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Centre News & Events: 2016
Centre hosts meeting of experts towards developing transparency guidelines for African elections

24 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights from 24 to 27 May co-hosted a meeting of experts, together with the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, to contribute towards the adoption of guidelines on access to information in electoral processes in Africa.

This process was launched in August 2015, with a Resolution by the African Commission. The guidelines to be developed aim at building on the basis of existing legal texts (such as the African Charter, the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa), distilling from these clear and specific guidelines to ensure greater transparency during elections. The meeting aims at coming up with a set of issues and preliminary views on these issues to be included in the guidelines.

Transparency in elections is crucial. It bolsters their integrity, thus counteracting political contestation about election results. It also builds public confidence, thus encouraging voter participation.

 
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Press Statement: Little to celebrate as Eritrea marks 25 years of independence amidst grave human rights violations

24 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, congratulates Eritrea on its 25th independence celebrations. Today, 24 May 2016, marks 25 years since Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia after 30 long years of civil war. To the Eritrean people, 24 May 1991 marked the beginning of an era they hoped would bring peace, justice, equality and prosperity. The people of Eritrea had long hoped for a democratic society where human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, upheld and defended and an unrestricted space created for personal as well as community development.

The holders of state power in Eritrea are yet to live up to these aspirations of the Eritrean people. As such, Eritreans have little to celebrate in terms of human rights guarantees and democracy. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea has repeatedly reported systematic human rights abuses by the Eritrean government. The same have been echoed by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The above UN special procedures and treaty bodies have repeatedly called upon Eritrea to honour its obligations under international human rights instruments. The ACHPR has also adopted a number of resolutions condemning the human rights situation in Eritrea and calling upon Eritrea to honour its obligations under international and regional human rights instruments as well as the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

 

Journalist Dawit Isaak, detained since 2001,
is just one example of those languishing in undisclosed detention facilities without having been accorded
the due process of law.
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South Africa led Africa regional forum on finding practical solutions to end discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE)

23 May 2016 - From 3 to 5 March 2016 the South African Human Rights Commission convened an African regional seminar to discuss how to practically end violence and other forms of discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

The ‘Africa regional seminar on finding practical solutions for addressing violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression’ was held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The seminar was a follow up on a number of regional and international human rights resolutions and reports by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Human Rights Council. Among these were Human Rights Council resolution 17/19 titled ‘Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity’ , the UN High Commissioner’s report on ‘discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity’ (A/HRC/19/41) and Resolution 275 of the African Commission on ‘protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity'.

 

 

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Gender Unit hosts dialogue on the eradication of child marriage in Africa

20 May 2016 - The Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised a two day child marriage dialogue with 27 participants from South Africa and Mozambique in collaboration with the Commonwealth Initiative. The child marriage dialogue was held on 5 and 6 May 2016 at the Protea Hotel, Hatfield, Pretoria, South Africa.

The Gender Unit has been providing technical support to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ (African Commission) Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA) in the area of child marriage through the drafting of:

  • a report on child marriage to be adopted by the African Commission; and
  • general comments on child marriage to be adopted by the African Commission and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

This child marriage dialogue was held in the context of supporting the mechanism of the SRRWA towards the eradication of child marriage.

 

 

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Call for applications: Short course on Business and Human Rights (4 - 8 July 2016)

Thank you very much for your interest in the Short Course on Business and Human Rights.

Due to the overwhelming number of applications we received, we will only be contacting successful applicants directly. Please keep a look out for future events of the same nature.

20 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is pleased to announce a pilot short course on business and human rights that will be held at the University of Pretoria, from 4 - 8 July 2016.

The course is presented with support from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for Southern Africa.

The short course will take place during the same week as the General Assembly of the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA), scheduled for 6 - 7 July 2016, also taking place at the University of Pretoria.

As such, the General Assembly will form part of the course, and give participants the opportunity to attend and participate in the General Assembly.

 

 

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African Youth Charter celebrates 10 years

16 May 2016 -  The African Youth Charter (AYC) was adopted on 2 July 2006 during the 7th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, held in Banjul, The Gambia. Its ten year anniversary is celebrated during 2016, as part of the African Union Year of Human Rights. The main celebration centres around 30 years since the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 21 October 1986. A consultative meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the AYC took place on 11 May 2016 at the Women’s Gaol Lekgotla, Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg. The coordinator of the Child Rights Unit of the Centre for Human Rights, Alina Miamingi, attended the event focusing on the AYC.

The event was organised by the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), member of the State of the Union (SOTU), which is a coalition of African civil society organisations operating in ten African States. The meeting brought together various stakeholders for the purpose of assessing the impact of the AYC on the realisation of human rights of young people across the continent.

