1 November 2016 - GENEVA (28 October 2016) – States must heed the pleas of countless victims of crimes against humanity for justice and accountability, Sheila Keetharuth of the former UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea urged the UN General Assembly. The Commission has recommended that the situation in Eritrea be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Speaking for the Commission of Inquiry, Keetharuth, who is also UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, highlighted the Commission’s clear findings that crimes against humanity have been committed since 1991 by Eritrean officials, adding that such a dire assessment left no room for “business as usual” in the international community’s engagement with the Government of Eritrea.
“The crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder have been committed as part of a widespread and systematic campaign against the civilian population. The aim of the campaign has been to maintain control over the population and perpetuate the leadership’s rule in Eritrea,” Keetharuth told the UN General Assembly.
27 October 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is calling for applications for two Open Society Foundations scholarship programmes: the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme and the Inclusive Education Scholarship Programme.
About the Disability Rights Scholarship Programme
The Disability Rights Scholarship Programme provides awards for master’s degree study to disability rights advocates, lawyers, and educators to develop new legislation, jurisprudence, policy, research, and scholarship to harness the innovations and opportunities offered by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
With the knowledge and networks gained through the program, we expect that fellows will deepen their understanding of international law and education, with a focus on disability rights, and gain the tools necessary to engage in a range of CRPD implementation strategies, such as: challenging rights violations in their home countries by drafting enforceable legislation consistent with the CRPD; utilizing enforcement mechanisms set forth in the convention; taking forward disability rights litigation requesting CRPD-compliant remedies; engaging in disability rights advocacy; and developing law, education, or other academic curricula informed by the CRPD.
It is a sad day for South Africa. It is a sad day for Africa. Why did it come to this?
The minister states that the reason for the withdrawal is that:
[South Africa] has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court.
At a press conference on October 21 South Africa’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Michael Masutha, put forward further reasons. He said the Supreme Court of Appeal had held in the Omar al-Bashir case that the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act, was in conflict with the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act.
21 October 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights expresses its grave disappointment at the news of the entry of an instrument of withdrawal from the Statute of the International Criminal Court by the South African Minister of International Cooperation and Development.
It should be recalled that South Africa ratified the ICC Statute though a parliamentary process. It is our firm view that it is contrary to the spirit of our democratic Constitution for such a consultative, inclusive and democratically-based decision to be undone through a unilateral act by a single government department, acting for the executive. The South African Constitutional Court has emphasised that ours is a participatory democracy, not a democracy where the electorate cedes authority to the executive to govern without its continued involvement. Whenever it is possible, participation and inclusion should be chosen above executive fiat.
Section 231 of the Constitution requires that Parliament approves international agreements before they become binding on us. It flows, logically, that withdrawal from such agreement should follow the same route.
'Five reasons why South Africa should not withdraw from the ICC Statute'
Date: 18 June 2015
by Professor Frans Viljoen,
Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
The brevity of President Bashir’s visit to South Africa is disproportionate to its consequences. For one thing, it poses questions about South Africa’s commitment to upholding the rule of law – both on the international and national plane. But if media reports are correct, the visit may have a much more far-reaching and lasting effect. According to reports, the ANC National Executive Committee has come to the conclusion that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is no longer useful to Africa, and that South Africa should undo its ratification and leave the fold of ICC state parties.
20 October 2016 - Monday 17 October was the first working day for Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, our new Public Protector. President Zuma formally appointed her to the position; she is set to serve her seven-year term. (This is the second Public Protector President Zuma has appointed; he also appointed Thuli Madonsela in 2009.) Parliament overwhelmingly supported her; and civil society organisations such as Corruption Watch endorsed her
If some concerned South Africans still view Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s appointment with some apprehension, it would be up to her to set suspicious minds at ease. Her actions would confound her critics. Regrettably, there indeed seems to be some cause for caution.
Curious career trajectory?
First, there are the unassailable facts. Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane sketched her career path, both in her CV and during the interview for the position. By her own description, her last position was that of a “spy”, at least of sorts. On July 4, 2016 she started working as an “analyst” with the State Security Agency (SSA). This department’s mission is “to provide critical and unique intelligence on threats … to the government to advance South Africa’s national security interests in a changing global environment”.
18 October 2016 - As part of the African Union (AU) Year of Human Rights, the Centre for Human Rights (Faculty of law, University of Pretoria) compiled a publication tracking the historical evolution and providing an overview of the African human rights system.
