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On 10 December 2014, the University of Pretoria held a graduation ceremony for students from the Masters programmes offered by the Centre for Human Rights and the Faculty of Law in the University of Pretoria. There were also some doctoral candidates who graduated on this occasion. The Graduation Ceremony marked the 15th Graduation Ceremony of students from the Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa offered by the Centre for Human Rights. Each year, the Centre's human rights students graduate on International Human Rights Day (10 December 2014).

Ms Philina Wittke, Head of the DAAD South Africa Information Center delivered the keyonote speech.

The 6th Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition was held in Geneva, Switzerland from 8 to 10 December 2014. Established in 2009, the main objective of the competition is to bring together students, law professors and human rights lawyers from different legal systems to debate and discuss contemporary cross-cutting human rights issues. The competition is organised in collaboration with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

After being held in Pretoria for the 5 past years, the United Nations Offices in Geneva hosted the Competition for the first time in 2014. The executors of the estate of the late President Nelson Mandela granted permission for the competition to be named after the great statesman and human rights icon, Nelson Mandela (the event was previously simply called ‘World Human Rights Moot Court Competition’).

The Sixth Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition will be held from 8 to 10 December 2014, at Palais des Nations in Geneva, and will bring together 45 participants from 15
universities in 12 countries, representing all 5 United Nations regions of the world.

Teams from universities in the following countries have qualified to participate in the final round of the 6th World Human Rights Moot Court Competition, which will for the first time be called the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition: Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya,  Singapore, Slovenia, Poland, Switzerland and South Africa.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, has welcomed a decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the case of Konaté v Burkina Faso to rule that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression and that criminal defamation laws should only be used in restricted circumstances.

The highest court in Africa, in its judgement handed down on 5 December 2014, in Addis Ababa, sent a strong message that governments may not use severe criminal penalties to stifle public debate and reporting on matters of public interest.

On 8 and 9 December 2014, the Centre for Human Rights hosted a Colloquium on the theme ‘Sexual Minority Rights: Charting the Way Forward’. 

This event comes in the wake of the adoption of increasingly repressive laws in many African countries (such as The Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda), on the one hand, and the adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights of its first resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), on the other. Speakers at the Colloquium touched upon the situation pertaining to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexed (LGBTI) persons in Southern, West/Central and Eastern Africa. 

On 12 and 13 November 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Media Institute of Southern Africa Zambia (MISA-Zambia), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Lusaka, Zambia.

The meeting brought together civil society organisations working on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression in Zambia, government representatives, representatives of media houses and journalists. At the meeting, participants discussed some of the various criminal laws restricting freedom of expression and how they had been applied by courts in Zambia, the impact of these laws on media freedom, and most importantly the proposed draft bill on decriminalisation of defamation and strategies on how to assure its passage in Parliament.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a National Plan of Action to guide further action towards the repeal of laws criminalising freedom of expression in Zambia.

On 13 November 2014, the Special Rapporteur led a delegation that met with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, Mr Bert M. Mushala, to discuss the need for the government of Zambia to review laws that criminalise free speech.The Special Rapporteur took the opportunity, on behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to present her condolences to the government of Zambia and its people on the death of President Michael Sata.

In between these two meetings, the Special Rapporteur had a number of interviews with public and private media. The Special Rapporteur was a guest on Morning Show on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) - the public broadcaster, where she briefly talked about the continental campaign led by her office, to decriminalise laws that limit freedom of expression.

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) Class of 2014: Graduation Ceremony

During an intensive one-year course, students on this programme are taught by eminent lecturers in the field of human rights and gain invaluable practical exposure. It is the only course of its kind in Africa.

The Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised a 3-day workshop on increasing States’ capacity for reporting under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Women’s Protocol). This was organised in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission), Commissioner Soyata Maiga. The workshop was held from 11 to 13 November 2014 at the Farm Inn Hotel, Pretoria.

Thirty key government and civil society stakeholders involved in the state reporting process in Tanzania, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo attended this workshop.

On 4 and 5 November 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted an academic conference on disability rights with a focus on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa. Fifteen papers were presented at the conference, on a diverse range of issues including political participation, access to education, sexual and reproductive rights, building an inclusive environment, resource allocation, access to justice and violence against women with disabilities. The conference drew participants from more than 15 countries and approximately 50 people attended the conference. Participants included persons with disabilities, their families, civil society groups as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, policy makers, academics and practitioners from around the world.

On 3 and 5 November 2014 the Centre for Human Rights, with the support of OSISA, hosted the Second Southern African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition. Participants from the Network of Southern African Law Schools Disability Rights Programme participated in the second edition of this competition.

The problem being argued during the rounds concerned itself with issues regarding the rights of persons with disabilities including the right to vote for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Judges in the Final Round were:

  • Prof Luke Clements (Cardiff University);
  • Prof Bob Dinerstein (Washington College of Law);
  • Ms Yvonne Dausab (University of Namibia); and
  • Justice Monica Mbaru (Presiding) (High Court, Kenya)

The winners of the Second Southern African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition are the team from Midlands State University in Zimbabwe, who argued for the Applicant. The runners-up are the University of Zambia who argued for the Respondent.

Rankings: Preliminary Rounds

1 - University of Zambia (76.34)
2 - Midlands State University (73.83)
3 - University of Namibia (65.33)
4 - University of Malawi (64.00)
5 - University of Botswana (61.15)

Best Oralist: Preliminary Rounds

1 - Emmanuel Bwalya (University of Zambia) (82.25)
2 - Tifwepo Nkunika (University of Zambia) (78.00)
3 - Gugulethu Ndlovu (Midlands State University) (75.75)
4 - Vusumuzi Bhebhe (Midlands State University) (70.92)
5 - Grace Mwenelupembe (University of Malawi) (70.92)

Best Memorials: Preliminary Rounds

1 - Midlands State University (75.00)
2 - University of Zambia (67.50)
3 - University of Namibia (66.00)

The Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) held a book launch on Tuesday 4 November 2014, where seven of PULP's latest titles were introduced. PULP's third open-access online journal, the African Disablity Rights Yearbook, was also launched and can be viewed by visiting www.adry.up.ac.za.

The seven titles launched included:

Introductions were made by Prof Charles Fombad (Managing Editor of PULP) and guests were welcomed by Prof André Boraine (Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria). Several of the authors and editors of the publications elucidated on their manuscripts and Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights concluded the launch whereafter guests were treated to a South African braai.

PULP's open-access online journals are:

The human rights situation in Eritrea was the subject of attention of key decision-makers who met to discuss the challenges faced in that country. The situation in Eritrea resulted in thousands of Eritreans fleeing the country, sometimes under dangerous conditions.

The Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) hosted a seminar on human rights in Eritrea on Wednesday 29 October 2014. Participants in the event included key decisions makers in South Africa and members of the diplomatic corps who were drawn from Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Also present were members of the Eritrean community in the diaspora. The seminar commenced with welcome remarks from Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights.

The aim of the seminar was to create awareness about the prevailing human rights situation in Eritrea and to discuss the international response.

Mr Mussie Ephrem, a Swedish-Eritrean who is an analyst specialising in the Horn of Africa, began by providing a comprehensive background into the history of Eritrea. He explained how the country had through the years evolved from efforts to liberate its people from oppression only to descend into one of the most repressive states as far as human rights are concerned. 

The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland. It works in cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights through global dialogue. Its work brings together the full spectrum of national non-governmental and international human rights actors, through international conferences, human rights training, and advice to governments and related agencies.

The Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria is both an academic department and a non-governmental organisation, which was founded in 1986 as part of domestic efforts against the apartheid system of that time. Its work mainly focuses on human rights awareness and education in Africa, as well as on the promotion and protection of the rights of women, indigenous peoples, and other disadvantaged and marginalized persons or groups across the continent.

In 2012 the Centre for Human Rights submitted a communication to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Committee) which was co-authored with la Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), a NGO based in Dakar, Senegal. 

On 18 April 2013, the Committee declared the Communication admissible and it was heard on its merits on 14 April 2014 where both the representatives of the Applicant and the Respondent were present.

The Centre for Human Rights invites abstracts for a conference on disability rights with a focus on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa. The conference will be held at the Centre for Human Rights on Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 November 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa. The conference will also coincide with launch of the second issue of the African Disability Rights Yearbook, the first issue having been launched in 2013. It is anticipated that papers presented at this conference will be reworked by the authors and submitted for consideration for publication in the 2015 issue of African Disability Rights Yearbook.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in association with the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre invites you to the opening of the exhibition ‘In Whom Can I Still Trust?’

To commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) on 17 May, the Centre for Human Rights and the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre invites you to the opening of the renowned exhibition, ‘In Whom Can I Still Trust?’, which explores the Nazi persecution of sexual minorities in Europe.

The keynote address will be delivered by Sisonke Msimang, human rights activist and social commentator.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invites you to a public lecture ‘Eritreans at Risk: Refugees, migrants or migrating refugees?’

Thousands of Eritreans have fled a repressive dictatorship since 2001, making their small northeast African nation (population 4-5 million) one of the largest per capita producers of asylum seekers in the world. Many languish in desert camps. Others have been kidnapped, tortured and ransomed—or killed—in the Sinai; left to die in the Sahara; or drowned in the Mediterranean. Still others have been attacked as foreigners in South Africa, threatened with mass detention in Israel, or refused entry under draconian “terrorism bars” in North America. This lecture draws on interviews in refugee camps and communities in Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt (Sinai) and Israel to put a human face on this ongoing crisis, sketch out its main corridors, and situate it within the global debates on causes, consequences and responses to forced migration and human trafficking.

Statement by the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
at its 55th ordinary session, Luanda, Angola, 29 April 2014, on the situation of human rights in Africa

On the night of 14 April 2014, more than 200 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria.

The kidnappings were claimed by Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and Takfiri terrorist organisation based in northeast Nigeria.

Social media has played a pivotal role in forcing the issue onto the agenda of our world leaders. Hundreds of thousands of people have posted images of themselves holding pieces of paper with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag written on it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The 2014 LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) class has added their voice to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign by producing a Pan-African video in support of the girls, their parents, families and the Nigerian people.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopts first resolution ever on sexual orientation as it condemns violence against persons on basis of sexual orientation

From 12 - 16 May 2014 three students from the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, participated in the 2nd edition of the Global Classroom held in Venice, Italy.

The Global Classroom (GC) falls under the auspices of the Global Campus programme involving the University of Sydney, University of Pretoria, University of San Martin, Buenos Aires, Yerevan State University, University of Sarajevo and the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation.

The Children’s Unit of the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, the Child Rights Networks of Southern Africa (CRNSA) and Plan International is organising a Workshop for Southern African CSOs on Child Rights monitoring and advocacy.

Dates: 11-13 November 2014
Venue: University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

The purpose of the workshop is to raise awareness among Southern African CSOs on children’s rights monitoring and advocacy. Two participants from SADC countries will take part in this exercise.

The workshop will focus on:

The five Child Rights monitoring components:

  • Baseline information, providing data for a certain year or period, against which all future data can be measured to show improvements or deterioration;
  • A system of indicators, (baseline, monitoring and early warning) which can provide integrated information rather than a list of disparate information;
  • Disaggregated data, that can show which group or groups of children have their rights violated or not achieved;
  • An integrated set of age ranges, through which information about children can be compared among Southern African countries or agencies;
  • Child-centred statistics, providing direct information about children rather than about adults or institutions.

Child Rights advocacy focusing on CSO engagement with treaty bodies with a special attention to the ACERWC.

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a conference on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa.

The Conference is on the theme ‘Overcoming obstacles: Towards the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa’ and will be presented by scholars, practitioners and disability activists from all over the world, but particularly from Africa.

Date: 4 and 5 November 2014
Time: 09:00 to 17:00
Venue: Auditorium,Plant Sciences Building, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
RSVP:  Kindly confirm your attendance by Friday 31 October 2014 by sending an email to carole.viljoen@up.ac.za
Enquiries: Ms Carole Viljoen (012 420 3810 / carole.viljoen@up.ac.za)
GPS: 25°45’16.5”S 28°14’01.5”E

No registration fee is charged but pre-registration is compulsory.

The Centre for Human Rights was on Friday 3 October 2014 privileged to play host to Ms Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She delivered a public lecture on her work as High Commissioner in the Senate Hall of the University of Pretoria.

In her introduction, Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, spoke of Ms Pillay’s background in the anti-apartheid struggle as the first black woman to qualify as an advocate in the Natal Province, the first woman to open her own legal practice, and the first South African woman to obtain a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University. She described Ms Pillay as a great friend and supporter of the University of Pretoria and especially of the Centre for Human Rights, with which she has been associated for some 20 years. Ms Pillay was awarded the 2001 Women in Law Award by the Centre for Human Rights, and is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Pretoria (December 2009).

The penultimate advanced human rights short course for this year was presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria on - Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. It ran from 15 through 19 September, attracting participants and facilitators from across the world.

The UN Declaration on the Rights’ of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 came to the fore once more as participants engaged on the concept of ‘Indigenous Peoples’, land rights, gender views, international and national standards, regional mechanisms, climate change, challenges of and relevant ILO instruments relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.    

Participant’s views

“This course has given new strength and energy to engage the non-government and government for a process forward. My call is for an African Indigenous Network Alliance.
– Paramount Chief! Kora Hennie van Wyk, South Africa.

“The course provides a golden opportunity to participants from all-over Africa to interact, learn and share ideas and strategies on advocacy for the rights of indigenous peoples’.”
–  Achero David Mufuayia, Kenya.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa, with the assistance of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) through the Africa Military Law Forum (AMLF), held a symposium at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, from 18 to 19 September 2014 on the theme: “All Means Necessary”: Bridging the Gap between the Doctrine of R2P and the Actual Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts.

The Symposium brought together over 80 high ranking military officers of African states, academics, policy makers, and other practitioners in the field of protection of civilians who discussed, shared experiences and provided lessons learnt in order to find solutions to the legal, policy, and practical challenges involved in the drafting and adoption of the mandates for the protection of civilian (PoC) by the United Nations (UN) Security Council and their implementation on the ground.

On 9 and September 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Open Democracy and Sustainable Development Initiative (ODESUNDI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Kigali, Rwanda on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Rwanda, with a view to creating a shared understanding of the utility of access to information for the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda. At the end of that meeting, a Plan of Action setting out in detail the categories of information needed for the improvement of SHRH of women in Rwanda was developed.

It is expected that based on the outcome of the requests for information made by local project partners, an advocacy campaign will be developed to ensure the achievement of the project’s objectives.

The financial support of the Open Society Foundation - Human Rights Initiative for this project is gratefully acknowledged.

Mr Joojo Cobbinah, a Ghanaian alumnus of the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) masters’ programme (2013) was arrested on Saturday, 6th September 2014 on the orders of the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), also known as the Mayor of Accra.

Mr Cobbinah (the 2011 Human Rights Defender Award recipient and 2009 GJA Best Health Reporter) who is a journalist and a producer with Multi TV had gone with a team to film the living conditions of the people of Mensah Guinea community. This was after the AMA had demolished their houses upon a three days notice, rendering them homeless. As a result some of those displaced including women and children, slept in the open for lack of alternative housing arrangements.

Whilst Mr Cobbinah and his team interacted with the displaced people to inquire of their state, the police arrived at the scene with orders from the Mayor of Accra to arrest Mr Cobbinah and his team. The police first arrested the driver who drove Mr Cobbinah and his team to the community; and while the team was at the police station to arrange for the bail of the driver, Mr Cobbinah was also arrested and kept in police custody for three hours.

According to the Mayor of Accra, Mr Cobbinah and his team had instructed the displaced residents to lie on the ground in batches in order to be filmed. By that act, the journalists intended to dent the image of the government and displayed a lack of professionalism. Mr Cobbinah has been charged with ‘offensive conduct’ and has been granted bail to appear before court by next week.

The action of the Mayor of Accra is an attempt to censor the media and stifle the right to information which International Human Rights Law as well as the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees. The Mayor of Accra is therefore requested to drop all charges against Mr Cobbinah.

This incident adds to the increasing attacks on journalists in Ghana; the most recent one occurring on Thursday, 11th September 2014, when a female editor and two reporters were assaulted by staff of the National Health Insurance Authority. On 5th September 2014, a reporter with the Daily Graphic newspaper was assaulted by a group of people allegedly linked to Mr Asamoah Gyan, the captain of the Black Stars. The assault was reported to have occurred shortly after the journalist asked a question at a press conference organised by the Ghana Football Association ahead of the Ghana-Uganda AFCON qualifier at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi.

Twitter hashtags: #offensiveconduct #pressfreedom  #pressfreedomGH

The Centre for Human Rights and the Department of Mercantile Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to a talk by Prof Nick Huls from Leiden University, The Netherlands on
‘Rwanda: Rule of Law in the Mist’.

Prof Nick Huls has worked for a couple of years in Rwanda with judges, prosecutors and legislative drafters. After explaining the title of his talk, he will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the core institutions of the Rwandan legal system.

Debates about post-genocide Rwanda are polarized: is it a dicatorship or an African miracle? Huls takes a position in the middle. In his socio-legal approach he analyzes some arena’s for legal change: the extradition court for genocide suspects to Rwanda; a reflexive legal academy; a vital legal aid movement; and Abunzi, a form of conflict resolution without lawyers.

