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  •   The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Unit Read More
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Shifting language(s): the evolving landscape of words and meanings in queer lives

On the occasion of IDAHOBIT 2022, the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender, University of Pretoria, in partnership with the Embassy of France in South Africa and the Alliance Française in Pretoria are hosting a panel discussion on the theme “Shifting language(s): the evolving landscape of words and meanings in queer lives”.

On 21 April 2022, the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS, and Gender (CSA&G) at the University Pretoria, facilitated the first webinar in the Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations: Scholarly and Activist Perspectives on LGBTIQ+ Lived Realities in Africa  in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Center for Conflict Studies (CCS) as well as the Center for Gender Studies and Feminist Futures (CGS), Philipps-University of Marburg. The Pretoria- Marburg Queer Conversations creates a monthly space for in-depth discussions designed to tap into the intersections of knowledge-production and transfer between diverse scholarly and activist spheres and contributes to methodological, conceptual, and normative aspects of centering LGBTIQ+ rights and lived realities in African contexts.

Lesbian Day of Visibility is celebrated internationally on 26 April each year, as part of Lesbian Visibility Week. Lesbian Visibility Day seeks to combat the erasure of lesbians by celebrating their existence, achievements and contributions. The Centre for Human Rights is proud to celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day and to note the important role lesbians have played in the feminist, LGBTIQ+ and anti-apartheid movement in South Africa as well as various movements for justice across the continent and globe.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, has released volume 2 of the photobook series titled Looking through the prism: Narratives of queer dignity in South Africa. This series features photographs and narratives of the lives of LGBTIQ+ persons living in South Africa. Volume 2 of the series focuses on lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) cisgender and transgender women.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is convening a conference to bring together activists and  scholars working on the protection and promotion of LGBTIQ+ rights in Africa for a dialogue and exchange of ideas on the goal of decriminalising sexual rights offences and eradicating conversion practices in African countries. The Centre hopes to build a body of academically sound literature harmonizing context and strategy on these topics and, as such, welcomes contributions from scholars based at or affiliated with universities in Africa. We are inviting submission of papers including scholarly articles, essays, comments on recently decided cases and further comments relating to the themes of the conference. 

International Transgender Day of Visibility is celebrated globally on the 31st of March every year. International Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates the existence and achievements of transgender persons and seeks to raise awareness of the discrimination experienced by the trans community. Transgender persons have been at the forefront of LGBTIQ+ communities’ struggles and activism and have contributed to the collective human endeavour in fields as diverse as science, law, philosophy and the arts. Unfortunately, transgender persons in Africa and across the world experience a plethora of human rights violations that have not been effectively addressed, such as transphobic killings, inaccessibility to healthcare, lack of legal recognition and exclusion from public areas of life, such as sports and media. Increasingly, there are attempts to portray trans inclusion as anti-feminist, a move which must be rejected as bad faith and ill-informed. The Centre for Human Rights stands by the principle that human rights are universal and inalienable, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, cordially invites you to apply for its Capacity Building Workshop on Strategic Litigation and Advocacy for human rights defenders working on the promotion and protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and other non-binary and gender-nonconforming persons in Africa. 

On Monday, 7 March 2022, Italian diplomat Fabrizio Petri, the country’s first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ persons, visited the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. Mr Petri is one of only four such Special Envoys globally. In this position, created in 2021 by the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, he works towards promoting and protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons around the world, with special focus on the decriminalisation of same-sex sexual relationships.

The Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC) and the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Units at the Centre for Human Rights (the ‘Centre’), University of Pretoria (UP) recently hosted the 2022 edition of its annual short course on Sexual Minority Rights in Africa. The course was presented through both virtual and physical sessions from 21 to 25 February 2022. The course was attended by 70 participants with more than 15 presenters from both across and outside Africa. Participants included the LLM/Mphil students of the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA) and the Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa (SRRA) Masters programmes in the Faculty of Law, UP. Also in attendance were researchers, academics, judicial officers, government workers, and members of civil society. The hybrid format provided an opportunity for the Centre to accommodate a larger group of participants in an interactive, virtual classroom in conjunction with those  who physically attended the course.