 

 

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Press Statement: Centre seeks assurances from Gambian government for Moot Court to go ahead

12 May 2016 - In a statement on 18 April 2016, the Centre for Human Rights expressed grave concern about the human rights situation in The Gambia, on the basis of events that took place from 14 to 16 April 2016. The Centre called on the government of The Gambia to diligently investigate the events; bring to justice and punish those responsible; release from detention those involved in peaceful protest; and provide adequate medical attention to those injured in the protests and in detention.

The human rights situation in The Gambia is of particular concern because the Centre, as part of a partnership, has agreed to organise the 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in The Gambia, from 16 to 21 October 2016. The Moot Competition has been scheduled to form part of the events celebrating the African Year of Human Rights. In the light of the alarming human rights violations observed in The Gambia, the Centre committed itself to engaging with its partners – the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the University of The Gambia – with a view to possibly relocating the Competition out of The Gambia.

 
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Invitation: Discussion Forum - By, for and of Africa? Reflections on the South African Constitution at 20

11 May 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a Discussion Forum on Africa Day that forms part of a series of events celebrating the Centre’s 30th anniversary during the course of 2016.

The discussion aims to reflect on the extent to which the South African Constitution is African in its inspiration, ownership and solidarity with the rest of the continent.

The Discussion Forum draws inspiration from two historical dates. On 9 May 1996 then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki made his ‘I am an African’ speech, on the occasion of the adoption of the current South African Constitution. His inaugural words grounded the Constitution in an African identity that stretches beyond the borders of South Africa, in a mutually reinforcing manner, with other African countries. On 25 May, Africa Day is annually celebrated in recognition of the formation of the Organisation of the African Union on that day in 1963.

 
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Call for Papers: Advancing the rights of persons with albinism in Africa: A call to action

5 May 2016 - The focus of the conference is on developing responses to the persistence and intensity of the violations of the rights of persons with albinism in the African region. The conference will be held at the Centre for Human Rights from 9-10 November 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa.  It is anticipated that papers presented at this conference will be reworked by authors and submitted for consideration for publication in 2016 in a peer-reviewed journal. Also we expect that the selected works will propose ideas and solutions which can be further consulted by policymakers and relevant institutions.  

Important dates:

  • Deadline (Abstracts): 3 June 2016
    Authors will be notified by 14 June 2016 whether their abstract has been accepted.
  • Deadline (Papers): 10 August 2016
    Authors whose abstracts are accepted will be required to submit their full papers by 10 August 2016.
  • Applicants will be notified by 30 August 2016 whether their application for funding has been accepted.
  • Date of Conference: 9 - 10 November 2016

 

 



Photo: Dana Ullman
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Freedom to insist on accountability and good governance is a means to greater economic freedom

27 April 2016 - It’s Freedom Day, a day that reminds us that on 27 April 1994, South Africa had its first democratic elections. All South Africans were for the first time free to vote. Since then, millions of South Africans have expressed their political freedom in numerous elections at various levels of government.

On this historical day, we should recall some of the moments that brought us here. It was also on this day that the Interim Constitution, the predecessor of our current Constitution, came into force in 1994. Although the parties to the Multi-Party Negotiating Process adopted the Interim Constitution in 1993, its operation was postponed until the day of the first democratic elections. The elected representatives then had to agree on the text of a final Constitution, to replace the Interim Constitution. They did so, on 8 May 1996. On this day, then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki greeted the Constitution with his “I am an African” speech.

In the coming weeks, South Africa will commemorate this landmark: 20 years since the adoption of the final text of our current Constitution!

 

 

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Can one go to any extent during protests to have your human rights respected in South Africa?

26 April 2016 - Ashwanee Budoo from the Gender Unit at the Centre for Human Rights spoke to SABC Morning Live (video below) on the the naked protest staged at Rhodes University, where female students caused quite a stir last week when they protested against sexual violence half-naked.

Many people view human rights as a set of moral principles that apply to everyone. The recognition of human rights is important to people because they then feel like the society is treating them on an equal basis as others. It affords them the security that they will not be treated inferior to any other human being.

Human rights afford people with the right to protest. Some countries provide for the right to protest in their Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which a formal statement of the fundamental rights of the people. The South African Bill of Rights is similar since it provides for the right to protest in its section 17. Section 17 of the Bill of Rights provides for the right to peaceful and unarmed protests. A protest is basically ‘a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something’. Therefore, any act of protest is linked with an array of emotions.

As we have seen in the recent protests happening in South Africa, these emotions make people go to extremes. People tend to resort to extreme acts because they are frustrated and desperate that their cause fades in the many other existing causes without any concrete steps being taken. Resorting to acts like stripping naked or being violent attract media attention and assures the protesters that they are in focus. Indeed, both the #FeesMustFall campaign and the current alleged rape protests did receive attention from the relevant authorities and there are now steps that are being taken to remedy the situation.

 

 

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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)
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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.

 

 


 
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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.

Background

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
 
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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’

 

 


 
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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:

 

 


 
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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. 

 


 
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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.  
 
 

 


 
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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'.

Speaker:
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

Enquiries: 
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.

 

 


 
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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 .

 

 



 
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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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