Date: Monday 29 September 2014
Time: 09:30 - 10:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Lecture Room, Room 2-2.1, Second Floor, Faculty of Law (opposite the Centre for Human Rights), Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
Enquiries: Mr Happy Shabangu (+27 12 420 2363 / happy.shabangu@up.ac.za)

Tea and coffee will be served after the talk

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a public lecture by Navi Pillay.

Navi Pillay is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and will reflect on her time at the UN and discuss future human rights challenges.

Date: 3 October 2014
Time: 10:30 for 11:00
Venue: Senate Hall, Hatfield Campus, Lynnwood Road, Pretoria
RSVP: carole.viljoen@up.ac.za by 26 September

Enquiries: Carole Viljoen, 012 420 3810
GPS: 25°45’19.0”S 28°13’36.3”E

Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, held a Round Table to discuss the restoration of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal on 28 and 29 August 2014.

The Round Table was attended by different stakeholders including former judges of the SADC Tribunal; a former judge of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ); officials from the SADC Tribunal, EACJ and Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice; lawyers from private and academic practice and officials from the Department of Justice, South Africa; the South African Law Society; researchers; and members of civil society.

The objective of the Round Table was to discuss the implications of the adoption of a new Protocol by the SADC Summit.

Some of the concerns raised include:

  • The new Protocol will deprive the people of SADC access to the SADC Tribunal;
  • The new SADC Tribunal gives access only to states;
  • The abolition of individual access before the SADC Tribunal contradicts the global trend;
  • The processes of the negotiation and adoption of the new Protocol were done in a non-transparent manner and excluded SADC citizens and civil society organisations, contrary to the letter and spirit of the SADC Treaty.
  • The SADC Tribunal initially allowed access to its employees to settle their disputes with SADC as its employer,  but by abolishing individual access, employees no longer have any legal recourse.

During the two-day Round Table, the participants discussed the different concerns as well as possible stratgies to restore the SADC Tribunal. This resulted in a drafting of a statement, thereby leading to the adoption of a common statement.

The following resolutions are included in the concluding statement:

  • The Round Table urges the Heads of State and Government of SADC member states to reconsider their decision to suspend the SADC Tribunal and adopt the new Protocol.
  • The Round Table urges SADC citizens to reject and protest against the decisions of the Summit adopted from August 2010 to August 2014 regarding the SADC Tribunal.  This should be done through all lawful means, including petitioning national parliaments.
  • The Round Table calls on the SADC Heads of State and Government and all institutions of SADC, in consultation with all stakeholders as provided for in the SADC Treaty, to immediately embark on the revision of the SADC Treaty to
    • strengthen and democratise SADC institutions, including the SADC Secretariat;
    • establish a regional parliament with law-making powers; and
    • create a sub-regional court with adequate jurisdiction accessible to individuals.
  • The Round Table calls on the relevant SADC organs/institutions to ensure that the process of establishing a mechanism for the resolution of cases that had been pending before the SADC Tribunal is transparent and participatory, so as to involve the ‘people’ and ‘key stakeholders’ in line with article 23 of the SADC Treaty.
  • The Round Table resolves to collaborate and support the establishment of a Coalition for the Restoration of the SADC Tribunal, comprising stake holders in all SADC countries, to campaign against the ratification of the new Protocol and to explore and coordinate alternative strategies to restore individual access to the SADC Tribunal and to strengthen democracy and improve the rule of law within SADC.
  • The Round Table calls for the restoration of individual access so that an authentic sub-regional court, the SADC Tribunal, capable of responding to the particularities of the region, would be able to dispense justice to the people of the region.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to a talk by Prof Robert Wintemute from King’s College, London on ‘Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of Racial Discrimination Law: Is the Analogy with South African Apartheid Accurate?’

Prof Wintemute will deliver a presentation on his research on Palestinian human rights. His research focuses on seeking just solutions that could permit reconciliation between Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaker:  Prof Robert Wintemute, professor of human rights law, King’s College, London
Date: Tuesday 16 September 2014
Time: 10:30 - 11:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Lecture Room, Room 2-2.1, Second Floor, Faculty of Law (opposite the Centre for Human Rights), Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria

Enquiries: Dr Magnus Killander (+27 12 420 5407 / magnus.killander@up.ac.za)

The combined team from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and the Université Gaston Berger Saint-Louis du Sénégal , who argued for the Applicant are the winners of the 23rd African Human Rights Moot Court competition.The runners-up, arguing for the Respondent, are the teams from University of Pretoria, South Africa and Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d'Ivoire.

The winning team members are:

  • Eva Wangui Kimani, University Of Nairobi
  • Moreen Wanjiru Mwangi, University Of Nairobi
  • Mansour Fall, Université Gaston Berger De Saint Louis, Senegal
  • Marguerite Ounane Thiare, Université Gaston Berger De Saint Louis, Senegal

The runners-up are:

  • Alastair Dey Van Heerden, University Of Pretoria
  • Ralph Tinomutenda Chitambira, University Of Pretoria
  • Nadia Colette Wadja, Université Félix Huphouet Boigny Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
  • Yacouba Sylla Koita, Université Félix Huphouet Boigny Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Congratulations to the winners, runners-up and all the particpants!

The advanced short course titled 'The Right to Development in Africa'is the eight of ten short courses scheduled for presentation by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria in the current year. It ran from 25 to 29 August 2014 and was the result of a collaboration between the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Antwerp, Belgium and was supported by the Delegation of the Flemish Government in South Africa.

This intensive week-long programme attracted participants from all the regions of Africa as well as Europe. Experts in development thinking, both from Africa and Europe, provided fresh insights and approaches to the ‘controversial’ issues around the subject of ‘Right to Development.’

Some of the speakers were:

  • Prof Michelo Hasungunle (Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria)
  • Prof Wouter Vandenhole (University of Antwerp and UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights)
  • Dr Rita Ozoemena (Researcher, SAIFAC, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa)
  • Prof Cephas Lumina (Extra-ordinary Professor, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria)
  • Dr Donald Rukare (Chief Executive Officer, Governance and Policy Research Centre, Uganda)

The Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi is hosting the 23rd edition of the African Human Rights Moot Court competition.

This year, the competition will run from 1-6 September and is held in Nairobi, Kenya.

During the second and third day of the competition, student teams from various universities on the continent argue a hypothetical case before a panel of judges.

This year, due to the smaller number of teams that were registered, there will only be 2 Anglophone and 2 Francophone teams in the final. There will not be any Lusophone teams arguing in the final round.

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to the Pretoria Symposium on preventing atrocities and protecting civilians in Africaa

ALL MEANS NECESSARY: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THE DOCTRINE OF R2P AND THE ACTUAL PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT

Date: Thursday 18 September and Friday 19 September 2014
Time: 08:30 - 17:30 (both days)
Venue: Merensky Library Auditorium, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria

RSVP: Kindly confirm your attendance by Monday 15 September 2014 by sending an email to bright.nkrumah@up.ac.za
Enquiries Bright Nkrumah (bright.nkrumah@up.ac.za ) / Carole Viljoen (carole.viljoen@up.ac.za)

There is no registration fee but pre-registration is compulsory. Refreshments and lunch will be provided for the duration of the conference.

The Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi is hosting the 23rd edition of the African Human Rights Moot Court competition.

This year, the competition will run from 1-6 September and is held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The activites palnned for the first day of the competition inlcudes:

  • Registration of teams for preliminary rounds
  • Briefing session
  • Opening ceremony
  • Opening dinner

Documents:

The Centre for Human Rights is hosting a Roundtable where the restoration of the SADC Tribunal will be discussed.  This Roundtable is taking place on 28-29 August 2014 at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

At its most recent session, the SADC Summit adopted the new Protocol on the SADC Tribunal. The main difference between this Protocol and the previous version lies in article 33, which reads as follows: The Tribunal shall have jurisdiction on the interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States.

The effect of article 33 is to eliminate a previously existing competence of individuals to approach the Tribunal.

The South African government issued a statement on Ebola and travel bans in Africa on 21 August 2014. A lot of newspapers have reported wrongly on this travel ban. For the purpose of clarification, we post the official statement by the South African government.

Related links

Cabinet decision on Ebola

21 Aug 2014

The Cabinet met on 20 August 2014 and was presented with an update on the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

Cabinet noted with concern the extent of the outbreak and the increase of cases in three of these countries, i.e Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, over the last week. Cabinet recognised that even though the outbreak has been limited to these countries in West Africa, the spread to other countries need to be contained. Cabinet recognized that containing the outbreak at source will be essential and limit the spread and mortality caused by the disease to these particular parts of the world.

Cabinet noted that the Department of Health has taken measures in South Africa to enhance surveillance, distribute guidelines to all hospitals in public and private sectors, designate health facilities for the treatment of patients, deployed personal protective equipment (PPE) to designated facilities, conducted training, activated outbreak response teams and is operating a hotline for clinicians through the NICD.

An Experts’ Round Table on a proposed ‘Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa’ was held at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, on 21 and 22 of August 2014.

The Round Table is part of a consultative process, informing the elaboration of an African-specific treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. The threshold question about the desirability and feasibility of adopting such a treaty with the African Union was also considered against the background of the fact that the UN in 2006 adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 36 AU member states have become party to the CRPD.

The meeting was organised by the Centre for Human Rights and the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA), with participation of representatives from the African Union, relevant ministries, continental and sub-regional organizations of persons with disabilities, leaders of the disability movement from various African countries, parliamentarians, experts and researchers on disability as well as regional and international organisations. A total of some 50 participants from all over the continent participated in the discussion.

At the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014, Dr Sabelo Gumedze, an alumnus of the Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, was appointed as a member of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

The Master’s Programme proudly presented by the Centre for Human Rights has 401 professionals from 36 African countries, Spain and the United States of America. Graduates of the Alumni Association have over the years been involved in human rights advocacy on the continent and beyond. The alumni network has become visible throughout the human rights milieu in Africa with alumni working in the academia, civil society organisations, national and inter-governmental institutions at the sub-regional, regional and global level. Dr Sabelo Gumedze belongs to the alumni association.

The Centre for Human Rights would like to congratulate Prof Michelo Hansungule on being elected as a Commissioner on theInternational Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Prof Hansungule will be serving his second term as Commissioner following his election first in 2009 and then re-election in 2014.

The ICJ is composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, and aims to  promote and protect human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems.

Prof Hansungule is currently Professor of Human Rights Law at the Centre for Human Rights where he teaches on various Master's programmes and human rights courses. He has taught international human rights law at several universities worldwide including the University of Lund in Sweden, Mahidol University in Thailand, Essex University in the United Kingdom, University of Abo in Finland and University of Malta. He has taught in outreach programmes in over 48 African and non-African countries on human rights protection to judges, lawyers, governments and NGO officials.

African Union Press Statement: Advocacy Mission of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) on the situation of children in South Sudan (03-09 August, 2014)

The War on South Sudan’s children
(Juba, 08 August 2014)

1. The Committee has concluded that the present conflict can be characterised as nothing less than a war on the children of South Sudan. We have been exposed to an array of grave violations of their rights, which are interdependent and cumulative. These assault the very future of childhood  in South Sudan. The Committee has heard evidence that the impact of conflict of the last 8 months (since December 15) upon children is greater than in the entire 21 year period during which the war was ongoing. Moreover, the situation is deteriorating as I speak.

2, The following specific concerns have been brought to our attention and, seen together, are perilously close to constituting a crime against humanity that is being perpetrated against the children o South Sudan.

The advanced short course on The Role of Men & Boys in Achieving Gender Equality is currently in progress. The course runs from the 4 to 8 August 2014 at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. The course is presented by Sonke Gender Justice Network in partnership with the Centre for the study of AIDS and the Centre for Human Rights.

With over 30 participants drawn mostly from across Africa and expert facilitators in the field of gender justice, this year’s programme focuses on very germane issues which include: the challenges and opportunities of engaging men and boys in gender transformation in Africa; feminist critique to some approaches and interventions for engaging men and boys for gender equality, amongst other stimulating discussions.

Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo (Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Town) presented an interesting and engaging topic titled ‘Culture, tradition, religion and women’s human rights in Africa.’  He most brilliantly un-packed the dynamics around culture, identity, historical order and belief systems. Prof Nhlapo identified and interrogated the following components - gatekeepers (traditional leaders), contestations, dynamism and voluntariness as key features of culture.

The University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights is delighted to announce the signature of a funding contract with the Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria valued at NOK 11 million.

Spread over three years – from 2014 to 2016 – the grant is intended to help strengthen institutions in Africa dealing with governance, the rule of law and human rights in general.

In particular, the grant will support six related projects, to be undertaken by the Centre for Human Rights, namely:

  1. a series of one-week training courses aimed at strengthening the capacity of African institutions in the field of human rights;
  2. support to the Human Rights Clinics of the Centre, which aim to undertake advocacy and litigation before African institutions, to fully exploit the potential of these institutions;
  3. an annual colloquium of African experts on an aspect of democratic consolidation and regionalism in Africa;
  4. training in state reporting under the African Women’s Protocol and the creation of a web-based platform to further enhance this capacity through the exchange of information and experience;
  5. capacity building for the Master’s programme (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa), through support for partner institutions, strengthening the network and impact of graduates through the Alumni Association, and including support to regional institutions dealing with human rights by placing alumni as legal interns to strengthen the inadequate secretariats of these institutions;
  6. and a project on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, including support for the research conducted by Prof Christof Heyns, a professor of law at the Centre for Human Rights, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on this topic, and support for regional efforts on this thematic area.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in partnership with the US Embassy in Pretoria invites you to an LGBTI Forum
on Partnering with Straight Allies for Safe Schools and Communities

Guest speaker: Jody Huckaby (Executive Director of PFLAG)
Date: Friday 15 August 2014
Time: 12:00 for 13:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Classroom, Room 2-2.1, Law Building, University of Pretoria (Hatfield Campus)
A light lunch will be served

RSVP: carole.viljoen@up.ac.za by 13 August 2014

For too many LGBTI students, attending school can be a frightening experience. Many face harassment or mistreatment by colleagues or professors. These challenges are compounded in some cases by unsupportive families or friends back home. Come and discuss strategies for building allies in the straight community to make your school and community safer. Learn how to engage families, friends and fellow students in a constructive discussion about your identity and enlist them as supporters.

The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a Resolution on Freedom of Expression in Swaziland at its 16th Extraordinary Session held from 20 to 29 July 2014, in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda.

In this resolution, the Commission:

  1. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly as provided for in the African Charter, the UDHR, the ICCPR and other international and regional human rights instruments;
  2. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to take the necessary measures to stop all acts of harassment and intimidation carried out against human rights defenders and media practitioners working in the Kingdom of Swaziland and to respect and guarantee their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Centre for Human Rights is proud to announce that Adebayo Okeowo, an LLM student on the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa programme recently won the first prize in the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights (EIUC) Human Rights Global Campus Photo Competition. This annual amateur photography competition is open to current students and Alumni of the Regional Masters Programmes in Human Rights and Democratisation. 

Photographs submitted should illustrate the efforts to realise human rights and allow viewers to creatively reflect on ways forward.  This year the theme of the competition focused on “Migrants and community action” and the aim is to raise awareness on migrants’ rights and cooperation between people by demonstrating how collaboration, participation and trust can build and strengthen the community.

The Centre for Human Rights recently launched a Gender Audit Tool for gender inequality at higher education institutions in Africa. The tool, developed with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is designed to introspectively investigate the state of gender (in) equality at higher education institutions across Africa with a view to fostering greater gender parity.

The aim of this tool is to guide transformation and gender mainstreaming at the University of Pretoria, and should form part of the strategic plans of all departments and faculties, said Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights.

The launch took the form of a panel discussion and reflected on the value of tools such as the one developed by the Centre. In opening, Ms Patience Mushungwa, Executive Director for Human Capital and Management at the University of Pretoria, expressed her appreciation at the development of the tool in light of the recent institutional culture survey. She reiterated the need for a deeper introspection of the true state of inequality at UP and other higher education institutions as the mere reliance on numbers is not sufficient to indicate true transformation.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, learnt with great disappointment that Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu have been sentenced to terms of two years’ imprisonment each, without the option of a fine. The magazine and published were fined E100 000 (USD10 000). These sentences confirmed our worst fears. We therefore reiterate our call to the South African government to take diplomatic and other steps to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland to release Thulani and Bheki. We further urge the government to engage with the Swaziland government about its encroachment of free expression.

The crime these two men committed was to criticize the arbitrary conduct by a Judge – who happens to be the Chief Justice of the country. Using the offence of contempt of court to stifle and punish free expression is the hallmark of an undemocratic and closed state, which Swaziland undeniably is.  The conviction and harsh sentence should be understood within the broader political context, in which the rule of law has largely been replaced by royal rule, and in which the independence of the judiciary has been compromised.

An advanced short course on Children's Rights in Africa is currently underway at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. This course, which runs from 21 to 25 July, is being presented by the Centre for Human Rights, Save the Children International, the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape and the Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria.

The course brought together over 50 child rights researchers, practitioners and policy makers across Africa. The Course was facilitated by renowned African child rights experts including

  • Prof Benyam Mezmur, Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and Vice Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child;
  • Prof Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Chairperson of Children’s Rights in the Developing World, University of Leiden and Vice Chairperson of ACERWC;
  • Prof Ann Skelton, UNESCO Right to Education Chair and Director Centre for Child Law,
  • Prof Michelo Hansungule, Centre for Human Rights and
  • Prof Frans Viljoen, Director Centre for Human Rights.

