functions of the Office of the Public Protector

On Wednesday 4 February 2015, the Centre for Human Rights and the Law Society of South Africa hosted a colloquium titled “Quo Vadis Public Protector”. The panelists were Mr John Jeffrey (South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development), Adv Thuli Madonsela (South Africa’s Public Protector), Justice Zak Yacoob (retired judge of the South African Constitutional Court), Prof Mtende Mhango (Deputy Head of the School of Law, University of the Witswatersrand) and Mr Law Naidoo (Executive Secretary, Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution).

Participants included legal practitioners from across the country, academics and students. The facilitator at the event was Mr Max Boqwana (Co-Chairperson, Law Society of South Africa). The colloquium took place at the Groenkloof Campus of the University of Pretoria where the Faculty of Education is based. Prof Irma Eloff (Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria) and Prof Frans Viljoen (Director, Centre for Human Rights) welcomed the guests.

The colloquium was organised to discuss recent developments around the decisions of the South African Public Protector especially in light of a recent court judgment in which it was held that her decisions are not binding. According to the judgment, the Public Protector’s decisions are recommendations to government departments and officials.



Zero tolerance for female genital mutilation in Eritrea?

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation: 6 February 2015

February 6 – the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation – is dedicated annually to making the world aware of the harmful effects of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) and to promote its eradication [1]. FGM/C involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia; a deep form of discrimination against women and girls, it directly violates their right to health, and physical integrity. The practice is rooted in cultural and religious beliefs of communities who perceive it as a social obligation to control female sexuality and ‘preserve or protect’ a woman’s chastity.

The most common form of FGM/C in Eritrea is ‘infubulation[2]’. During the procedure, the child’s legs and hips are tied together to limit movement – often for several weeks afterward to allow healing. The age for circumcising of a girl varies amongst cultural groups, but can range from one month old to 15 years. A traditional circumciser commonly performs the act within communities; close relatives or neighbours can also act as circumcisers.



Call for Applications: Tobacco Control Capacity Building Workshop

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) and the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invite applications to attend a Tobacco Control Capacity Building Workshop on 30 and 31 March 2015.

About the Workshop

The tobacco industry uses every tool at its disposal to delay, weaken and prevent global tobacco control policies to protect the industry’s pecuniary interests and profits. Increasingly, the industry is resorting to international trade and investment law regimes to frustrate tobacco control.

This workshop is therefore part of CTFK’s on-going work to counter this industry action, by partnering with CHR and bringing together a group of trade and investment law specialists in Africa to give a deeper understanding of tobacco control policies and how they commonly intersect with trade and investment laws. Besides, the workshop will provide a platform to establish a network of legal specialists who can be looked upon to provide sound and in-depth technical support when trade and investment issues threaten tobacco control policies in African nations.



South Africa must strongly reject xenophobia

The Centre for Human Rights expresses serious displeasure at the recent xenophobic attacks and looting of foreign-owned shops in Soweto, Atteridgeville and other areas within the Gauteng province of South Africa.

The recent xenophobic violence has laid bare the aching soul of our nation and challenged each one of us to re-examine what we are doing to preserve the delicate social fabric of the post-1994 democratic South Africa. It is true that the greatest display of African unity was its undivided solidarity with the struggle against apartheid. It is sadly ironic, therefore, that those who lost their lives and property have done so at the hands of the very people whose humanity a united Africa had fought for.

The Centre for Human Rights wishes to remind the South African government that it is obligated to respond to this grave situation in line with its international obligations, specifically under the following treaties:
  • African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981.
  • OAU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, 1969.
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.
Furthermore, the Centre for Human Rights wishes to remind the South African government and South Africans that the Constitution of our nation recognises human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms as fundamental to the fabric of the nation. Hence, anyone acting contrary to these values is in contravention of the Constitution. These attacks both revive the horrors of apartheid and raise the spectre of targeted killings reminiscent of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.



Centre hosts Dutch Special Envoy for the Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS2015)

On 27 January the Centre for Human Rights hosted the Dutch Special Envoy for the Global Conference on Cyberspace, Mr Uri Rosenthal, who outlined the topics of the Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS2015) that will be held in The Netherlands, The Hague, in April 2015.

Mr Rosenthal, a previous Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, is in the process of conducting consultations across the world, to inform the planning and priorities of the GCCS2015.

The fourth Conference on Cyberspace GCCS2015 has three key objectives: a) to support implementation and practical cooperation, b) to promote capacity building and knowledge exchange in cyberspace and c) to discuss norms for responsible behaviour in cyberspace. In order to achieve these there will be four focus sessions dealing with international security, socio-economic topics, cyber-criminality and freedom and privacy.

In the discussion following a short speech by Mr Rosenthal, attention was brought to specific issues of African countries concerning cyberspace, for example access to the internet, freedom of expression, data security, protection of children online and questions on how to address the use of the internet by terrorists to recruit young people for their cause.



New PULP publication:Convergence and Conflicts of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in Military Operations

The publication 'Convergence and Conflicts of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in Military Operations' (edited by Erika de Wet and Jann Kleffner and published by the Pretoria University Law Press) is now available online.

The book explores the implications of the increased interplay between international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) in military operations, sometimes in ways that imply convergence and other times in ways that suggest conflict. These convergences and/ or conflicts are particularly acute in non-international armed conflicts, situations of belligerent occupation and in the area of peace support operations (PSOs). Non-international armed conflicts imply that individuals, including members of organized non-state armed groups and civilians that directly participate in hostilities, are ‘within the jurisdiction’ of the territorial state against whom they are fighting. IHRL and IHL may therefore apply in parallel. In a similar vein, the control exercised by a belligerent occupant regularly entails an exercise of ‘jurisdiction’ and hence triggers the applicability of human rights norms. As far as PSOs are concerned, it becomes increasingly difficult to classify them as taking place in a context of ‘peace’ or ‘armed conflict’. More often than not, the situation implies elements of both.



East Africa consultation on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights, Nairobi, Kenya
The Centre for Human Rights, together with the Institute for Human Rights and Business' office in Kenya, hosted a consultation for East Africa on behalf of the African Commission Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights violations in Nairobi, Kenya, from 19 - 21 January 2015. The consultation brought together representatives from civil society, national human rights institutions, affected communities and role players from the extractive sector in East Africa for a three day consultation focusing on challenges, best practices and the way forward in the sub-region. The Working Group was represented by Commissioners Pacifique Manirakiza and Lawrence Mute, and Expert Members Clement Voule, Sheila Keetharuth and Eric Kassongo.

The East Africa sub-regional consultation involved several panel presentations focusing on the different country contexts, and included views on Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Rwanda. Thematic issues that were discussed over the course of the sub-regional consultation included the role of national human rights institutions in promoting a human rights based approach to extractive industry governance, the accountability of state and non-state actors with regard to corporate human rights abuse, the experiences of human rights defenders working in the field, experiences of affected communities, benefit sharing practices, and the environmental impacts of extractive industries in East Africa.



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