Binaries and Boxes

In conversation with Dr Mzikazi Nduna

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (UP), in partnership with the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA), hosted a three-day workshop on strategic litigation and advocacy for LGBTI+ human rights defenders in Africa. The workshop is an annual event organised by the Centre’s Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Unit and is aimed at building the capacity of and empowering LGBTI+ human rights defenders in Africa, with a specific focus on how to conduct strategic litigation and advocacy. This year’s edition was held virtually from 7 to 9 October 2020.

Pride Afrique, the first virtual Pan-African pride event, recently took place from 14 to 16  August. The event provided an opportunity for African LGBTIQ+ communities to meet and celebrate virtually, despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has prevented several physical pride events from being held.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria notes with disappointment the decision by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court to effectively ban Caster Semenya from participating in certain competitive sporting events (400m to the mile) unless she reduces her testosterone levels to ‘acceptable female’ levels. This decision follows an appeal by Caster to the Supreme Court against a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), which upheld the validity of the World Athletics regulations on female athletes with differences of sex development (Eligibility Regulations on Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development). The CAS, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is a private legal person under Swiss law. Its arbitration awards are subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa, cordially invites you to apply for the Capacity Building Workshop on Strategic Advocacy and Litigation for human rights defenders working on the promotion and protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Africa.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (‘the Centre’), is implementing a three-year project on access to the equality courts by the LGBTIQ+ community in the City of Tshwane. The overall goal of the project is to demonstrably promote the enhanced use of the Equality Courts by the South African LGBTIQ+ community in general, and the Tshwane community in particular.

On 11 August 2020, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS & Gender (CSA&G) at the University of Pretoria (UP), co-hosted a webinar on the UP Trans Protocol (the ‘Protocol’), a document developed for UP’s Institutional Transformation Committee (ITC) to address the needs of transgendered, intersex and gender-diverse students and staff members. The Protocol hopes to enable the eradication of discrimination against transgender (trans), intersex, gender non-conforming and non-binary members of the student and staff body.

The Centre for Human Rights welcomes the passing of the Civil Union Amendment Bill by South Africa’s second legislative body, the National Council of Provinces (NCP). The Amendment Bill repeals section 6 of the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006 (CUA), which had provided that a marriage officer may, in writing, inform the Minister of Home Affairs that he or she objects to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex on the ground of conscience, religion, and belief. This provision had long been a barrier to the legal recognition of same-sex couples by marriage officers in the Department of Home Affairs.

On 2 June 2020, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria hosted a webinar to discuss the challenges faced by hyper-androgenic women in competitive sports, with a focus on Caster Semenya. Members of the panel were Commissioner Advocate Mohamed Shafie Armeemia (from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)), Professor Steve Cornelius (from the University of Pretoria), Bianca Kapp (a lawyer and researcher on hyperandrogenism in sports), Joshua Sehoole (a South Africa based human rights activist), and Tapiwa Mamhare (a human rights lawyer and project officer at the Centre).

The Centre for Human Rights welcomes the news that the legislature of the Gabonese Republic (‘Gabon’) has voted to pass a landmark bill to decriminalise homosexuality in the country. The amendment removes an ‘offence against morality’ provision in the Penal Code which prohibits ‘sexual relations between persons of the same sex’, stipulating up to six months in prison and a fine of five million CFA francs (about US$8,600) for anyone found guilty.

The Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G), recognise, support, and commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). This annual event, observed on May 17, is marked internationally for the recognition of LGBTIQ+ rights. In particular, it is used to raise awareness and educate the public on issues of violence, discrimination, repression, and also to call attention to the health challenges that detract from the progress and wellbeing of the LGBTIQ+ community all over the world.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has had a major impact on the global public and has disrupted the daily pattern of life for billions of people across the world. As states across the globe impose lockdowns and ‘social distancing’ regulations to contain the spread of the virus, human rights have become severely restricted even in the most liberal democratic countries.