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Mozambique, Ghana and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana. The advocacy visits were undertaken to dicuss the implementation of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law).

Mozambique

On 26 June 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Maputo, Mozambique. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the speedy adoption of the Mozambican Right to Information Bill, currently before Parliament, in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 3 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

On 8 and 9 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Media Institute of South Africa Tanzania (MISA-Tanzania), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The DOX campaign is a campaign for the repeal of laws on criminal defamation, sedition, insult and false news in Africa, led by the Special Rapporteur. The Centre for Human Rights acts as the secretariat of the campaign with members from several local, regional and international organisations working on freedom of expression.

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), together with the United Nations Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) of the OHCHR and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), hosted a multi-stakeholder dialogue on business and human rights at the University of Pretoria on 21 July 2014.

The aim of the dialogue was to bring stakeholders together from different backgrounds and representing different sectors. The event was attended by representatives from the United Nations, government, business, civil society, academia and communities. The dialogue also served to inform the agenda of a similar multi-stakeholder engagement scheduled for 16 – 18 September 2014, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, calls on the Government of South Africa to take suitable measures to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland to ensure that Thulani Maseko, a graduate of the University of Pretoria, be released from prison and not be sentenced to imprisonment.

Who is Thulani Maseko?

Thulani Maseko graduated with a Master’s degree in Human Rights from the University of Pretoria in December 2005. After graduation, he returned to Swaziland to work as a lawyer and human rights activist. He is also a senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights, Swaziland. In 2011 Thulani received the Vera Chirwa Award from the Centre for Human Rights awarded to a graduate who has made a significant difference to the protection of human rights in his or her home country.

An advanced short course on Civil Society Law in Africa is currently underway at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. This course, which runs from 14 to 18 July, is being presented by the Centre for Human Rights and the International Center For Not-For-Profit Law, Washington DC in the United States.

The objectives of the course are to strengthen capacity, in practice, to identify and analyse legal barriers to the right to freedom of association; to raise awareness of the challenges faced by civil society; and to foster efforts to respond to those threats. The course also aims to build a network of legal professionals working in the field and encourage collaborative efforts within such a network.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria invites you to the launch of ‘Gender Equality at Higher Education Institutions in Africa: A Gender Audit Tool’

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) will be launching a Gender Audit Tool developed towards the realisation of gender equality at higher education institutions across Africa. This Gender Audit Tool was developed with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is geared towards the contemplation of greater gender equality at higher education institutions across Africa. The tool will be disseminated to CHR partner universities and other universities across Africa.

The launch will take the form of a panel discussion on the general theme of “Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions across Africa.”

Date: Monday 28 July 2014
Time: 12:30 - 14:00
Venue: Merensky (Main Library) Auditorium, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
Enquiries: Yvonne Oyieke
+27 12 420 5449 / yvonne.oyieke@up.ac.za

Refreshments will be served.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Ms Sheila B Keetharuth, has released her latest report detailing the most prevalent and pressing human rights violations within the country.  A context of human rights violations is summarized, followed by a pinpointing of the main issues for concern, namely, the indefinite national service and arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention and inhumane prison conditions; these systematic human rights violations have produced a refugee crisis as hundreds and thousands flee the country.

Situated in a volatile region, the Special Rapporteur summarises Eritrea as living in state of constant combat preparedness, a state that is compromising human liberties. Grave human rights concerns beyond those listed above include extrajudicial killings, detention often preceded by torture, limitations on the freedom of movement, religion and opinion. Furthermore, intimidation of persons who leave the country is rife, and family members of the detained suffer ‘guilt by association’ and are often required to pay substantial fines for those family members that have left the country or are indefinitely detained. These are all widespread human rights violations continuing at unprecedented rates. The Special Rapporteur concludes by appealing to the Government of Eritrea and the international community to addresses these concerns, noting every individual’s right to be treated with humanity and dignity.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, applauds the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) decision to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and the setting up of a landmark Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Eritrea.

Resolution (A/HRC/26/L.6) renewing the mandate and assigning the COI to investigate the human rights situation in Eritrea for a period of one year was adopted without a vote at the close of the 26th UNHRC regular session on 27 June 2014.

Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, expressed the hope that “the Human Rights Council's decision would not only increase the possibility for international engagement, but also see to an actual improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea. I congratulate the Special Rapporteur and her team of researchers at the Centre, for their dedicated work”.

On 19 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with MISA-Malawi and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Lilongwe, Malawi on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi. The meeting discussed the modalities for the implementation of the Plan of Action which was developed at an earlier meeting that took place on 19 and 20 March 2014 also in Lilongwe Malawi.

The initial meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Malawi, with a view to creating a shared understanding of the utility of access to information for the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invites you to a seminar on ‘Failed peacemaking in Sudan and South Sudan: Persistent and new wars 10 years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement’

Three years after independence South Sudan is again at war. At this seminar Dr Sharath Srinivasan (University of Cambridge) will share his insights into the conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan based on his extensive research in the region for over a decade.

The LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa is a unique programme to which 25-30 individuals from African countries are admitted. The programme is presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

In the spirit of mutual exchange aimed at strengthening the links between the regional human rights master’s programmes, and following the positive experience of the EMA programme in this area, the African Human Rights Master’s Degree introduced an amateur photography competition on human rights and democratisation in 2009.               

Students of the LLM/MPhil Programme took part in this competition, whose aim it is to promote the ideals of human rights and democratisation through still pictures. Only currently enrolled students of the LLM/MPhil programme may take part in this competition; only photographs taken during the 2014 field trips may be submitted.

The Unaccompanied children of Eritrea: a plea for collective responsibility

As the African continent celebrates the Day of the African Child, 16 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria, focuses on the plight of unaccompanied children fleeing from a militarised society that is destabilising the social fabric of the country. Thousands of unaccompanied minors take risky journeys across the borders into Ethiopia, Sudan and further afield.

The Children of Eritrea: No escape from the military

Eritrea’s circumstances are unusual as the country is not at war but the society is highly militarised. The continuing border dispute with neighbouring Ethiopia is cited as the key reason for the prevailing condition that Eritrea terms as ‘no war-no peace’. Eritrea uses this situation to impose a conscription programme that is both forced and indefinite, spawning a constant exodus of refugees out of the county. Youth below 18 years of age often refer to the fear of military service as one of the main factors pushing them to escape.

A grave concern for children in Eritrea is the militarisation of education. Military service is compulsory for all Eritreans and the education system is tailored to prepare children for this unending duty. Since 2003, secondary school students spend their final year (Grade 12) at the Sawa Military Training Camp. In Sawa, the year begins with a three-month period of military training, followed by an academic programme. Upon completion of Grade 12, children attend compulsory national service. A portion of school-leavers get admitted into vocational colleges that were created following the closure of the University of Asmara. However, for the vast majority of the children it means reporting for military service. Should any child refuse to undergo military training in their final year, they are denied a school leaving certificate and access to further education, which is a denial of children’s right to education.

There are other push factors forcing children to cross borders, often without the knowledge of their families. The children cite lack of educational opportunities, their difficult family circumstances and the problems faced in child-headed households owing to the long absence of their parents, who, as soldiers, were either serving in the military, detained or in exile. Eritrea also represses freedom of thought and religion, and reports persist of children being arbitrarily detained with their parents for practicing a religion not recognised by the authorities in Eritrea. 

For Eritrean children these realities are so distressing that they risk crossing the border to seek better opportunities as refugees. However, conditions are tough, with limited space and resources, posing protection challenges to the agencies running the refugee camps. While they cross international borders to seek a better future, the unaccompanied and separated children face more struggles. They find that the prevailing conditions are far from what they imagined. As a result, some of them try to move to other destinations, seeking to reunite with relatives. Their vulnerability cannot be stressed enough, as they are at high risk of all kinds of exploitation and abuse, including being abducted into human trafficking rings.

The plight of separated and unaccompanied children in the camps in Ethiopia and Sudan requires the attention of all, and more specifically that of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Eritrea signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1994, and is party to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) since 2000. However, the country is yet to adopt specific legislation exclusively addressing the rights of the child.

The CHR stresses how crucial a time it is for countries receiving Eritrean unaccompanied and separated children to fully apply the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in Dealing with Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum, and Guidelines on Protection and Care of Refugee Children. These instruments should be used as a matter of course in dealing with unaccompanied and separated children to help provide stronger protection because of the vulnerability of these children.

The CHR reminds all that it is only through collective responsibility and action that children’s rights can be guaranteed. The CHR calls on:

  • (i) Eritrea to dissociate military training from secondary education and provide for comprehensive and quality education for children;
  • (ii) Countries neighbouring Eritrea to fully apply the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in Dealing with Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum, and Guidelines on Protection and Care of Refugee Children;
  • (iii) The international community to promote inter-country cooperation in establishing secure channels of migration from Eritrea to counter illicit practices of human smuggling and trafficking;
  • (iv) The African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to stress on Eritrea the need to uphold the best interests of Eritrean children by eliminating factors that make children flee their country and turn them into refugees. 

SABC Newsroom Interview with Dr Martin Nsbirwa

SABC Newsroom interview with Dr Martin Nsibirwa on the plight of the children of Eritrea. (17 June 2014)
(Interview starts at 33:26)

Background to the Day of the African Child

The Day of the African Child, is an initiative of the Organisation of African Union (OAU), now African Union (AU), and has been celebrated since 1991 to commemorate the 1976 Soweto Uprising which saw school children take to the streets in opposition to a poor quality and racially discriminatory education system that existed under the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa at the time. Every year on June 16 we are reminded of the more than 100 children killed by security forces during the Soweto Uprisings and the thousands who were injured.

Today we are reminded not only of the passion and resilience of the children, but also of their vulnerability —a vulnerability we have a collective responsibility to address in a spirit of protection.  

This year’s theme of the ACRWC is ‘A child friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa’.

We bring particular awareness to the plight of Eritrea’s children, whose right to education is negatively affected by military training and policies of the Eritrean government.

On 4 and 5 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, held an experts meeting on the draft state reporting guidelines for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (Democracy Charter) in Pretoria, South Africa.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise on human rights, democracy and election issues, to review the current draft State Reporting Guidelines, with a view to facilitating the domestication and implementation of the Democracy Charter by Member States. Participants included government officials, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), Regional Economic Communities, (RECs), academics and civil society organisations focusing on issues of democracy, human rights and governance from across the continent.

Statement: Centre for Human Rights calls for the acquittal and immediate release of Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Bheki Makhubu

The Centre for Human Rights expresses dismay at the arrest of MessrsThulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, by the Royal Swaziland Police Service on 17 and 18 March 2014, and their continued detention. Mr Maseko is a Swazi human rights lawyer and graduate of the Centre’s Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa; Mr Bheki Makhubu is the editor of the New Nation magazine.

According to news reports, Mr Maseko is charged with “scandalising the judiciary and contempt of court”. Mr Maseko’s arrest arises out of his exercise of freedom of expression through newspaper articles that he has authored, including articles critical of the continued retention of Mr Michael Ramodibedi, the man who ordered Mr Maseko’s arrest, as Chief Justice of Swaziland. It should be noted that the Chief Justice resigned from the Judiciary of Lesotho amidst impeachment charges on 22 April 2014.

The Centre for Human Rights regards these charges as orchestrated measures to shut down the voice of democracy even in violation of the Constitution of Swaziland.

This is not the first time Mr Maseko has been arrested and detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression. In 2009 he was arrested, detained and charged with subversive activities. However, his trial was never brought to finality. Our concern is that his arrest and detention is aimed more at intimidating him and others, than at instituting a case against him that will withstand a fair and open trial before an impartial and independent judge. In his statement of 5 June 2014, Mr Thulani Maseko stated that ‘[f]rom the very first day we appeared before this Court, we entertained a reasonable apprehension that this Court has not brought an impartial and unprejudiced mind to the resolution of the matter. We have been ambushed from day one, right to the end.’

The Centre for Human Rights is particularly concerned:

  • that the two detainees have been denied access to a lawyer;
  • that, when they were brought before the same Chief Justice, the proceedings were held in chambers and therefore closed to the public;
  • that the refusal to grant them bail has resulted in the continued detention of Messrs Maseko and Makhubu, for what is arguably a relatively minor offence, even if proven by the state.

Swaziland’s national and international obligations include:

  • The Swaziland Constitution (of 2005), provides for the rights of persons deprived of their personal liberty (in article 16): legal representation of their choice, trial without delay, and unconditional release under reasonable conditions.
  • Swaziland is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), which guarantees the right to a fair trial.
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Union monitoring body over the Charter, has indicated that the right to be released on bail, the right to counsel and to a public trial are all guaranteed as part of article 7 of the Charter.

Mr Maseko is a graduate of the Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (2005) from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Since completing his studies, Mr Maseko has distinguished himself as a committed advocate for human rights and democratisation in Swaziland. In 2011 he received the Vera Chirwa Award, in recognition of his unwavering support for human rights and democratisation efforts in Swaziland.

Mr Maseko has the full support of the Alumni Association of the Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. These 401 women and men are active across the full spectrum of human rights professionals in Africa, from grassroots, through civil society, the civil service (including cabinet), the Police, Military and judiciary, national legislature, academia, and to the African Union and the United Nations. This new generation of African human rights lawyers represent the values of excellence and ubuntu and work together to engender a culture of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms across the African continent.

The Centre for Human Rights calls on the government of Swaziland to abide by its international human rights obligations, under the African Charter and other international instruments, and:

  • ensure immediate and unhindered access of the two men to legal counsel;
  • allow the two detainees to argue for their release on bail without delay, which should be considered on reasonable and judicial grounds;
  • ensure that any further proceedings take place in public; and
  • refrain from instituting prosecutions merely with the purpose of intimidation persons critical of the government, or to stifle free expression.
  • Review its Constitution to create an enabling environment for democratic governance.

Noting that the verdict on the charges is due in the upcoming days, the Centre for Human Rights strongly calls on the Swaziland Judiciary to acquit both Mr Thulani Maseko and Mr Bheki Makhubu on all charges.

Related articles:

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in association with the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre invites you to a public screening of ‘PARAGRAPH 175’

During the Nazi regime, there was widespread persecution of homosexual men and women. Thousands were murdered in concentration camps. Paragraph 175 – a powerful and disturbing documentary, narrated by Rupert Everett – presents for the first time the largely untold testimonies of those who survived.

Venue:    Law Auditorium(1-54), Law Building , UP
Date:       Friday, 6 June 2014
Time:       12:00 - 14:00

Entrance is free. No RSVP necessary.

On the occasion of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), on Saturday 17 May 2014, the Centre for Human Rights is pleased to host the photographic exhibition In Whom Can I Still Trust?. The exhibition aims to highlight the progress made, and challenges faced, in ensuring the protection of sexual minorities in South Africa.

The exhibition was officially opened a on Friday 16 May in a ceremony in the Faculty of Law, at the University of Pretoria. The opening included a message from the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, delivered by Ms Janine Cohen; a speech by Mr Richard Freedman, Director of the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation; and a welcome message from Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights. An inspiring and uplifting keynote address was delievered the famous South African human rights activist and social commentator Sisonke Msimang.


The exhibition includes archive photographs, personal testimonies and video clips detailing the largely untold history of homosexual oppression in Nazi Germany. It relates the historical narrative to the prejudices that still exist today through additional panels prepared by the Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA) and the screening of the South African version of the global “It Gets Better” advocacy campaign.

As the world commemorates IDAHOT, the Centre for Human Rights would like to highlight the ongoing struggle and repression of Africans on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and their work related to these areas. Human development in Africa, and especially the right to health, have suffered significant set-backs due to recent legal and other moves to outlaw and criminalise same-sex relationships, often fuelled by the inflammatory utterances of political and religious leaders.

The Centre continues to urge African political leaders to create the necessary space for a full and informed discussion of consensual same-sex adult relationships, mindful of obligations under international human rights treaties and the human rights provisions enshrined in many African Constitutions. We renew our call to law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to respect and uphold the rights of all persons including those of same-sex orientation and persons who work with them.

The Centre commends the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for adopting, at its last session, the first resolution on sexual orientation and gender identities, directed at African governments, entitled ‘Resolution on the Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity’.

The Centre for Human Rights invites the wide public to view this this timely exhibition, as a personal tribute to courage and resilience in the face of senseless and often brutal oppression. It gives pause for reflection on the lives of many who have suffered, and an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the daily struggle of those who live with institutionalised discrimination on the basis of their sexuality.

In Whom Can I Still Trust? will be on display at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria from 16 May until 13 June 2014. It will feature an ancillary programme, including a film screening  of ‘A love to Hide’ on Friday 30 May 2014 and a panel discussion to which all media are invited to attend. Further details will be provided.

As part of its Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC) programme, the Centre for Human Rights presents a one-week intensive course on the protection of sexual minorities in Africa, aimed at government officials, academics, legal practitioners and members of civil society (‘mainstream’ NGOs and others who may need
information, awareness raising, and capacity on issues involved).

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Prof Dan Connell, a visiting scholar from Boston University’s African Studies Centre and senior lecturer in journalism and African Politics at Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, has raised concern about the forced migration and human trafficking situation in Eritrea. He highlighted the grave situation in Eritrea during an open lecture titled ‘Eritreans at risk: Refugees, migrants or migrating refugees?’ hosted by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria as part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness on the human rights situation in Eritrea. The lecture was aimed at situating the refugee and migrant problem in Eritrea in the global discourse on causes, consequences and responses to forced migration and human trafficking.