14 October 2016 - On 28 September 2016, the Peace and Justice Initiative and the Centre for Human Rights (“PJI/CHR”), represented by the Legal Resources Centre (“LRC”), were jointly admitted as amici curiae (friends of the court) in the matter of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Others v. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (CCT 75/16) (“Al-Bashir Case”) before the Constitutional Court of South Africa (“Court”). Yesterday, on 13 October 2016, PJI/CHR filed joint heads of argument in this matter, which can be accessed here, with the aim of utilising PJI/CHR’s collective domestic and international law experience to assist the Court in reaching its decision.
The Al-Bashir Case concerns a June 2015 order of the High Court of South Africa directing South African authorities to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who was attending an African Union Summit in Sandton, South Africa, at the time. President Al-Bashir was, and still is, subject to arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) in connection with allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity (including torture) committed in Darfur, Sudan. President Al-Bashir left South Africa without having been arrested.
14 October 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a conference on advancing the rights of persons with albinism in Africa which will be presented from 9 to 10 November 2016.
11 October 2016 - The final round of the 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition was held at the Constitutional Court of South Africa on Saturday 8 October 2016. The finalist teams consisted of the top Francophone, top Lusophone and two top Anglophone teams who emerged from the preliminary rounds that were held on 3 and 4 October. Appearing for the Applicant team were Stellenbosch University, South Africa and Institute Universitaire d’Abijan, Côte d'Ivoire and arguing for the Respondent team were Makere University, Uganda and the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique.
The bench of judges was composed of Dr Fraida Mamad, a member of the National Human Rights Commission of Mozambique; Advocate Bahame Tom Nyanduga who is the Chairman of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance of Tanzania and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Justice Mumba Mila, Judge of the Supreme Court of Zambia and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Justice Raymond Zondo, a judge of the South African Constitutional Court; Advocate Pansy Tlakula, the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and Maitre Armand Tanoh, a legal practitioner in France and former African Human Rights Moot Court Coordinator at the Centre for Human Rights. Justice Raymond Zondo presided.
9 October 2016 - To commemorate 30 years since the entry into force of the African Charter, 10 years since the African Court became operational and 30 years of the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; a special conference was held on Friday 7 October 2016 as part of the African Human Rights Moot Court competition.
The conference coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Moot Competition organised by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in partnership with the University of The Gambia. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘The African Human Rights System @ 30: Taking stock, moving forward’.
The conference was divided into five sessions and conducted in English, French and Portuguese. The first session commenced with opening remarks by the Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Prof Frans Viljoen. This was followed by presentations on the ‘Reflections on the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ by Prof Barney Pityana (former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights), AdvTom Nyanduga, (chairperson, Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance, Tanzania and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights)and Hon. Mumba Malila (Judge of the Supreme Court of Zambia and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights).
7 October 2016 - Day 4 of the African Human Rights Moot Court Competition is usually set aside for an excursion to a prominent tourist destination in the host country. This year, the participants were taken to the ‘Sun City Resort’ in the North West Province in South Africa to spend the day at the ‘Valley of the Waves’. After breakfast at Holiday Inn Express, participants, faculty representatives, volunteers and organisers filled the buses and headed on a two-hour drive to Sun City.
Sun City is a renowned tourist and holiday attraction with various fun and adventurous activities ranging from zip-lining to swimming, engaging with wildlife and shopping amongst others. The Moot Court participants spent the day at the Valley of the Waves; a special section of Sun City. As the name implies the Valley of the Waves consist of an artificial beach and waves that simulate the ocean. Besides the beach experience, the participants explored the various slides including the infamous ‘Temple of Courage. After lunch was enjoyed at the venue the buses departed for the Holiday Inn Express. The excursion was enjoyed by the participants, volunteers, faculty representatives and organisers and it allowed for further networking and interaction in a more relaxed environment outside the rigours of the competition.
06 October 2016 - Today’s event marked the second and final day of the preliminary rounds (Rounds III and IV). Participants were seen once again in their respective court rooms with the judges moderating the proceedings. Each team continued to argue their case for the Applicant and Respondent before different panels of judges.
After completing all the rounds, the final score sheets were collated and the results for all teams verified by Mr Edouard Jacot Guillarmod, an independent auditor.
Then came the moment everyone had been holding their breath for – the announcement of the finalists. The results were announced at News Café, Menlyn where participants gathered for supper and dance. In accordance with the rules of the competition to celebrate African diversity and promote good sportsmanship, no two teams from the same country can be allowed to qualify for the finals even if they are the top two and this rule had to be applied this year to the qualifying Anglophone teams. The following are the teams that made it to the Final:
Universidade Eduardo Mondlane – for the Lusophone African Speaking Countries
Institute Universitaire d’ Abidjan – for the Francophone African Speaking Countries and
Stellenbosch University; and
Makerere University - for the Anglophone African Speaking Countries.
