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Centre News & Events: 2016
Gender Unit hosts state-reporting workshop under the Maputo Protocol in Côte d’Ivoire

21 June 2016 - In view of assisting and strengthening the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA), on the 8 and 9 June 2016, the Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised and convened a workshop in Cote d'Ivoire on state reporting under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Women’s Protocol). The workshop was held on the 8 and 9 June 2016.

Workshop participants came from relevant government departments, civil society organisations and gender equality commissions from francophone countries in West Africa; Benin, Cote d' Ivoire and Togo. Fifteen key government, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and civil society stakeholders involved in the state reporting process in these three countries attended this workshop.

The main objectives of the workshop were to disseminate and popularise the Guidelines on State Reporting on the Women’s Protocol, to build and strengthen the capacity of the key stakeholders in the three respective countries on state reporting under the Women’s Protocol and to ensure that their respective governments comply with state reporting obligations under the Women's Protocol.

Press Statement: Seychelles decriminalises sodomy, fulfilling constitutional, regional and international human rights obligations

20 June 2016 - On 17 May 2016 the Seychelles parliament passed a landmark bill to amend the country’s Penal Code to decriminalise sodomy. This was fittingly done on the day of the commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-phobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT or IDAHOBiT).

IDAHOT marks the day on which, 26 years ago in 1990, the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a sexual deviation (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems - ICD 10). It is therefore fitting that the Parliament of the Republic of Seychelles moved to decriminalise what is a human and normal part and being of its gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgendered and Intersex community.

Seychelles ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) on 13 April 1992 and one of its nationals serves as a member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People With Disabilities). Article 2 of the African Charter provides for the protection of the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the African Charter without distinction of any kind. It goes on to mention a non-exclusive list of basis for this distinction and, for emphasis, adds the clause ‘or other status’.

Opinion piece: The enduring lessons of 16 June

16 June 2016 - Celebrating Youth Day, introduced in the post-apartheid era, always has a historical dimension, but this is even pronounced this year, which marks a landmark 40 years since those fateful events of 16 June 1976. 

We are reminded that 16 June 1976 was a turning point in at least three important ways.

Before thousands of school children took to the streets of Soweto to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as language of instruction for three subjects (geography, mathematic and history), it was still possible to sell apartheid as benevolent paternalism. After the blatant authoritarianism of imposing an extremely onerous policy without consultation or any effort at articulating reasonable grounds as justification, the benevolence-defence was no longer legitimately open to apologists of apartheid. The scales fell of the eyes of many, increasingly also white South Africans.

The Soweto-moment, ironically, probably accelerated the advent of a truly free, democratic South Africa, a South Africa in which a culture of authoritarianism has made way for a constitutional culture of justification.


Prof Frans Viljoen
Director, Centre for Human Rights

Joint Press Statement: Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender condemn the homophobic massacre of 50 gay club revellers in Orlando, Florida, USA

14 June 2016 - Sunday 12 June 2016 was a sad day in the history of the struggle for LGBTI rights in the world. Fifty revellers were gunned down at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida, USA. The gunman’s actions were apparently inspired by his hatred for persons of a different sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G), both at the University of Pretoria, believe in and work for the realisation of the rights of all persons on the African continent, including sexual minorities, based on the rights protected by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We strongly condemn this heinous act, and call upon all to respect the rights of all persons around the globe irrespective of what or who they are.

Violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is a violation of international human rights law. In its 2015 Report on Violence against LGBTI persons, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights incorporated the concept of violence based on prejudice to examine violence committed against LGBTI persons. The Commission found that violence based on prejudice requires context and social complicity and has a symbolic impact, sending a message to the whole LGBTI community, and that the perpetrator’s motivation needs to be understood as complex and multi-faceted, and not only as an individual act. So these acts, and the gunman in the Orlando massacre, are not individual exceptions, they are socially embedded and socially enabled. To prevent them requires a combination of legal and social reform, and the engagement of multiple actors in all societies.

Call for Applications: Three Master's degrees at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

14 June 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights is pleased to announce the call for applications for the following three Master's degrees to be offered in 2017:

(Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa)

This prestigious one-year intensive course is unique in Africa and attracts the brightest human rights scholars on the continent. Up to 25 FULL scholarships are available for African citizens.

Eligibility criteria:
A degree allowing access to the legal profession or an honours degree in a discipline relevant to human rights and democratisation.

Course duration:
January - December 2017 (1 year)

Deadline for applications:
31 July 2016

Up to 25 FULL scholarships are available for African citizens

Course website:

Press Statement: The UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea finds crimes against humanity in the country

10 June 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria welcomes the publication of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) confirming that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea. This report comes a few weeks after Eritrea’s jubilant 25th independence anniversary, during which the country celebrated its liberation after a long struggle.

The report of the COIE established that crimes against humanity had been committed in Eritrea since 1991. These crimes include enslavement, torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, rape and murder. The COIE found that “crimes against humanity have been committed in a widespread and systematic manner” over the past 25 years and estimates that between 300 000 and 400 000 people have been enslaved in Eritrea since 1991.

The COI’s mandate, given to it by the UN’s Human Rights Council in July 2015, was to “investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes as against humanity.” This followed the publication of its first report which documented grave human rights violations perpetrated by the state.


Mr Mike Smith, Chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea
Progress at last? Minister promises to make South African Home Affairs LGBTI friendly

8 June 2016 - Malusi Gigaba, the South African Minister of Home Affairs, has admitted that his department has often failed LGBTI South Africans, but says he is finally taking steps to ensure that they are treated as equal citizens.

As we’ve regularly reported over the years, Home Affairs has been slated for some of its officials’ discriminatory refusal to marry same-sex couples, as well as its degrading and harmful treatment of transgender people.

On Tuesday, Gigaba met with representative of the LGBTI community in Pretoria. The historic meeting was followed by a press conference in which Gigaba outlined new efforts to turn things around.

The minister noted that this year is the tenth anniversary of the Civil Union Act that legalised same-sex marriage and said that this was an opportunity “to look back at the challenges in implementing the act to fulfil the rights of the LGBTI community”.

Gigaba said that in the meeting with the LGBTI representatives four main areas of concern were identified. These were the implementation of the Civil Union Act; changing the sex of transgender people in their ID documents; the registration of adoptions by same-sex couples; and the treatment of asylum seekers on the basis of sexual orientation.


Minister Malusi Gigaba
Centre for Human Rights celebrates Africa Day (and 30-year birthday) by reflecting on the South African Constitution at 20

31 May 2016 - The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, symbol of a transformative South Africa emanating from a deeply divided society, was adopted on 8 May 1996.  On 25 May 2016, the Centre for Human Rights celebrated Africa Day, as well as the 20-year existence of the Constitution, as part of a series of events commemorating the Centre’s establishment 30 years ago, in May 1986.

The Centre was founded by a small group of academics at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, in the wake of an epoch-making conference reflecting on the possibilities of a Bill of Rights – and a culture of true constitutionalism more broadly – for a post-apartheid South Africa. Three of the speakers at the Africa Day event – founding Centre Director Professor Johann van der Westhuizen (now retired judge of the Constitutional Court), Justice Zak Yacoob (now retired Justice of the Constitutional Court), and Dr Mathole Motshekga (now Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services) – were present at that initial 1986 conference.

On Africa Day 2016, seven guest speakers made presentations as part of a discussion forum “By, for and of Africa? Reflections on the South African Constitution at 20”.


Dr Frene Ginwala,
first Speaker of the National Assembly,
at the Discussion Forum on 25 May 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.

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.
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'.



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.



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.



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.



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.

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.

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
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!



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.



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.



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