Prof. Connell has written seven books and numerous articles on the human rights situation in Eritrea since 1976.

Eritrea has been under a harsh dictatorship since 2001. The 1997 Constitution has not yet come into force and this means that most of the rights and freedoms are restricted. Many Eritreans therefore cross the border in search of a better life abroad. Unfortunately, many fall victim to human traffickers, who exploit and torture them for ransoms from family members. According to Connell, ‘human trafficking has become a contagious disease, so lucrative, it attracts many new copycats and there is now a huge network of trafficking through the Sahel region.’

‘The ransom demands are as high as US$40,000, a significant amount for poor Eritreans. Once the ransom is paid they are released and left to die in the Sahara or drown trying to cross the Mediterranean. Those who manage to get to their countries of refuge are either attacked as foreigners or threated with mass detention in countries like Egypt,’ he said.

The national service is the main driver of the migration problem in Eritrea. Eritrea is classified as a ‘no peace, no war’ situation as a result of the border dispute with Ethiopia.

Unlike other refugee camps which are often populated by women, children and the disabled, the refugee camps that Prof. Connell visited are populated by young men and women fleeing the national service. Although the national service was initially for a period of 18 months, it was extended indefinitely. The number of migrants increases every year. Eritrea is now classified as the largest producer of refugees per capita. ‘Eritrea was not always like this. Many people were flowing back into the country after the liberation struggle. The liberation movement was remarkable in its commitment for social transformation with its focus on education and health. As a result, it enjoyed popular support. However with the attainment of independence, the government became repressive after the border dispute in 2000. Soon after the dispute, the government began to crack down on opposition and restrict freedoms of movement and expression. Thousands of young people were rounded up for the national service which although was initially popular became a symbol of indefinite servitude. Eritrea now competes with North Korea and Turkmenistan for lowest human rights rankings,’ said Connell.

Prof Connell pointed out that the human trafficking and forced migration problem will only be resolved once the political situation in Eritrea changes and the national service is for a definite period. This would mean that Eritreans stop trying to escape and only leave using legal means.

Related link:

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to the book launch of Socio­‐Economic Rights in South: Symbols or Substance? The publication is edited by Malcolm Langford, Ben Cousins, Jackie Dugard and Tshepo Madlingozi.

Former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa,  Zak Jacoob will be the guest speaker at the book launch. The book launch forms part of the Judicial Enforcement of Socieo-Economic Rights in South Africa course, presented by the Advanced Human Rights Courses at the Centre for Human Rights.

The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), an initiative of 43 organizations working across 23 countries in Africa to promote and protect women’s rights in Africa, strongly condemns discriminatory provisions of Kenya’s 2013 Matrimonial Property Act and the Marriage Bill (pending presidential assent).

The Matrimonial Property Act, which was duly gazetted into law on 10th January 2014, is discriminatory and a retrogressive step for women's rights to land and property in Kenya. The Act, in brief, defines matrimonial property as only property that is jointly owned by the spouse, and disallows women the right to marital property upon the death or divorce of their spouse by requiring them to prove their contribution to the acquisition of the property during the marriage.

Because few Kenyan women own or jointly own property with their spouses, and given that many Kenyan women do not work in paid employment, many are unable to contribute financially in the acquisition of matrimonial property. In effect the Act strips women of rights to family property, including the very homes in which they and their children live in, when they are unable to prove financial contribution. Christine Ochieng, Executive Director of Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA-K) has noted that “the issue of proving contribution is irrelevant because the Constitution does not talk about proof of contribution; the Constitution talks about equality at the dissolution of marriage. And it should be 50-50 automatically.” Frances Raday, head of the of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice warned that “women will effectively have no security of tenure, or place to live with their children if their husband leaves them or dies, which will also increase their risk of experiencing violence…The passage of the Act will have a detrimental impact on the right to food, the right to adequate housing and the right to an adequate standard of living for Kenyan women, children and communities.”

Kenya’s troubling legislative trend did not cease there. In late March 2014, Kenyan MPs voted to include a provision in the new Marriage Bill that formally permits polygamy, but omits the critical long existing cultural context that permitted first wives to weigh in or veto a husband’s choice. In effect, the new clause permits men in Kenya to take as many wives as they desire without wife’s consent, violating the Constitution and undermining the rights of women. The proposed concept of polygamy under the Marriage Bill is extremely demeaning to Kenyan women and waters down the gains the country has made against inequality. Instead of indoctrinating archaic notions of patriarchy that perpetuate a culture of violence and discrimination against women, it is imperative that the prevailing legal framework adequately protects a woman’s right to assert control over her own life and family circumstances.

These two pieces of legislation are retrogressive in nature and in clear violation of Kenya’s 2010 constitution, which gives significant prominence to human rights and international law, and entrenches the rights and fundamental freedoms of all, including the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. They are also contrary to Kenya’s legal obligations embodied in regional and international instruments. Kenya has ratified – and thus is bound by - the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (“the Maputo Protocol”), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Article 2 of the Maputo Protocol underscores Kenya’s affirmative duty to combat all forms of discrimination against women, which includes ensuring the principle of equality between women and men in its legal framework and ensuring its effective application. Article 6 of the Maputo Protocol discourages polygamy and underscores the importance of equality in marriage, especially in polygamous relationships, which includes mutual agreement – and the right of a married woman to acquire and manage her own property freely. The protection of these rights can only occur when women are given the right to have a say and bearing on decisions that will affect their lives and families, including the decision to take on an additional wife. Article 7(d) of the Maputo Protocol obligates Kenya to ensure that in the event of divorce or separation, parties “have the right to an equitable sharing of the joint property deriving from the marriage.” Further, the Maputo Protocol requires Kenya to guarantee the right to inherent human dignity and the protection of her human and legal rights (Article 3), the right to access to justice and equal protection before the law (Article 8), the right for women to live in a positive cultural context and participate in the determination of cultural policies (Article 17), the right to sustainable development (Article 19) and inheritance rights (Article 21).

Further underscoring the discriminatory nature of the Marriage Bill, the CEDAW committee, in General Recommendation 21, condemned polygamy by asserting that “polygamous marriage contravenes a woman’s right to equality with men, and can have such serious emotional and financial consequences for her and her dependents that such marriages ought to be discouraged and prohibited.”

SOAWR therefore calls on:

  • i. His Excellency The President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta to listen to and protect the majority of this country’s citizens - women - and refrain from signing the Marriage Bill into law, and allow for a review of the untenable provisions, guided by the spirit and letter of the Constitution and the obligations of the state under the Maputo Protocol.
  • ii. The Kenyan Parliament to repeal discriminatory and unconstitutional provisions from the 2013 Matrimonial Property Act to ensure that women have equal rights and opportunity before the law.

About the SOAWR Coalition:
SOAWR is working to ensure that the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa remains on the agenda of policy makers and to urge all African leaders to safeguard the rights of women
through ratification and implementation of the Protocol.

Members of the Coalition: BURKINA FASO: Voix de Femmes; BURUNDI: Collectif des Associations et ONGs Féminines de Burundi; CAMEROON: Women’s Advocacy and Communication Network, Women Peace Initiatives Association; DJIBOUTI: Union Nationale des Femmes de Djibouti; EGYPT: Association of Egyptian Female Lawyers; ETHIOPIA: Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children; THE GAMBIA: African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies; GHANA: African Women’s Development Fund; GUINEA: Cellule de Coordination sur les PratiquesTraditionellesAffectant la Santé des Femmes et des Enfants; KENYA: African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Coalition on Violence against Women, Equality Now (Secretariat), Ipas Africa Alliance for Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights, FAHAMU Networks for Social Justice, Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya, Oxfam GB, Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, Tomorrow’s Child Initiative, Women Direct; LIBERIA: Women of Liberia Peace Network, Women NGO’s Secretariat of Liberia; MALAWI: NGO Gender Coordination Network; MALI: Association des JuristesMaliennes; MOZAMBIQUE: Forum Mulher; NAMIBIA: Sister Namibia; NIGERIA: Alliances for Africa, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Human Rights Law Service, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternatives; SENEGAL: Inter-African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development, (FAHAMU Networks for Social Justice); SOUTH AFRICA: People Opposing Women Abuse, University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights; SOUTH SUDAN: Steward-Organisation; SUDAN: Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA); TANZANIA: Legal and Human Rights Centre; UGANDA: Action for Development, Akina Mama waAfrika, Centre for Justice Studies and Innovations, Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, (SIHA), Uganda Women’s Network; ZAMBIA: Women and Law Southern Africa, Women in Law and Development in Africa; ZIMBABWE: Girl Child Network Media Contact:

South Africa’s Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, delivered a public lecture at the Centre for Human Rights. The event was organised by the Centre for Human Rights to mark 15 years of the Master’s degree programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. The programme is presented by the Centre for Human Rights and 13 other African universities. At the ceremony, the Centre for Human Rights also remembered an alumnus of the programme Mr Julius Osega who passed away in 2006 while on a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. More than 200 guests attended the public lecture. 

Human Rights Day is an opportunity for stock-taking and an occasion for celebration. In the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, we should not lose sight of the very fact that all South Africans are now able to vote in a legitimate process under circumstances that are largely free of violence and intimidation. The Public Protector’s recent report on Nkandla also serves as a reminder that our democracy has brought into being strong institutions, which support the transformation of our society from one based on unquestionable adherence to executive and legislative authority to one based on a culture of justification.

On this day, we also recall the unfortunate events of Sharpeville, on 21 March 1960. The choice of this date as ‘Human Rights Day’ underlines that effective human rights protection is not a given, but is born from and needs to be sustained through constant struggle and vigilance. It is unacceptable that many South Africans still live in dire conditions, which constitute a violation of their constitutionally guaranteed socio-economic rights.

As South Africans, we should on this day also reflect on the serious violations of human rights in many part of our continent, often due to violence and state repression. It is important that the South African government should be guided in its foreign policy by the light of the Constitution. It should for example be more outspoken in its concern about the effects of the draconian laws on homosexuality adopted recently by Nigeria and Uganda. Restrictions on free expression is among many of the other issues affecting human rights on the continent. The Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria is currently involved in an amicus curiae brief before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights concerning the detention of a journalist under laws restricting freedom of expression. The Centre is further very concerned about the arrest and on-going detention of one of the its alumni, Thulani Maseko, for criticising the judiciary of his country, Swaziland.

The Centre for Human Rights hosted a meeting of experts on child marriage in Africa on the 5th and 6th of March 2014. This meeting forms part of the child marriage project which seeks to investigate the prevalence of this phenomenon in African countries, and to give recommendations on best practices that can be employed to curb it. This project supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA) especially to follow up on the implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa by state parties, notably by preparing reports on the situation of women’s rights in Africa and propose recommendations to be adopted by the Commission. The Special Rapporteur is further mandated to carry out comparative studies on the situation of the rights of women in various countries of Africa.

The meeting brought together regional experts from 10 countries which form part of this study, as well as 10 country researchers contracted to compile country reports which will form part of the final regional report. The countries focused on for this study are Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda. These countries were chosen for their collective high prevalence rates in early and forced marriages, as well as to offer some examples in terms of best practices that may be employed, regionally in the fight against early and forced marriages. Also in attendance were representatives from the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), whose input was very helpful in framing some conceptual considerations. It is hoped that ultimately the report will be adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The women’s rights clinic which forms part of the Master’s program in human rights and democratization in Africa is also involved in the development of General Comments enumerating states obligations with respect to the elimination of harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriage, under the Women’s Protocol to the African Charter. A draft was shared at the meeting for comments and input and it is envisioned that through the expertise present at this meeting, the Comments shall be finalised and presented to the African Commission for adoption at the session later in the year.

It was a productive and engaging meeting that brought to the fore practical considerations and possible interventions that may be employed in the drive to eradicate harmful traditional practices including child marriage. Some recommendations made include naming the practice child unions and not a forced marriage as the necessary consent to marriage can never be present between a minor and an adult. It was also recommended that the ACERWC be closer involved in the development of this report, alongside the SRRWA as the issue relates primarily to the girl child. A firm commitment was made for future collaboration in the development of the report as well as in the completion of the General Comments. Further updates shall be made available.

On 11 February 2014, Professor Jonathan Jansen, the Vice Principal and Rector of University of the Free State, addressed a gathering to welcome 26 African students from all over the continent who are at the University of Pretoria to pursue a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. The Master’s programme to which the students are admitted is presented by 13 African universities under the stewardship of the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. The event was attended by donors, members of the diplomatic corps, senior management of the University of Pretoria, students and members of the public.

In his speech titled “Nearness as an approach to solving human wrongs,” Professor Jansen spoke about the key qualities to which leaders should aspire. He noted that leadership is often mistaken for toughness. This misconceived idea of leadership is pervasive on the African continent and creates more problems than it solves.

Professor Jansen said that leadership must be about being close to the people that one leads. Those who are led would be more understanding if a leader showed closeness even when things are not going well. Good leadership should be about being empathetic, allowing oneself to feel what those she or he leads feel. Being accessible was a very important quality for leaders because that is why people appoint them or elect leaders into office. True leadership, he said, requires listening more than talking. Professor Jansen emphasised that proper leadership involves paying attention not only to those who are succeeding in society but being particularly aware and in touch with the most needy in society. True leadership is about sacrifice and not about self-enrichment.

The 2014 Master’s Class consists of 13 women and 13 men from 15 African countries. The students were admitted to the programme following a very intensive selection process.

Having started with its first intake in 2000, the Master’s programme in 2014 marks 15 years of existence. The number of graduates of the programme stands at 402, drawn from 42 countries. The alumni of the programme work in academia, civil service, national and international non-governmental organisations, international organisations such as the African Union Commission and the United Nations.

The programme is funded by the European Union, the German Academic Exchange Services, Open Society Foundation and benefits indirectly from funding from the Flemish Delegation and Norwegian Government.

On 7 May 1971 – in the windswept sandstorm region of the Sahel, a male child was born in Southern Burkina Faso in the town of Ouessa to a farmer whose selfless character was to be a notable virtue in his son. Though born to a humble beginning, this child in his early years had the resilience of a baobab. Against the ebbs and flows of the semi-arid region of his birth, he would go with his father to their farm to cultivate crops. One day, as he helped his father with tomato plants, his father told him that whatever you do, do it to the fullest. Though it had seemed like a statement that would pass with the wind, this child took it to heart. Through seasons of drought and moments of rain as this child matured into a man, those words sunk in his heart.. 

During his years as an undergraduate student at the University of Ouagadougou, he was part of a youth wing of the national movement for human rights. He graduated in 1997 and in 1999 became a public law jurist in the Parliament of Burkina Faso. As a jurist, he was involved in various significant activities, one of which was: monitoring the compliance of draft bills with the government’s international obligations. But as a man who knew to do things to the fullest, his perspective was always wider than the enclave of the sand-swept country of his birth. He wanted to do more, to press for change beyond his country. So in 2003, he applied for the Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. 

It is no mean fit for someone from a francophone country with full education in French to aspire unto one of the most demanding Masters Programme. But this man did and with resilience, he shone. Being the first and only student from Burkina Faso, his courage in coming in spite of the challenges ahead of him was remarkable. While everyone else took away with them a degree, he took away twice as much. He took with him fluency in a second language that flung open the doors of his life.

When he graduated in 2004, he was prepared to be a leading voice of change and having been well equipped to do so, he began with resilience. In 2005, he joined the United Nations – an institution often criticised for crooning the tunes of good governance but not doing enough. While it is easy to overlook people working in this system unless they are at the very top, one cannot help but notice this man who through hardship as made a difference. He has shown that he is not just a clog in the wheel but someone determined to make a personal contribution. Someone prepared to make a lasting difference. Someone prepared to do things to the fullest. 

From Sierra Leone to Chad, to Cote D’Ivoire to Mali – countries with fragile democracies, this man has made a difference, protecting the rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children. In Sierra Leone, he designed and implemented a capacity-building project for local governments on “Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law”. In Chad, he was involved in monitoring, investigating and documenting human rights violations. He chaired inter-agency meetings on child protection and participated in joint government-United Nations visits to military bases to ensure that children are not in the bases as soldiers. In July of 2010, he joined the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire where he was involved in several activities, one of which was ensuring that UN Agencies adopt a rights-based approach in their programmes and operations. During the post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire, he was involved in human rights and peace-keeping activities. While the rest of the world slept soundly, he was awake, keeping the peace.

One afternoon in Abidjan, following the bombing of a local market, he was requested to investigate the crisis for a report to the United Nations Security Council. While many other colleagues refused to join him in apprehension, he was not deterred. Although the convoy he was in was shot at and he could have lost his life, he did not quit. This man has sacrificed not only his time but also his resources. With the yearning to do more, in 2010, he established the Citizens Information and Documentation Center in his home country. He was driven by the belief that an informed citizenry is well placed to participate in the orderings of society. 

In recognition of his sacrifice, commitment and passion for the advancement of human rights on our continent, the 2013 Vera Chirwa Award was presented to Mr Augustin Kounkiné Somé.