06 October 2016 - At around 8am, the participants and faculty representatives arrived at the TuksSport High School in different shades of suits and corporate wears for the kick off of the preliminary rounds of the competition. The participants were ready to appear as legal counsels before hypothetical judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights who were in fact the faculty representatives and lecturers from the participating universities.
Preliminary rounds were divided into two - morning and afternoon sessions. Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone participants argued separately and they were judged based on their knowledge of the facts, application of law – particularly African human rights law, articulation, analysis, persuasiveness, ability to respond to questions and oratory skills. No faculty representative could sit as a judge in the session where his or her students were mooting.
With the look of victory on their faces, the participants departed for dinner at the Holiday Inn. It was a challenging but rewarding day.
05 October 2016 - The African Human Rights Moot Court Competition aims to advance the cause of human rights in Africa by providing an opportunity to law students from across the continent to prepare and argue a hypothetical case before human rights experts. This year marks the 25th edition of the competition and the issues being argued by students include:
The legality of withdrawal from the African court’s jurisdiction by African states;
Conditions of detention;
Freedom of association; and
Gender and human rights of women.
This year’s edition of the Moot Court Competition is organised by the Centre for Human Rights in partnership with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia. The 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition attracted law students from 54 universities cutting across Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone speaking African countries. While some universities have attended more than 80 percent of the African Human Rights Moot Court Competitions (Rhodes, Fort Hare and Pretoria in South Africa; Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique and Chancellor's College in Malawi) others are participating for the first time. The first time participating universities are: Institute Universitaire d’ Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire); Samara University (Ethiopia); University of Juba (South Sudan) and Universidad Politecnica (Mozambique).
23 September 2016 - The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law cordially invites you to the Opening Ceremony (3 October 2016) and the Final Round, Prize-giving and Closing Ceremony (8 October 2016) of the 25th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition.
20 September 2016 - GENEVA (16 September 2016) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, today called on the Eritrean Government to urgently provide information on the whereabouts and state of health of senior government officials and independent journalists arrested on 18 September 2001 and in the following days.
Fifteen years ago, the Eritrean authorities arrested and detained a group of senior cabinet ministers, members of parliament and independent journalists without charge or trial. To date, the Government has refused to share any information on their whereabouts and state of health.
“The Eritrean Government has denied those arrested their fundamental right to liberty and security of the person, right not to be subjected to torture, right to a fair trial as well as right to freedom of expression and opinion,” Ms. Keetharuth said ahead of the anniversary on Sunday. “Those arrested have been detained incommunicado and in solitary confinement. Even family members have never been allowed to have any contact whatsoever with them.”
16 September 2016 - Zambia has undertaken presidential and other elections on 11 August 2016. On 15 August 2016, the Electoral Commission of Zambia declared the incumbent Edgar Lungu the winner of the presidential election. However, presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema has claimed that election results were manipulated by the Electoral Commission to favour the incumbent.
Article 128(c) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act of 2016 provides that the Constitutional Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes related to presidential elections. Article 103(2) sets a timeframe of 14 days within which disputes relating to presidential elections have to be ‘heard’ by the Constitutional Court.
On 19 August 2016, presidential candidate Hichilema has petitioned the Constitutional Court. However, the Court’s record shows that technical irregularities and preliminary applications have consumed the 14 days period.
15 September 2016 - The failure of domestic law makes it important that the avenues of international law be explored. To achieve this objective, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria hosted a training for LGBTI human rights defenders on making effective use of the United Nations and African human rights systems.
14 September 2016 - On 2 September 2016 the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria planted trees in to celebrate Arbor Week, which is held in the first week of September every year. Planting a tree is one of many ways in which we can build a sustainable environment and care better for our world. Centre staff travelled to Ya Bana Village for the children in Winterveld, North West of Pretoria, a place of safety for some 36 children. The children are cared for by house mothers in a set of beautiful homes on a vast well-kept ground. Centre staff was privileged to meet the founders and the staff of Ya Bana Village and observe the remarkable work they accomplish each day.
This Arbor week initiative forms part of a wider series of events celebrating 30 years of the Centre’s existence. What made Arbor Day significant to us at the Centre is that tree-planting symbolises the birth of new life and the beginning of something beneficial to all. Trees are an essential part of life and something we cannot live without. They are some of the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth's greatest natural resources. As we celebrate 30 years of existence this year, we have taken a step back to reflect on our journey. In 1986, we were a mere seed with goals and aspirations. Thirty years later we are offered the opportunity to look back on our contributions to the struggle for equality, justice and freedom in the world around us.