 

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On 10 December 2014, the University of Pretoria held a graduation ceremony for students from the Masters programmes offered by the Centre for Human Rights and the Faculty of Law in the University of Pretoria. There were also some doctoral candidates who graduated on this occasion. The Graduation Ceremony marked the 15th Graduation Ceremony of students from the Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa offered by the Centre for Human Rights. Each year, the Centre's human rights students graduate on International Human Rights Day (10 December 2014).

Ms Philina Wittke, Head of the DAAD South Africa Information Center delivered the keyonote speech.

The 6th Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition was held in Geneva, Switzerland from 8 to 10 December 2014. Established in 2009, the main objective of the competition is to bring together students, law professors and human rights lawyers from different legal systems to debate and discuss contemporary cross-cutting human rights issues. The competition is organised in collaboration with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

After being held in Pretoria for the 5 past years, the United Nations Offices in Geneva hosted the Competition for the first time in 2014. The executors of the estate of the late President Nelson Mandela granted permission for the competition to be named after the great statesman and human rights icon, Nelson Mandela (the event was previously simply called ‘World Human Rights Moot Court Competition’).

The Sixth Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition will be held from 8 to 10 December 2014, at Palais des Nations in Geneva, and will bring together 45 participants from 15
universities in 12 countries, representing all 5 United Nations regions of the world.

Teams from universities in the following countries have qualified to participate in the final round of the 6th World Human Rights Moot Court Competition, which will for the first time be called the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition: Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya,  Singapore, Slovenia, Poland, Switzerland and South Africa.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, has welcomed a decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the case of Konaté v Burkina Faso to rule that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression and that criminal defamation laws should only be used in restricted circumstances.

The highest court in Africa, in its judgement handed down on 5 December 2014, in Addis Ababa, sent a strong message that governments may not use severe criminal penalties to stifle public debate and reporting on matters of public interest.

On 8 and 9 December 2014, the Centre for Human Rights hosted a Colloquium on the theme ‘Sexual Minority Rights: Charting the Way Forward’. 

This event comes in the wake of the adoption of increasingly repressive laws in many African countries (such as The Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda), on the one hand, and the adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights of its first resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), on the other. Speakers at the Colloquium touched upon the situation pertaining to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexed (LGBTI) persons in Southern, West/Central and Eastern Africa. 

On 12 and 13 November 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Media Institute of Southern Africa Zambia (MISA-Zambia), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Lusaka, Zambia.

The meeting brought together civil society organisations working on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression in Zambia, government representatives, representatives of media houses and journalists. At the meeting, participants discussed some of the various criminal laws restricting freedom of expression and how they had been applied by courts in Zambia, the impact of these laws on media freedom, and most importantly the proposed draft bill on decriminalisation of defamation and strategies on how to assure its passage in Parliament.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a National Plan of Action to guide further action towards the repeal of laws criminalising freedom of expression in Zambia.

On 13 November 2014, the Special Rapporteur led a delegation that met with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, Mr Bert M. Mushala, to discuss the need for the government of Zambia to review laws that criminalise free speech.The Special Rapporteur took the opportunity, on behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to present her condolences to the government of Zambia and its people on the death of President Michael Sata.

In between these two meetings, the Special Rapporteur had a number of interviews with public and private media. The Special Rapporteur was a guest on Morning Show on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) - the public broadcaster, where she briefly talked about the continental campaign led by her office, to decriminalise laws that limit freedom of expression.

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) Class of 2014: Graduation Ceremony

During an intensive one-year course, students on this programme are taught by eminent lecturers in the field of human rights and gain invaluable practical exposure. It is the only course of its kind in Africa.

The Gender Unit of the Centre for Human Rights organised a 3-day workshop on increasing States’ capacity for reporting under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Women’s Protocol). This was organised in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission), Commissioner Soyata Maiga. The workshop was held from 11 to 13 November 2014 at the Farm Inn Hotel, Pretoria.

Thirty key government and civil society stakeholders involved in the state reporting process in Tanzania, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo attended this workshop.

On 4 and 5 November 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosted an academic conference on disability rights with a focus on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa. Fifteen papers were presented at the conference, on a diverse range of issues including political participation, access to education, sexual and reproductive rights, building an inclusive environment, resource allocation, access to justice and violence against women with disabilities. The conference drew participants from more than 15 countries and approximately 50 people attended the conference. Participants included persons with disabilities, their families, civil society groups as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, policy makers, academics and practitioners from around the world.

On 3 and 5 November 2014 the Centre for Human Rights, with the support of OSISA, hosted the Second Southern African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition. Participants from the Network of Southern African Law Schools Disability Rights Programme participated in the second edition of this competition.

The problem being argued during the rounds concerned itself with issues regarding the rights of persons with disabilities including the right to vote for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Judges in the Final Round were:

  • Prof Luke Clements (Cardiff University);
  • Prof Bob Dinerstein (Washington College of Law);
  • Ms Yvonne Dausab (University of Namibia); and
  • Justice Monica Mbaru (Presiding) (High Court, Kenya)

The winners of the Second Southern African Disability Rights Moot Court Competition are the team from Midlands State University in Zimbabwe, who argued for the Applicant. The runners-up are the University of Zambia who argued for the Respondent.

Rankings: Preliminary Rounds

1 - University of Zambia (76.34)
2 - Midlands State University (73.83)
3 - University of Namibia (65.33)
4 - University of Malawi (64.00)
5 - University of Botswana (61.15)

Best Oralist: Preliminary Rounds

1 - Emmanuel Bwalya (University of Zambia) (82.25)
2 - Tifwepo Nkunika (University of Zambia) (78.00)
3 - Gugulethu Ndlovu (Midlands State University) (75.75)
4 - Vusumuzi Bhebhe (Midlands State University) (70.92)
5 - Grace Mwenelupembe (University of Malawi) (70.92)

Best Memorials: Preliminary Rounds

1 - Midlands State University (75.00)
2 - University of Zambia (67.50)
3 - University of Namibia (66.00)

The Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) held a book launch on Tuesday 4 November 2014, where seven of PULP's latest titles were introduced. PULP's third open-access online journal, the African Disablity Rights Yearbook, was also launched and can be viewed by visiting www.adry.up.ac.za.

The seven titles launched included:

Introductions were made by Prof Charles Fombad (Managing Editor of PULP) and guests were welcomed by Prof André Boraine (Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria). Several of the authors and editors of the publications elucidated on their manuscripts and Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights concluded the launch whereafter guests were treated to a South African braai.

PULP's open-access online journals are:

The human rights situation in Eritrea was the subject of attention of key decision-makers who met to discuss the challenges faced in that country. The situation in Eritrea resulted in thousands of Eritreans fleeing the country, sometimes under dangerous conditions.

The Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) hosted a seminar on human rights in Eritrea on Wednesday 29 October 2014. Participants in the event included key decisions makers in South Africa and members of the diplomatic corps who were drawn from Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Also present were members of the Eritrean community in the diaspora. The seminar commenced with welcome remarks from Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights.

The aim of the seminar was to create awareness about the prevailing human rights situation in Eritrea and to discuss the international response.

Mr Mussie Ephrem, a Swedish-Eritrean who is an analyst specialising in the Horn of Africa, began by providing a comprehensive background into the history of Eritrea. He explained how the country had through the years evolved from efforts to liberate its people from oppression only to descend into one of the most repressive states as far as human rights are concerned. 

The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland. It works in cooperation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights through global dialogue. Its work brings together the full spectrum of national non-governmental and international human rights actors, through international conferences, human rights training, and advice to governments and related agencies.

The Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria is both an academic department and a non-governmental organisation, which was founded in 1986 as part of domestic efforts against the apartheid system of that time. Its work mainly focuses on human rights awareness and education in Africa, as well as on the promotion and protection of the rights of women, indigenous peoples, and other disadvantaged and marginalized persons or groups across the continent.

In 2012 the Centre for Human Rights submitted a communication to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Committee) which was co-authored with la Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), a NGO based in Dakar, Senegal. 

On 18 April 2013, the Committee declared the Communication admissible and it was heard on its merits on 14 April 2014 where both the representatives of the Applicant and the Respondent were present.

The Centre for Human Rights invites abstracts for a conference on disability rights with a focus on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa. The conference will be held at the Centre for Human Rights on Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 November 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa. The conference will also coincide with launch of the second issue of the African Disability Rights Yearbook, the first issue having been launched in 2013. It is anticipated that papers presented at this conference will be reworked by the authors and submitted for consideration for publication in the 2015 issue of African Disability Rights Yearbook.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in association with the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre invites you to the opening of the exhibition ‘In Whom Can I Still Trust?’

To commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) on 17 May, the Centre for Human Rights and the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre invites you to the opening of the renowned exhibition, ‘In Whom Can I Still Trust?’, which explores the Nazi persecution of sexual minorities in Europe.

The keynote address will be delivered by Sisonke Msimang, human rights activist and social commentator.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invites you to a public lecture ‘Eritreans at Risk: Refugees, migrants or migrating refugees?’

Thousands of Eritreans have fled a repressive dictatorship since 2001, making their small northeast African nation (population 4-5 million) one of the largest per capita producers of asylum seekers in the world. Many languish in desert camps. Others have been kidnapped, tortured and ransomed—or killed—in the Sinai; left to die in the Sahara; or drowned in the Mediterranean. Still others have been attacked as foreigners in South Africa, threatened with mass detention in Israel, or refused entry under draconian “terrorism bars” in North America. This lecture draws on interviews in refugee camps and communities in Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt (Sinai) and Israel to put a human face on this ongoing crisis, sketch out its main corridors, and situate it within the global debates on causes, consequences and responses to forced migration and human trafficking.

Statement by the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
at its 55th ordinary session, Luanda, Angola, 29 April 2014, on the situation of human rights in Africa

On the night of 14 April 2014, more than 200 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria.

The kidnappings were claimed by Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and Takfiri terrorist organisation based in northeast Nigeria.

Social media has played a pivotal role in forcing the issue onto the agenda of our world leaders. Hundreds of thousands of people have posted images of themselves holding pieces of paper with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag written on it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The 2014 LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) class has added their voice to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign by producing a Pan-African video in support of the girls, their parents, families and the Nigerian people.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopts first resolution ever on sexual orientation as it condemns violence against persons on basis of sexual orientation

From 12 - 16 May 2014 three students from the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, participated in the 2nd edition of the Global Classroom held in Venice, Italy.

The Global Classroom (GC) falls under the auspices of the Global Campus programme involving the University of Sydney, University of Pretoria, University of San Martin, Buenos Aires, Yerevan State University, University of Sarajevo and the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation.

The Children’s Unit of the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, the Child Rights Networks of Southern Africa (CRNSA) and Plan International is organising a Workshop for Southern African CSOs on Child Rights monitoring and advocacy.

Dates: 11-13 November 2014
Venue: University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

The purpose of the workshop is to raise awareness among Southern African CSOs on children’s rights monitoring and advocacy. Two participants from SADC countries will take part in this exercise.

The workshop will focus on:

The five Child Rights monitoring components:

  • Baseline information, providing data for a certain year or period, against which all future data can be measured to show improvements or deterioration;
  • A system of indicators, (baseline, monitoring and early warning) which can provide integrated information rather than a list of disparate information;
  • Disaggregated data, that can show which group or groups of children have their rights violated or not achieved;
  • An integrated set of age ranges, through which information about children can be compared among Southern African countries or agencies;
  • Child-centred statistics, providing direct information about children rather than about adults or institutions.

Child Rights advocacy focusing on CSO engagement with treaty bodies with a special attention to the ACERWC.

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a conference on the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa.

The Conference is on the theme ‘Overcoming obstacles: Towards the effective implementation of the rights of women with disabilities in Africa’ and will be presented by scholars, practitioners and disability activists from all over the world, but particularly from Africa.

Date: 4 and 5 November 2014
Time: 09:00 to 17:00
Venue: Auditorium,Plant Sciences Building, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
RSVP:  Kindly confirm your attendance by Friday 31 October 2014 by sending an email to carole.viljoen@up.ac.za
Enquiries: Ms Carole Viljoen (012 420 3810 / carole.viljoen@up.ac.za)
GPS: 25°45’16.5”S 28°14’01.5”E

No registration fee is charged but pre-registration is compulsory.

The Centre for Human Rights was on Friday 3 October 2014 privileged to play host to Ms Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She delivered a public lecture on her work as High Commissioner in the Senate Hall of the University of Pretoria.

In her introduction, Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, spoke of Ms Pillay’s background in the anti-apartheid struggle as the first black woman to qualify as an advocate in the Natal Province, the first woman to open her own legal practice, and the first South African woman to obtain a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University. She described Ms Pillay as a great friend and supporter of the University of Pretoria and especially of the Centre for Human Rights, with which she has been associated for some 20 years. Ms Pillay was awarded the 2001 Women in Law Award by the Centre for Human Rights, and is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Pretoria (December 2009).

The penultimate advanced human rights short course for this year was presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria on - Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. It ran from 15 through 19 September, attracting participants and facilitators from across the world.

The UN Declaration on the Rights’ of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 came to the fore once more as participants engaged on the concept of ‘Indigenous Peoples’, land rights, gender views, international and national standards, regional mechanisms, climate change, challenges of and relevant ILO instruments relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.    

Participant’s views

“This course has given new strength and energy to engage the non-government and government for a process forward. My call is for an African Indigenous Network Alliance.
– Paramount Chief! Kora Hennie van Wyk, South Africa.

“The course provides a golden opportunity to participants from all-over Africa to interact, learn and share ideas and strategies on advocacy for the rights of indigenous peoples’.”
–  Achero David Mufuayia, Kenya.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa, with the assistance of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) through the Africa Military Law Forum (AMLF), held a symposium at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, from 18 to 19 September 2014 on the theme: “All Means Necessary”: Bridging the Gap between the Doctrine of R2P and the Actual Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts.

The Symposium brought together over 80 high ranking military officers of African states, academics, policy makers, and other practitioners in the field of protection of civilians who discussed, shared experiences and provided lessons learnt in order to find solutions to the legal, policy, and practical challenges involved in the drafting and adoption of the mandates for the protection of civilian (PoC) by the United Nations (UN) Security Council and their implementation on the ground.

On 9 and September 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Open Democracy and Sustainable Development Initiative (ODESUNDI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Kigali, Rwanda on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Rwanda, with a view to creating a shared understanding of the utility of access to information for the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda. At the end of that meeting, a Plan of Action setting out in detail the categories of information needed for the improvement of SHRH of women in Rwanda was developed.

It is expected that based on the outcome of the requests for information made by local project partners, an advocacy campaign will be developed to ensure the achievement of the project’s objectives.

The financial support of the Open Society Foundation - Human Rights Initiative for this project is gratefully acknowledged.

Mr Joojo Cobbinah, a Ghanaian alumnus of the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) masters’ programme (2013) was arrested on Saturday, 6th September 2014 on the orders of the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), also known as the Mayor of Accra.

Mr Cobbinah (the 2011 Human Rights Defender Award recipient and 2009 GJA Best Health Reporter) who is a journalist and a producer with Multi TV had gone with a team to film the living conditions of the people of Mensah Guinea community. This was after the AMA had demolished their houses upon a three days notice, rendering them homeless. As a result some of those displaced including women and children, slept in the open for lack of alternative housing arrangements.

Whilst Mr Cobbinah and his team interacted with the displaced people to inquire of their state, the police arrived at the scene with orders from the Mayor of Accra to arrest Mr Cobbinah and his team. The police first arrested the driver who drove Mr Cobbinah and his team to the community; and while the team was at the police station to arrange for the bail of the driver, Mr Cobbinah was also arrested and kept in police custody for three hours.

According to the Mayor of Accra, Mr Cobbinah and his team had instructed the displaced residents to lie on the ground in batches in order to be filmed. By that act, the journalists intended to dent the image of the government and displayed a lack of professionalism. Mr Cobbinah has been charged with ‘offensive conduct’ and has been granted bail to appear before court by next week.

The action of the Mayor of Accra is an attempt to censor the media and stifle the right to information which International Human Rights Law as well as the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees. The Mayor of Accra is therefore requested to drop all charges against Mr Cobbinah.

This incident adds to the increasing attacks on journalists in Ghana; the most recent one occurring on Thursday, 11th September 2014, when a female editor and two reporters were assaulted by staff of the National Health Insurance Authority. On 5th September 2014, a reporter with the Daily Graphic newspaper was assaulted by a group of people allegedly linked to Mr Asamoah Gyan, the captain of the Black Stars. The assault was reported to have occurred shortly after the journalist asked a question at a press conference organised by the Ghana Football Association ahead of the Ghana-Uganda AFCON qualifier at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi.

Twitter hashtags: #offensiveconduct #pressfreedom  #pressfreedomGH

The Centre for Human Rights and the Department of Mercantile Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to a talk by Prof Nick Huls from Leiden University, The Netherlands on
‘Rwanda: Rule of Law in the Mist’.

Prof Nick Huls has worked for a couple of years in Rwanda with judges, prosecutors and legislative drafters. After explaining the title of his talk, he will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the core institutions of the Rwandan legal system.

Debates about post-genocide Rwanda are polarized: is it a dicatorship or an African miracle? Huls takes a position in the middle. In his socio-legal approach he analyzes some arena’s for legal change: the extradition court for genocide suspects to Rwanda; a reflexive legal academy; a vital legal aid movement; and Abunzi, a form of conflict resolution without lawyers.

Date: Monday 29 September 2014
Time: 09:30 - 10:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Lecture Room, Room 2-2.1, Second Floor, Faculty of Law (opposite the Centre for Human Rights), Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
Enquiries: Mr Happy Shabangu (+27 12 420 2363 / happy.shabangu@up.ac.za)

Tea and coffee will be served after the talk

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a public lecture by Navi Pillay.

Navi Pillay is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and will reflect on her time at the UN and discuss future human rights challenges.

Date: 3 October 2014
Time: 10:30 for 11:00
Venue: Senate Hall, Hatfield Campus, Lynnwood Road, Pretoria
RSVP: carole.viljoen@up.ac.za by 26 September

Enquiries: Carole Viljoen, 012 420 3810
GPS: 25°45’19.0”S 28°13’36.3”E

Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, held a Round Table to discuss the restoration of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal on 28 and 29 August 2014.

The Round Table was attended by different stakeholders including former judges of the SADC Tribunal; a former judge of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ); officials from the SADC Tribunal, EACJ and Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice; lawyers from private and academic practice and officials from the Department of Justice, South Africa; the South African Law Society; researchers; and members of civil society.

The objective of the Round Table was to discuss the implications of the adoption of a new Protocol by the SADC Summit.

Some of the concerns raised include:

  • The new Protocol will deprive the people of SADC access to the SADC Tribunal;
  • The new SADC Tribunal gives access only to states;
  • The abolition of individual access before the SADC Tribunal contradicts the global trend;
  • The processes of the negotiation and adoption of the new Protocol were done in a non-transparent manner and excluded SADC citizens and civil society organisations, contrary to the letter and spirit of the SADC Treaty.
  • The SADC Tribunal initially allowed access to its employees to settle their disputes with SADC as its employer,  but by abolishing individual access, employees no longer have any legal recourse.

During the two-day Round Table, the participants discussed the different concerns as well as possible stratgies to restore the SADC Tribunal. This resulted in a drafting of a statement, thereby leading to the adoption of a common statement.

The following resolutions are included in the concluding statement:

  • The Round Table urges the Heads of State and Government of SADC member states to reconsider their decision to suspend the SADC Tribunal and adopt the new Protocol.
  • The Round Table urges SADC citizens to reject and protest against the decisions of the Summit adopted from August 2010 to August 2014 regarding the SADC Tribunal.  This should be done through all lawful means, including petitioning national parliaments.
  • The Round Table calls on the SADC Heads of State and Government and all institutions of SADC, in consultation with all stakeholders as provided for in the SADC Treaty, to immediately embark on the revision of the SADC Treaty to
    • strengthen and democratise SADC institutions, including the SADC Secretariat;
    • establish a regional parliament with law-making powers; and
    • create a sub-regional court with adequate jurisdiction accessible to individuals.
  • The Round Table calls on the relevant SADC organs/institutions to ensure that the process of establishing a mechanism for the resolution of cases that had been pending before the SADC Tribunal is transparent and participatory, so as to involve the ‘people’ and ‘key stakeholders’ in line with article 23 of the SADC Treaty.
  • The Round Table resolves to collaborate and support the establishment of a Coalition for the Restoration of the SADC Tribunal, comprising stake holders in all SADC countries, to campaign against the ratification of the new Protocol and to explore and coordinate alternative strategies to restore individual access to the SADC Tribunal and to strengthen democracy and improve the rule of law within SADC.
  • The Round Table calls for the restoration of individual access so that an authentic sub-regional court, the SADC Tribunal, capable of responding to the particularities of the region, would be able to dispense justice to the people of the region.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to a talk by Prof Robert Wintemute from King’s College, London on ‘Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of Racial Discrimination Law: Is the Analogy with South African Apartheid Accurate?’

Prof Wintemute will deliver a presentation on his research on Palestinian human rights. His research focuses on seeking just solutions that could permit reconciliation between Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaker:  Prof Robert Wintemute, professor of human rights law, King’s College, London
Date: Tuesday 16 September 2014
Time: 10:30 - 11:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Lecture Room, Room 2-2.1, Second Floor, Faculty of Law (opposite the Centre for Human Rights), Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria

Enquiries: Dr Magnus Killander (+27 12 420 5407 / magnus.killander@up.ac.za)

The combined team from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and the Université Gaston Berger Saint-Louis du Sénégal , who argued for the Applicant are the winners of the 23rd African Human Rights Moot Court competition.The runners-up, arguing for the Respondent, are the teams from University of Pretoria, South Africa and Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d'Ivoire.

The winning team members are:

  • Eva Wangui Kimani, University Of Nairobi
  • Moreen Wanjiru Mwangi, University Of Nairobi
  • Mansour Fall, Université Gaston Berger De Saint Louis, Senegal
  • Marguerite Ounane Thiare, Université Gaston Berger De Saint Louis, Senegal

The runners-up are:

  • Alastair Dey Van Heerden, University Of Pretoria
  • Ralph Tinomutenda Chitambira, University Of Pretoria
  • Nadia Colette Wadja, Université Félix Huphouet Boigny Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
  • Yacouba Sylla Koita, Université Félix Huphouet Boigny Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Congratulations to the winners, runners-up and all the particpants!

The advanced short course titled 'The Right to Development in Africa'is the eight of ten short courses scheduled for presentation by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria in the current year. It ran from 25 to 29 August 2014 and was the result of a collaboration between the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Antwerp, Belgium and was supported by the Delegation of the Flemish Government in South Africa.

This intensive week-long programme attracted participants from all the regions of Africa as well as Europe. Experts in development thinking, both from Africa and Europe, provided fresh insights and approaches to the ‘controversial’ issues around the subject of ‘Right to Development.’

Some of the speakers were:

  • Prof Michelo Hasungunle (Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria)
  • Prof Wouter Vandenhole (University of Antwerp and UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights)
  • Dr Rita Ozoemena (Researcher, SAIFAC, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa)
  • Prof Cephas Lumina (Extra-ordinary Professor, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria)
  • Dr Donald Rukare (Chief Executive Officer, Governance and Policy Research Centre, Uganda)

The Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi is hosting the 23rd edition of the African Human Rights Moot Court competition.

This year, the competition will run from 1-6 September and is held in Nairobi, Kenya.

During the second and third day of the competition, student teams from various universities on the continent argue a hypothetical case before a panel of judges.

This year, due to the smaller number of teams that were registered, there will only be 2 Anglophone and 2 Francophone teams in the final. There will not be any Lusophone teams arguing in the final round.

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to the Pretoria Symposium on preventing atrocities and protecting civilians in Africaa

ALL MEANS NECESSARY: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THE DOCTRINE OF R2P AND THE ACTUAL PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT

Date: Thursday 18 September and Friday 19 September 2014
Time: 08:30 - 17:30 (both days)
Venue: Merensky Library Auditorium, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria

RSVP: Kindly confirm your attendance by Monday 15 September 2014 by sending an email to bright.nkrumah@up.ac.za
Enquiries Bright Nkrumah (bright.nkrumah@up.ac.za ) / Carole Viljoen (carole.viljoen@up.ac.za)

There is no registration fee but pre-registration is compulsory. Refreshments and lunch will be provided for the duration of the conference.

The Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi is hosting the 23rd edition of the African Human Rights Moot Court competition.

This year, the competition will run from 1-6 September and is held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The activites palnned for the first day of the competition inlcudes:

  • Registration of teams for preliminary rounds
  • Briefing session
  • Opening ceremony
  • Opening dinner

Documents:

The Centre for Human Rights is hosting a Roundtable where the restoration of the SADC Tribunal will be discussed.  This Roundtable is taking place on 28-29 August 2014 at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

At its most recent session, the SADC Summit adopted the new Protocol on the SADC Tribunal. The main difference between this Protocol and the previous version lies in article 33, which reads as follows: The Tribunal shall have jurisdiction on the interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States.

The effect of article 33 is to eliminate a previously existing competence of individuals to approach the Tribunal.

The South African government issued a statement on Ebola and travel bans in Africa on 21 August 2014. A lot of newspapers have reported wrongly on this travel ban. For the purpose of clarification, we post the official statement by the South African government.

Related links

Cabinet decision on Ebola

21 Aug 2014

The Cabinet met on 20 August 2014 and was presented with an update on the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

Cabinet noted with concern the extent of the outbreak and the increase of cases in three of these countries, i.e Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, over the last week. Cabinet recognised that even though the outbreak has been limited to these countries in West Africa, the spread to other countries need to be contained. Cabinet recognized that containing the outbreak at source will be essential and limit the spread and mortality caused by the disease to these particular parts of the world.

Cabinet noted that the Department of Health has taken measures in South Africa to enhance surveillance, distribute guidelines to all hospitals in public and private sectors, designate health facilities for the treatment of patients, deployed personal protective equipment (PPE) to designated facilities, conducted training, activated outbreak response teams and is operating a hotline for clinicians through the NICD.

An Experts’ Round Table on a proposed ‘Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa’ was held at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, on 21 and 22 of August 2014.

The Round Table is part of a consultative process, informing the elaboration of an African-specific treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. The threshold question about the desirability and feasibility of adopting such a treaty with the African Union was also considered against the background of the fact that the UN in 2006 adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 36 AU member states have become party to the CRPD.

The meeting was organised by the Centre for Human Rights and the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA), with participation of representatives from the African Union, relevant ministries, continental and sub-regional organizations of persons with disabilities, leaders of the disability movement from various African countries, parliamentarians, experts and researchers on disability as well as regional and international organisations. A total of some 50 participants from all over the continent participated in the discussion.

At the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014, Dr Sabelo Gumedze, an alumnus of the Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, was appointed as a member of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

The Master’s Programme proudly presented by the Centre for Human Rights has 401 professionals from 36 African countries, Spain and the United States of America. Graduates of the Alumni Association have over the years been involved in human rights advocacy on the continent and beyond. The alumni network has become visible throughout the human rights milieu in Africa with alumni working in the academia, civil society organisations, national and inter-governmental institutions at the sub-regional, regional and global level. Dr Sabelo Gumedze belongs to the alumni association.

The Centre for Human Rights would like to congratulate Prof Michelo Hansungule on being elected as a Commissioner on theInternational Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Prof Hansungule will be serving his second term as Commissioner following his election first in 2009 and then re-election in 2014.

The ICJ is composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, and aims to  promote and protect human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems.

Prof Hansungule is currently Professor of Human Rights Law at the Centre for Human Rights where he teaches on various Master's programmes and human rights courses. He has taught international human rights law at several universities worldwide including the University of Lund in Sweden, Mahidol University in Thailand, Essex University in the United Kingdom, University of Abo in Finland and University of Malta. He has taught in outreach programmes in over 48 African and non-African countries on human rights protection to judges, lawyers, governments and NGO officials.

African Union Press Statement: Advocacy Mission of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) on the situation of children in South Sudan (03-09 August, 2014)

The War on South Sudan’s children
(Juba, 08 August 2014)

1. The Committee has concluded that the present conflict can be characterised as nothing less than a war on the children of South Sudan. We have been exposed to an array of grave violations of their rights, which are interdependent and cumulative. These assault the very future of childhood  in South Sudan. The Committee has heard evidence that the impact of conflict of the last 8 months (since December 15) upon children is greater than in the entire 21 year period during which the war was ongoing. Moreover, the situation is deteriorating as I speak.

2, The following specific concerns have been brought to our attention and, seen together, are perilously close to constituting a crime against humanity that is being perpetrated against the children o South Sudan.

The advanced short course on The Role of Men & Boys in Achieving Gender Equality is currently in progress. The course runs from the 4 to 8 August 2014 at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. The course is presented by Sonke Gender Justice Network in partnership with the Centre for the study of AIDS and the Centre for Human Rights.

With over 30 participants drawn mostly from across Africa and expert facilitators in the field of gender justice, this year’s programme focuses on very germane issues which include: the challenges and opportunities of engaging men and boys in gender transformation in Africa; feminist critique to some approaches and interventions for engaging men and boys for gender equality, amongst other stimulating discussions.

Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo (Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Town) presented an interesting and engaging topic titled ‘Culture, tradition, religion and women’s human rights in Africa.’  He most brilliantly un-packed the dynamics around culture, identity, historical order and belief systems. Prof Nhlapo identified and interrogated the following components - gatekeepers (traditional leaders), contestations, dynamism and voluntariness as key features of culture.

The University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights is delighted to announce the signature of a funding contract with the Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria valued at NOK 11 million.

Spread over three years – from 2014 to 2016 – the grant is intended to help strengthen institutions in Africa dealing with governance, the rule of law and human rights in general.

In particular, the grant will support six related projects, to be undertaken by the Centre for Human Rights, namely:

  1. a series of one-week training courses aimed at strengthening the capacity of African institutions in the field of human rights;
  2. support to the Human Rights Clinics of the Centre, which aim to undertake advocacy and litigation before African institutions, to fully exploit the potential of these institutions;
  3. an annual colloquium of African experts on an aspect of democratic consolidation and regionalism in Africa;
  4. training in state reporting under the African Women’s Protocol and the creation of a web-based platform to further enhance this capacity through the exchange of information and experience;
  5. capacity building for the Master’s programme (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa), through support for partner institutions, strengthening the network and impact of graduates through the Alumni Association, and including support to regional institutions dealing with human rights by placing alumni as legal interns to strengthen the inadequate secretariats of these institutions;
  6. and a project on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, including support for the research conducted by Prof Christof Heyns, a professor of law at the Centre for Human Rights, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on this topic, and support for regional efforts on this thematic area.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in partnership with the US Embassy in Pretoria invites you to an LGBTI Forum
on Partnering with Straight Allies for Safe Schools and Communities

Guest speaker: Jody Huckaby (Executive Director of PFLAG)
Date: Friday 15 August 2014
Time: 12:00 for 13:30
Venue: Centre for Human Rights Classroom, Room 2-2.1, Law Building, University of Pretoria (Hatfield Campus)
A light lunch will be served

RSVP: carole.viljoen@up.ac.za by 13 August 2014

For too many LGBTI students, attending school can be a frightening experience. Many face harassment or mistreatment by colleagues or professors. These challenges are compounded in some cases by unsupportive families or friends back home. Come and discuss strategies for building allies in the straight community to make your school and community safer. Learn how to engage families, friends and fellow students in a constructive discussion about your identity and enlist them as supporters.

The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a Resolution on Freedom of Expression in Swaziland at its 16th Extraordinary Session held from 20 to 29 July 2014, in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda.

In this resolution, the Commission:

  1. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly as provided for in the African Charter, the UDHR, the ICCPR and other international and regional human rights instruments;
  2. Calls on the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to take the necessary measures to stop all acts of harassment and intimidation carried out against human rights defenders and media practitioners working in the Kingdom of Swaziland and to respect and guarantee their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Centre for Human Rights is proud to announce that Adebayo Okeowo, an LLM student on the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa programme recently won the first prize in the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights (EIUC) Human Rights Global Campus Photo Competition. This annual amateur photography competition is open to current students and Alumni of the Regional Masters Programmes in Human Rights and Democratisation. 

Photographs submitted should illustrate the efforts to realise human rights and allow viewers to creatively reflect on ways forward.  This year the theme of the competition focused on “Migrants and community action” and the aim is to raise awareness on migrants’ rights and cooperation between people by demonstrating how collaboration, participation and trust can build and strengthen the community.

The Centre for Human Rights recently launched a Gender Audit Tool for gender inequality at higher education institutions in Africa. The tool, developed with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is designed to introspectively investigate the state of gender (in) equality at higher education institutions across Africa with a view to fostering greater gender parity.

The aim of this tool is to guide transformation and gender mainstreaming at the University of Pretoria, and should form part of the strategic plans of all departments and faculties, said Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights.

The launch took the form of a panel discussion and reflected on the value of tools such as the one developed by the Centre. In opening, Ms Patience Mushungwa, Executive Director for Human Capital and Management at the University of Pretoria, expressed her appreciation at the development of the tool in light of the recent institutional culture survey. She reiterated the need for a deeper introspection of the true state of inequality at UP and other higher education institutions as the mere reliance on numbers is not sufficient to indicate true transformation.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, learnt with great disappointment that Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu have been sentenced to terms of two years’ imprisonment each, without the option of a fine. The magazine and published were fined E100 000 (USD10 000). These sentences confirmed our worst fears. We therefore reiterate our call to the South African government to take diplomatic and other steps to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland to release Thulani and Bheki. We further urge the government to engage with the Swaziland government about its encroachment of free expression.

The crime these two men committed was to criticize the arbitrary conduct by a Judge – who happens to be the Chief Justice of the country. Using the offence of contempt of court to stifle and punish free expression is the hallmark of an undemocratic and closed state, which Swaziland undeniably is.  The conviction and harsh sentence should be understood within the broader political context, in which the rule of law has largely been replaced by royal rule, and in which the independence of the judiciary has been compromised.

An advanced short course on Children's Rights in Africa is currently underway at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. This course, which runs from 21 to 25 July, is being presented by the Centre for Human Rights, Save the Children International, the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape and the Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria.

The course brought together over 50 child rights researchers, practitioners and policy makers across Africa. The Course was facilitated by renowned African child rights experts including

  • Prof Benyam Mezmur, Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and Vice Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child;
  • Prof Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Chairperson of Children’s Rights in the Developing World, University of Leiden and Vice Chairperson of ACERWC;
  • Prof Ann Skelton, UNESCO Right to Education Chair and Director Centre for Child Law,
  • Prof Michelo Hansungule, Centre for Human Rights and
  • Prof Frans Viljoen, Director Centre for Human Rights.

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Mozambique, Ghana and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana. The advocacy visits were undertaken to dicuss the implementation of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law).

Mozambique

On 26 June 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Maputo, Mozambique. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the speedy adoption of the Mozambican Right to Information Bill, currently before Parliament, in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 3 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

On 8 and 9 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Media Institute of South Africa Tanzania (MISA-Tanzania), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The DOX campaign is a campaign for the repeal of laws on criminal defamation, sedition, insult and false news in Africa, led by the Special Rapporteur. The Centre for Human Rights acts as the secretariat of the campaign with members from several local, regional and international organisations working on freedom of expression.

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), together with the United Nations Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) of the OHCHR and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), hosted a multi-stakeholder dialogue on business and human rights at the University of Pretoria on 21 July 2014.

The aim of the dialogue was to bring stakeholders together from different backgrounds and representing different sectors. The event was attended by representatives from the United Nations, government, business, civil society, academia and communities. The dialogue also served to inform the agenda of a similar multi-stakeholder engagement scheduled for 16 – 18 September 2014, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, calls on the Government of South Africa to take suitable measures to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland to ensure that Thulani Maseko, a graduate of the University of Pretoria, be released from prison and not be sentenced to imprisonment.

Who is Thulani Maseko?

Thulani Maseko graduated with a Master’s degree in Human Rights from the University of Pretoria in December 2005. After graduation, he returned to Swaziland to work as a lawyer and human rights activist. He is also a senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights, Swaziland. In 2011 Thulani received the Vera Chirwa Award from the Centre for Human Rights awarded to a graduate who has made a significant difference to the protection of human rights in his or her home country.

An advanced short course on Civil Society Law in Africa is currently underway at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. This course, which runs from 14 to 18 July, is being presented by the Centre for Human Rights and the International Center For Not-For-Profit Law, Washington DC in the United States.

The objectives of the course are to strengthen capacity, in practice, to identify and analyse legal barriers to the right to freedom of association; to raise awareness of the challenges faced by civil society; and to foster efforts to respond to those threats. The course also aims to build a network of legal professionals working in the field and encourage collaborative efforts within such a network.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria invites you to the launch of ‘Gender Equality at Higher Education Institutions in Africa: A Gender Audit Tool’

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) will be launching a Gender Audit Tool developed towards the realisation of gender equality at higher education institutions across Africa. This Gender Audit Tool was developed with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is geared towards the contemplation of greater gender equality at higher education institutions across Africa. The tool will be disseminated to CHR partner universities and other universities across Africa.

The launch will take the form of a panel discussion on the general theme of “Gender Equality in Higher Education Institutions across Africa.”

Date: Monday 28 July 2014
Time: 12:30 - 14:00
Venue: Merensky (Main Library) Auditorium, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria
Enquiries: Yvonne Oyieke
+27 12 420 5449 / yvonne.oyieke@up.ac.za

Refreshments will be served.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Ms Sheila B Keetharuth, has released her latest report detailing the most prevalent and pressing human rights violations within the country.  A context of human rights violations is summarized, followed by a pinpointing of the main issues for concern, namely, the indefinite national service and arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention and inhumane prison conditions; these systematic human rights violations have produced a refugee crisis as hundreds and thousands flee the country.

Situated in a volatile region, the Special Rapporteur summarises Eritrea as living in state of constant combat preparedness, a state that is compromising human liberties. Grave human rights concerns beyond those listed above include extrajudicial killings, detention often preceded by torture, limitations on the freedom of movement, religion and opinion. Furthermore, intimidation of persons who leave the country is rife, and family members of the detained suffer ‘guilt by association’ and are often required to pay substantial fines for those family members that have left the country or are indefinitely detained. These are all widespread human rights violations continuing at unprecedented rates. The Special Rapporteur concludes by appealing to the Government of Eritrea and the international community to addresses these concerns, noting every individual’s right to be treated with humanity and dignity.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, applauds the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) decision to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and the setting up of a landmark Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Eritrea.

Resolution (A/HRC/26/L.6) renewing the mandate and assigning the COI to investigate the human rights situation in Eritrea for a period of one year was adopted without a vote at the close of the 26th UNHRC regular session on 27 June 2014.

Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, expressed the hope that “the Human Rights Council's decision would not only increase the possibility for international engagement, but also see to an actual improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea. I congratulate the Special Rapporteur and her team of researchers at the Centre, for their dedicated work”.

On 19 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with MISA-Malawi and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Lilongwe, Malawi on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi. The meeting discussed the modalities for the implementation of the Plan of Action which was developed at an earlier meeting that took place on 19 and 20 March 2014 also in Lilongwe Malawi.

The initial meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Malawi, with a view to creating a shared understanding of the utility of access to information for the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invites you to a seminar on ‘Failed peacemaking in Sudan and South Sudan: Persistent and new wars 10 years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement’

Three years after independence South Sudan is again at war. At this seminar Dr Sharath Srinivasan (University of Cambridge) will share his insights into the conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan based on his extensive research in the region for over a decade.

The LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa is a unique programme to which 25-30 individuals from African countries are admitted. The programme is presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

In the spirit of mutual exchange aimed at strengthening the links between the regional human rights master’s programmes, and following the positive experience of the EMA programme in this area, the African Human Rights Master’s Degree introduced an amateur photography competition on human rights and democratisation in 2009.               

Students of the LLM/MPhil Programme took part in this competition, whose aim it is to promote the ideals of human rights and democratisation through still pictures. Only currently enrolled students of the LLM/MPhil programme may take part in this competition; only photographs taken during the 2014 field trips may be submitted.

The Unaccompanied children of Eritrea: a plea for collective responsibility

As the African continent celebrates the Day of the African Child, 16 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria, focuses on the plight of unaccompanied children fleeing from a militarised society that is destabilising the social fabric of the country. Thousands of unaccompanied minors take risky journeys across the borders into Ethiopia, Sudan and further afield.

The Children of Eritrea: No escape from the military

Eritrea’s circumstances are unusual as the country is not at war but the society is highly militarised. The continuing border dispute with neighbouring Ethiopia is cited as the key reason for the prevailing condition that Eritrea terms as ‘no war-no peace’. Eritrea uses this situation to impose a conscription programme that is both forced and indefinite, spawning a constant exodus of refugees out of the county. Youth below 18 years of age often refer to the fear of military service as one of the main factors pushing them to escape.

A grave concern for children in Eritrea is the militarisation of education. Military service is compulsory for all Eritreans and the education system is tailored to prepare children for this unending duty. Since 2003, secondary school students spend their final year (Grade 12) at the Sawa Military Training Camp. In Sawa, the year begins with a three-month period of military training, followed by an academic programme. Upon completion of Grade 12, children attend compulsory national service. A portion of school-leavers get admitted into vocational colleges that were created following the closure of the University of Asmara. However, for the vast majority of the children it means reporting for military service. Should any child refuse to undergo military training in their final year, they are denied a school leaving certificate and access to further education, which is a denial of children’s right to education.

There are other push factors forcing children to cross borders, often without the knowledge of their families. The children cite lack of educational opportunities, their difficult family circumstances and the problems faced in child-headed households owing to the long absence of their parents, who, as soldiers, were either serving in the military, detained or in exile. Eritrea also represses freedom of thought and religion, and reports persist of children being arbitrarily detained with their parents for practicing a religion not recognised by the authorities in Eritrea. 

For Eritrean children these realities are so distressing that they risk crossing the border to seek better opportunities as refugees. However, conditions are tough, with limited space and resources, posing protection challenges to the agencies running the refugee camps. While they cross international borders to seek a better future, the unaccompanied and separated children face more struggles. They find that the prevailing conditions are far from what they imagined. As a result, some of them try to move to other destinations, seeking to reunite with relatives. Their vulnerability cannot be stressed enough, as they are at high risk of all kinds of exploitation and abuse, including being abducted into human trafficking rings.

The plight of separated and unaccompanied children in the camps in Ethiopia and Sudan requires the attention of all, and more specifically that of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Eritrea signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1994, and is party to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) since 2000. However, the country is yet to adopt specific legislation exclusively addressing the rights of the child.

The CHR stresses how crucial a time it is for countries receiving Eritrean unaccompanied and separated children to fully apply the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in Dealing with Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum, and Guidelines on Protection and Care of Refugee Children. These instruments should be used as a matter of course in dealing with unaccompanied and separated children to help provide stronger protection because of the vulnerability of these children.

The CHR reminds all that it is only through collective responsibility and action that children’s rights can be guaranteed. The CHR calls on:

  • (i) Eritrea to dissociate military training from secondary education and provide for comprehensive and quality education for children;
  • (ii) Countries neighbouring Eritrea to fully apply the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in Dealing with Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum, and Guidelines on Protection and Care of Refugee Children;
  • (iii) The international community to promote inter-country cooperation in establishing secure channels of migration from Eritrea to counter illicit practices of human smuggling and trafficking;
  • (iv) The African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to stress on Eritrea the need to uphold the best interests of Eritrean children by eliminating factors that make children flee their country and turn them into refugees. 

SABC Newsroom Interview with Dr Martin Nsbirwa

SABC Newsroom interview with Dr Martin Nsibirwa on the plight of the children of Eritrea. (17 June 2014)
(Interview starts at 33:26)

Background to the Day of the African Child

The Day of the African Child, is an initiative of the Organisation of African Union (OAU), now African Union (AU), and has been celebrated since 1991 to commemorate the 1976 Soweto Uprising which saw school children take to the streets in opposition to a poor quality and racially discriminatory education system that existed under the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa at the time. Every year on June 16 we are reminded of the more than 100 children killed by security forces during the Soweto Uprisings and the thousands who were injured.

Today we are reminded not only of the passion and resilience of the children, but also of their vulnerability —a vulnerability we have a collective responsibility to address in a spirit of protection.  

This year’s theme of the ACRWC is ‘A child friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa’.

We bring particular awareness to the plight of Eritrea’s children, whose right to education is negatively affected by military training and policies of the Eritrean government.

On 4 and 5 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, held an experts meeting on the draft state reporting guidelines for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (Democracy Charter) in Pretoria, South Africa.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise on human rights, democracy and election issues, to review the current draft State Reporting Guidelines, with a view to facilitating the domestication and implementation of the Democracy Charter by Member States. Participants included government officials, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), Regional Economic Communities, (RECs), academics and civil society organisations focusing on issues of democracy, human rights and governance from across the continent.

Statement: Centre for Human Rights calls for the acquittal and immediate release of Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Bheki Makhubu

The Centre for Human Rights expresses dismay at the arrest of MessrsThulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, by the Royal Swaziland Police Service on 17 and 18 March 2014, and their continued detention. Mr Maseko is a Swazi human rights lawyer and graduate of the Centre’s Master’s programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa; Mr Bheki Makhubu is the editor of the New Nation magazine.

According to news reports, Mr Maseko is charged with “scandalising the judiciary and contempt of court”. Mr Maseko’s arrest arises out of his exercise of freedom of expression through newspaper articles that he has authored, including articles critical of the continued retention of Mr Michael Ramodibedi, the man who ordered Mr Maseko’s arrest, as Chief Justice of Swaziland. It should be noted that the Chief Justice resigned from the Judiciary of Lesotho amidst impeachment charges on 22 April 2014.

The Centre for Human Rights regards these charges as orchestrated measures to shut down the voice of democracy even in violation of the Constitution of Swaziland.

This is not the first time Mr Maseko has been arrested and detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression. In 2009 he was arrested, detained and charged with subversive activities. However, his trial was never brought to finality. Our concern is that his arrest and detention is aimed more at intimidating him and others, than at instituting a case against him that will withstand a fair and open trial before an impartial and independent judge. In his statement of 5 June 2014, Mr Thulani Maseko stated that ‘[f]rom the very first day we appeared before this Court, we entertained a reasonable apprehension that this Court has not brought an impartial and unprejudiced mind to the resolution of the matter. We have been ambushed from day one, right to the end.’

The Centre for Human Rights is particularly concerned:

  • that the two detainees have been denied access to a lawyer;
  • that, when they were brought before the same Chief Justice, the proceedings were held in chambers and therefore closed to the public;
  • that the refusal to grant them bail has resulted in the continued detention of Messrs Maseko and Makhubu, for what is arguably a relatively minor offence, even if proven by the state.

Swaziland’s national and international obligations include:

  • The Swaziland Constitution (of 2005), provides for the rights of persons deprived of their personal liberty (in article 16): legal representation of their choice, trial without delay, and unconditional release under reasonable conditions.
  • Swaziland is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), which guarantees the right to a fair trial.
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Union monitoring body over the Charter, has indicated that the right to be released on bail, the right to counsel and to a public trial are all guaranteed as part of article 7 of the Charter.

Mr Maseko is a graduate of the Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (2005) from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Since completing his studies, Mr Maseko has distinguished himself as a committed advocate for human rights and democratisation in Swaziland. In 2011 he received the Vera Chirwa Award, in recognition of his unwavering support for human rights and democratisation efforts in Swaziland.

Mr Maseko has the full support of the Alumni Association of the Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. These 401 women and men are active across the full spectrum of human rights professionals in Africa, from grassroots, through civil society, the civil service (including cabinet), the Police, Military and judiciary, national legislature, academia, and to the African Union and the United Nations. This new generation of African human rights lawyers represent the values of excellence and ubuntu and work together to engender a culture of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms across the African continent.

The Centre for Human Rights calls on the government of Swaziland to abide by its international human rights obligations, under the African Charter and other international instruments, and:

  • ensure immediate and unhindered access of the two men to legal counsel;
  • allow the two detainees to argue for their release on bail without delay, which should be considered on reasonable and judicial grounds;
  • ensure that any further proceedings take place in public; and
  • refrain from instituting prosecutions merely with the purpose of intimidation persons critical of the government, or to stifle free expression.
  • Review its Constitution to create an enabling environment for democratic governance.

Noting that the verdict on the charges is due in the upcoming days, the Centre for Human Rights strongly calls on the Swaziland Judiciary to acquit both Mr Thulani Maseko and Mr Bheki Makhubu on all charges.

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The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in association with the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre invites you to a public screening of ‘PARAGRAPH 175’

During the Nazi regime, there was widespread persecution of homosexual men and women. Thousands were murdered in concentration camps. Paragraph 175 – a powerful and disturbing documentary, narrated by Rupert Everett – presents for the first time the largely untold testimonies of those who survived.

Venue:    Law Auditorium(1-54), Law Building , UP
Date:       Friday, 6 June 2014
Time:       12:00 - 14:00

Entrance is free. No RSVP necessary.

On the occasion of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), on Saturday 17 May 2014, the Centre for Human Rights is pleased to host the photographic exhibition In Whom Can I Still Trust?. The exhibition aims to highlight the progress made, and challenges faced, in ensuring the protection of sexual minorities in South Africa.

The exhibition was officially opened a on Friday 16 May in a ceremony in the Faculty of Law, at the University of Pretoria. The opening included a message from the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, delivered by Ms Janine Cohen; a speech by Mr Richard Freedman, Director of the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation; and a welcome message from Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights. An inspiring and uplifting keynote address was delievered the famous South African human rights activist and social commentator Sisonke Msimang.


The exhibition includes archive photographs, personal testimonies and video clips detailing the largely untold history of homosexual oppression in Nazi Germany. It relates the historical narrative to the prejudices that still exist today through additional panels prepared by the Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA) and the screening of the South African version of the global “It Gets Better” advocacy campaign.

As the world commemorates IDAHOT, the Centre for Human Rights would like to highlight the ongoing struggle and repression of Africans on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and their work related to these areas. Human development in Africa, and especially the right to health, have suffered significant set-backs due to recent legal and other moves to outlaw and criminalise same-sex relationships, often fuelled by the inflammatory utterances of political and religious leaders.

The Centre continues to urge African political leaders to create the necessary space for a full and informed discussion of consensual same-sex adult relationships, mindful of obligations under international human rights treaties and the human rights provisions enshrined in many African Constitutions. We renew our call to law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to respect and uphold the rights of all persons including those of same-sex orientation and persons who work with them.

The Centre commends the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for adopting, at its last session, the first resolution on sexual orientation and gender identities, directed at African governments, entitled ‘Resolution on the Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity’.

The Centre for Human Rights invites the wide public to view this this timely exhibition, as a personal tribute to courage and resilience in the face of senseless and often brutal oppression. It gives pause for reflection on the lives of many who have suffered, and an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the daily struggle of those who live with institutionalised discrimination on the basis of their sexuality.

In Whom Can I Still Trust? will be on display at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria from 16 May until 13 June 2014. It will feature an ancillary programme, including a film screening  of ‘A love to Hide’ on Friday 30 May 2014 and a panel discussion to which all media are invited to attend. Further details will be provided.

As part of its Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC) programme, the Centre for Human Rights presents a one-week intensive course on the protection of sexual minorities in Africa, aimed at government officials, academics, legal practitioners and members of civil society (‘mainstream’ NGOs and others who may need
information, awareness raising, and capacity on issues involved).

Related links

Prof Dan Connell, a visiting scholar from Boston University’s African Studies Centre and senior lecturer in journalism and African Politics at Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, has raised concern about the forced migration and human trafficking situation in Eritrea. He highlighted the grave situation in Eritrea during an open lecture titled ‘Eritreans at risk: Refugees, migrants or migrating refugees?’ hosted by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria as part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness on the human rights situation in Eritrea. The lecture was aimed at situating the refugee and migrant problem in Eritrea in the global discourse on causes, consequences and responses to forced migration and human trafficking.

Prof. Connell has written seven books and numerous articles on the human rights situation in Eritrea since 1976.

Eritrea has been under a harsh dictatorship since 2001. The 1997 Constitution has not yet come into force and this means that most of the rights and freedoms are restricted. Many Eritreans therefore cross the border in search of a better life abroad. Unfortunately, many fall victim to human traffickers, who exploit and torture them for ransoms from family members. According to Connell, ‘human trafficking has become a contagious disease, so lucrative, it attracts many new copycats and there is now a huge network of trafficking through the Sahel region.’

‘The ransom demands are as high as US$40,000, a significant amount for poor Eritreans. Once the ransom is paid they are released and left to die in the Sahara or drown trying to cross the Mediterranean. Those who manage to get to their countries of refuge are either attacked as foreigners or threated with mass detention in countries like Egypt,’ he said.

The national service is the main driver of the migration problem in Eritrea. Eritrea is classified as a ‘no peace, no war’ situation as a result of the border dispute with Ethiopia.

Unlike other refugee camps which are often populated by women, children and the disabled, the refugee camps that Prof. Connell visited are populated by young men and women fleeing the national service. Although the national service was initially for a period of 18 months, it was extended indefinitely. The number of migrants increases every year. Eritrea is now classified as the largest producer of refugees per capita. ‘Eritrea was not always like this. Many people were flowing back into the country after the liberation struggle. The liberation movement was remarkable in its commitment for social transformation with its focus on education and health. As a result, it enjoyed popular support. However with the attainment of independence, the government became repressive after the border dispute in 2000. Soon after the dispute, the government began to crack down on opposition and restrict freedoms of movement and expression. Thousands of young people were rounded up for the national service which although was initially popular became a symbol of indefinite servitude. Eritrea now competes with North Korea and Turkmenistan for lowest human rights rankings,’ said Connell.

Prof Connell pointed out that the human trafficking and forced migration problem will only be resolved once the political situation in Eritrea changes and the national service is for a definite period. This would mean that Eritreans stop trying to escape and only leave using legal means.

Related link:

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites you to the book launch of Socio­‐Economic Rights in South: Symbols or Substance? The publication is edited by Malcolm Langford, Ben Cousins, Jackie Dugard and Tshepo Madlingozi.

Former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa,  Zak Jacoob will be the guest speaker at the book launch. The book launch forms part of the Judicial Enforcement of Socieo-Economic Rights in South Africa course, presented by the Advanced Human Rights Courses at the Centre for Human Rights.

The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), an initiative of 43 organizations working across 23 countries in Africa to promote and protect women’s rights in Africa, strongly condemns discriminatory provisions of Kenya’s 2013 Matrimonial Property Act and the Marriage Bill (pending presidential assent).

The Matrimonial Property Act, which was duly gazetted into law on 10th January 2014, is discriminatory and a retrogressive step for women's rights to land and property in Kenya. The Act, in brief, defines matrimonial property as only property that is jointly owned by the spouse, and disallows women the right to marital property upon the death or divorce of their spouse by requiring them to prove their contribution to the acquisition of the property during the marriage.

Because few Kenyan women own or jointly own property with their spouses, and given that many Kenyan women do not work in paid employment, many are unable to contribute financially in the acquisition of matrimonial property. In effect the Act strips women of rights to family property, including the very homes in which they and their children live in, when they are unable to prove financial contribution. Christine Ochieng, Executive Director of Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA-K) has noted that “the issue of proving contribution is irrelevant because the Constitution does not talk about proof of contribution; the Constitution talks about equality at the dissolution of marriage. And it should be 50-50 automatically.” Frances Raday, head of the of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice warned that “women will effectively have no security of tenure, or place to live with their children if their husband leaves them or dies, which will also increase their risk of experiencing violence…The passage of the Act will have a detrimental impact on the right to food, the right to adequate housing and the right to an adequate standard of living for Kenyan women, children and communities.”

Kenya’s troubling legislative trend did not cease there. In late March 2014, Kenyan MPs voted to include a provision in the new Marriage Bill that formally permits polygamy, but omits the critical long existing cultural context that permitted first wives to weigh in or veto a husband’s choice. In effect, the new clause permits men in Kenya to take as many wives as they desire without wife’s consent, violating the Constitution and undermining the rights of women. The proposed concept of polygamy under the Marriage Bill is extremely demeaning to Kenyan women and waters down the gains the country has made against inequality. Instead of indoctrinating archaic notions of patriarchy that perpetuate a culture of violence and discrimination against women, it is imperative that the prevailing legal framework adequately protects a woman’s right to assert control over her own life and family circumstances.

These two pieces of legislation are retrogressive in nature and in clear violation of Kenya’s 2010 constitution, which gives significant prominence to human rights and international law, and entrenches the rights and fundamental freedoms of all, including the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. They are also contrary to Kenya’s legal obligations embodied in regional and international instruments. Kenya has ratified – and thus is bound by - the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (“the Maputo Protocol”), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Article 2 of the Maputo Protocol underscores Kenya’s affirmative duty to combat all forms of discrimination against women, which includes ensuring the principle of equality between women and men in its legal framework and ensuring its effective application. Article 6 of the Maputo Protocol discourages polygamy and underscores the importance of equality in marriage, especially in polygamous relationships, which includes mutual agreement – and the right of a married woman to acquire and manage her own property freely. The protection of these rights can only occur when women are given the right to have a say and bearing on decisions that will affect their lives and families, including the decision to take on an additional wife. Article 7(d) of the Maputo Protocol obligates Kenya to ensure that in the event of divorce or separation, parties “have the right to an equitable sharing of the joint property deriving from the marriage.” Further, the Maputo Protocol requires Kenya to guarantee the right to inherent human dignity and the protection of her human and legal rights (Article 3), the right to access to justice and equal protection before the law (Article 8), the right for women to live in a positive cultural context and participate in the determination of cultural policies (Article 17), the right to sustainable development (Article 19) and inheritance rights (Article 21).

Further underscoring the discriminatory nature of the Marriage Bill, the CEDAW committee, in General Recommendation 21, condemned polygamy by asserting that “polygamous marriage contravenes a woman’s right to equality with men, and can have such serious emotional and financial consequences for her and her dependents that such marriages ought to be discouraged and prohibited.”

SOAWR therefore calls on:

  • i. His Excellency The President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta to listen to and protect the majority of this country’s citizens - women - and refrain from signing the Marriage Bill into law, and allow for a review of the untenable provisions, guided by the spirit and letter of the Constitution and the obligations of the state under the Maputo Protocol.
  • ii. The Kenyan Parliament to repeal discriminatory and unconstitutional provisions from the 2013 Matrimonial Property Act to ensure that women have equal rights and opportunity before the law.

About the SOAWR Coalition:
SOAWR is working to ensure that the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa remains on the agenda of policy makers and to urge all African leaders to safeguard the rights of women
through ratification and implementation of the Protocol.

Members of the Coalition: BURKINA FASO: Voix de Femmes; BURUNDI: Collectif des Associations et ONGs Féminines de Burundi; CAMEROON: Women’s Advocacy and Communication Network, Women Peace Initiatives Association; DJIBOUTI: Union Nationale des Femmes de Djibouti; EGYPT: Association of Egyptian Female Lawyers; ETHIOPIA: Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children; THE GAMBIA: African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies; GHANA: African Women’s Development Fund; GUINEA: Cellule de Coordination sur les PratiquesTraditionellesAffectant la Santé des Femmes et des Enfants; KENYA: African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Coalition on Violence against Women, Equality Now (Secretariat), Ipas Africa Alliance for Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights, FAHAMU Networks for Social Justice, Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya, Oxfam GB, Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, Tomorrow’s Child Initiative, Women Direct; LIBERIA: Women of Liberia Peace Network, Women NGO’s Secretariat of Liberia; MALAWI: NGO Gender Coordination Network; MALI: Association des JuristesMaliennes; MOZAMBIQUE: Forum Mulher; NAMIBIA: Sister Namibia; NIGERIA: Alliances for Africa, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Human Rights Law Service, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternatives; SENEGAL: Inter-African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development, (FAHAMU Networks for Social Justice); SOUTH AFRICA: People Opposing Women Abuse, University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights; SOUTH SUDAN: Steward-Organisation; SUDAN: Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA); TANZANIA: Legal and Human Rights Centre; UGANDA: Action for Development, Akina Mama waAfrika, Centre for Justice Studies and Innovations, Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, (SIHA), Uganda Women’s Network; ZAMBIA: Women and Law Southern Africa, Women in Law and Development in Africa; ZIMBABWE: Girl Child Network Media Contact:

South Africa’s Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, delivered a public lecture at the Centre for Human Rights. The event was organised by the Centre for Human Rights to mark 15 years of the Master’s degree programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. The programme is presented by the Centre for Human Rights and 13 other African universities. At the ceremony, the Centre for Human Rights also remembered an alumnus of the programme Mr Julius Osega who passed away in 2006 while on a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. More than 200 guests attended the public lecture. 

Human Rights Day is an opportunity for stock-taking and an occasion for celebration. In the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, we should not lose sight of the very fact that all South Africans are now able to vote in a legitimate process under circumstances that are largely free of violence and intimidation. The Public Protector’s recent report on Nkandla also serves as a reminder that our democracy has brought into being strong institutions, which support the transformation of our society from one based on unquestionable adherence to executive and legislative authority to one based on a culture of justification.

On this day, we also recall the unfortunate events of Sharpeville, on 21 March 1960. The choice of this date as ‘Human Rights Day’ underlines that effective human rights protection is not a given, but is born from and needs to be sustained through constant struggle and vigilance. It is unacceptable that many South Africans still live in dire conditions, which constitute a violation of their constitutionally guaranteed socio-economic rights.

As South Africans, we should on this day also reflect on the serious violations of human rights in many part of our continent, often due to violence and state repression. It is important that the South African government should be guided in its foreign policy by the light of the Constitution. It should for example be more outspoken in its concern about the effects of the draconian laws on homosexuality adopted recently by Nigeria and Uganda. Restrictions on free expression is among many of the other issues affecting human rights on the continent. The Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria is currently involved in an amicus curiae brief before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights concerning the detention of a journalist under laws restricting freedom of expression. The Centre is further very concerned about the arrest and on-going detention of one of the its alumni, Thulani Maseko, for criticising the judiciary of his country, Swaziland.

The Centre for Human Rights hosted a meeting of experts on child marriage in Africa on the 5th and 6th of March 2014. This meeting forms part of the child marriage project which seeks to investigate the prevalence of this phenomenon in African countries, and to give recommendations on best practices that can be employed to curb it. This project supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA) especially to follow up on the implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa by state parties, notably by preparing reports on the situation of women’s rights in Africa and propose recommendations to be adopted by the Commission. The Special Rapporteur is further mandated to carry out comparative studies on the situation of the rights of women in various countries of Africa.

The meeting brought together regional experts from 10 countries which form part of this study, as well as 10 country researchers contracted to compile country reports which will form part of the final regional report. The countries focused on for this study are Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda. These countries were chosen for their collective high prevalence rates in early and forced marriages, as well as to offer some examples in terms of best practices that may be employed, regionally in the fight against early and forced marriages. Also in attendance were representatives from the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), whose input was very helpful in framing some conceptual considerations. It is hoped that ultimately the report will be adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The women’s rights clinic which forms part of the Master’s program in human rights and democratization in Africa is also involved in the development of General Comments enumerating states obligations with respect to the elimination of harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriage, under the Women’s Protocol to the African Charter. A draft was shared at the meeting for comments and input and it is envisioned that through the expertise present at this meeting, the Comments shall be finalised and presented to the African Commission for adoption at the session later in the year.

It was a productive and engaging meeting that brought to the fore practical considerations and possible interventions that may be employed in the drive to eradicate harmful traditional practices including child marriage. Some recommendations made include naming the practice child unions and not a forced marriage as the necessary consent to marriage can never be present between a minor and an adult. It was also recommended that the ACERWC be closer involved in the development of this report, alongside the SRRWA as the issue relates primarily to the girl child. A firm commitment was made for future collaboration in the development of the report as well as in the completion of the General Comments. Further updates shall be made available.

On 11 February 2014, Professor Jonathan Jansen, the Vice Principal and Rector of University of the Free State, addressed a gathering to welcome 26 African students from all over the continent who are at the University of Pretoria to pursue a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. The Master’s programme to which the students are admitted is presented by 13 African universities under the stewardship of the Centre for Human Rights (CHR), Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. The event was attended by donors, members of the diplomatic corps, senior management of the University of Pretoria, students and members of the public.

In his speech titled “Nearness as an approach to solving human wrongs,” Professor Jansen spoke about the key qualities to which leaders should aspire. He noted that leadership is often mistaken for toughness. This misconceived idea of leadership is pervasive on the African continent and creates more problems than it solves.

Professor Jansen said that leadership must be about being close to the people that one leads. Those who are led would be more understanding if a leader showed closeness even when things are not going well. Good leadership should be about being empathetic, allowing oneself to feel what those she or he leads feel. Being accessible was a very important quality for leaders because that is why people appoint them or elect leaders into office. True leadership, he said, requires listening more than talking. Professor Jansen emphasised that proper leadership involves paying attention not only to those who are succeeding in society but being particularly aware and in touch with the most needy in society. True leadership is about sacrifice and not about self-enrichment.

The 2014 Master’s Class consists of 13 women and 13 men from 15 African countries. The students were admitted to the programme following a very intensive selection process.

Having started with its first intake in 2000, the Master’s programme in 2014 marks 15 years of existence. The number of graduates of the programme stands at 402, drawn from 42 countries. The alumni of the programme work in academia, civil service, national and international non-governmental organisations, international organisations such as the African Union Commission and the United Nations.

The programme is funded by the European Union, the German Academic Exchange Services, Open Society Foundation and benefits indirectly from funding from the Flemish Delegation and Norwegian Government.

On 7 May 1971 – in the windswept sandstorm region of the Sahel, a male child was born in Southern Burkina Faso in the town of Ouessa to a farmer whose selfless character was to be a notable virtue in his son. Though born to a humble beginning, this child in his early years had the resilience of a baobab. Against the ebbs and flows of the semi-arid region of his birth, he would go with his father to their farm to cultivate crops. One day, as he helped his father with tomato plants, his father told him that whatever you do, do it to the fullest. Though it had seemed like a statement that would pass with the wind, this child took it to heart. Through seasons of drought and moments of rain as this child matured into a man, those words sunk in his heart.. 

During his years as an undergraduate student at the University of Ouagadougou, he was part of a youth wing of the national movement for human rights. He graduated in 1997 and in 1999 became a public law jurist in the Parliament of Burkina Faso. As a jurist, he was involved in various significant activities, one of which was: monitoring the compliance of draft bills with the government’s international obligations. But as a man who knew to do things to the fullest, his perspective was always wider than the enclave of the sand-swept country of his birth. He wanted to do more, to press for change beyond his country. So in 2003, he applied for the Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa. 

It is no mean fit for someone from a francophone country with full education in French to aspire unto one of the most demanding Masters Programme. But this man did and with resilience, he shone. Being the first and only student from Burkina Faso, his courage in coming in spite of the challenges ahead of him was remarkable. While everyone else took away with them a degree, he took away twice as much. He took with him fluency in a second language that flung open the doors of his life.

When he graduated in 2004, he was prepared to be a leading voice of change and having been well equipped to do so, he began with resilience. In 2005, he joined the United Nations – an institution often criticised for crooning the tunes of good governance but not doing enough. While it is easy to overlook people working in this system unless they are at the very top, one cannot help but notice this man who through hardship as made a difference. He has shown that he is not just a clog in the wheel but someone determined to make a personal contribution. Someone prepared to make a lasting difference. Someone prepared to do things to the fullest. 

From Sierra Leone to Chad, to Cote D’Ivoire to Mali – countries with fragile democracies, this man has made a difference, protecting the rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children. In Sierra Leone, he designed and implemented a capacity-building project for local governments on “Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law”. In Chad, he was involved in monitoring, investigating and documenting human rights violations. He chaired inter-agency meetings on child protection and participated in joint government-United Nations visits to military bases to ensure that children are not in the bases as soldiers. In July of 2010, he joined the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire where he was involved in several activities, one of which was ensuring that UN Agencies adopt a rights-based approach in their programmes and operations. During the post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire, he was involved in human rights and peace-keeping activities. While the rest of the world slept soundly, he was awake, keeping the peace.

One afternoon in Abidjan, following the bombing of a local market, he was requested to investigate the crisis for a report to the United Nations Security Council. While many other colleagues refused to join him in apprehension, he was not deterred. Although the convoy he was in was shot at and he could have lost his life, he did not quit. This man has sacrificed not only his time but also his resources. With the yearning to do more, in 2010, he established the Citizens Information and Documentation Center in his home country. He was driven by the belief that an informed citizenry is well placed to participate in the orderings of society. 

In recognition of his sacrifice, commitment and passion for the advancement of human rights on our continent, the 2013 Vera Chirwa Award was presented to Mr Augustin Kounkiné Somé.