In commemoration of IDAHOBIT, there will be a webinar hosted by the Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS & Gender, University of Pretoria.

Since 2008, Lesbian Visibility Day is celebrated annually on 26 April. It has now grown into a week-long event known as Lesbian Visibility Week and is celebrated from 20 to 26 April 2020. The day aims to celebrate and support lesbian women while increasing the visibility of the lesbian community. Across the globe, women who love women continue to be persecuted in a unique way. Their sexuality is often viewed as a challenge to patriarchal masculinity and traditional gender roles, and this frequently results in targeted violence against lesbian women. The violent phenomena of homophobic rape, more commonly recognised by the misnomer ‘corrective rape’, continues to plague the lesbian community. This is the situation in Africa, as it is around the world.

The Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC), in collaboration with the SOGIESC Unit of the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (UP), recently hosted the annual short course on Sexual Minority Rights in Africa, from 24 to the 28 February 2020.  The course was attended by 58 participants from all over the world, with 20 African countries represented. This year’s participants included students on both the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) and the LLM/MPhil (Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Africa) programmes. Also in attendance were doctoral researchers, judicial officers, representatives from the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), members of civil society, academics and members from the South African Police Services (SAPS).

(By Geoffrey Ogwaro)

As South Africa commemorated World Aids Day on December 1, the country pledged to renew, rejuvenate and recommit itself to the fight to end HIV. There are nascent plans and frameworks in place, such as the national strategic plan on HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB) and the national LGBTI HIV plan.

The theme for this year is “ending the HIV/Aids epidemic: community by community”, and the United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids is emphasising the role of communities in ending the epidemic once and for all.

The Centre for Human Rights presented its statement on aspects of the human rights situation in Africa, at the 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, taking place in Banjul, the Gambia. It drew attention to the situation in Cameroon; raised concerns about the lack of priority by the African Commission on its protective mandate; called for the consistent implementation of Resolution 275; and urged the African Commission to develop soft-law standards on the rights of intersex persons.

Spirit Day is an annual LGBTQ awareness day which was started in 2010 by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan. Spirit Day was initially created in response to many widely publicised bullying-related suicides of gay school students in 2010. The Centre for Human Rights stands with LGBTQ youth this Spirit Day, and every day. We sat down with young people who have both experienced and witnessed bullying in schools to share their perspectives with us and explain why #IHaveSpirit.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (UP), with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, hosted a week-long capacity building workshop on strategic litigation and advocacy for LGBTI+ human rights defenders in Africa. The workshop is an annual event organised by the Centre’s Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Unit and is aimed at empowering LGBTI+ human rights defenders in Africa, with a specific focus on how to conduct strategic advocacy and litigation. This year’s edition was held from 7 to 11 October 2019.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, cordially invites you to apply for the Capacity Building Workshop on Strategic Advocacy and Litigation targeted at the promotion and protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Africa.

On 17 July 2019, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (UP), in conjunction with the Simon Nkoli Collective, the Faculty of Humanities (UP), the Department of Sociology (UP) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (UP), launched an exhibition showcasing the political activism of the late anti-apartheid, AIDS and LGBT struggle icon and activist Simon Nkoli.

The Simon Nkoli Collective is a partnership with the Dean’s Office - Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G), Centre for Human Rights (CHR), and the Sociology Department. The Collective’s aim is to use this exhibition to open debates on transformation, social justice and ideas of memory 25 years into democracy. Moreover, the exhibition is also a celebration of the Faculty of Humanities Centenary through which Simon Nkoli’s memory is evoked as a site for reflecting on Black queer resilience. The desire to inhabit the past through Simon’s journey is to map this existence within the contradictions of (in)equality. 

The High Court of Botswana has, in a landmark ruling and a unanimous decision by the bench declared Section 164 and 165 of the Botswana Penal Code that previously criminalised same-sex sexual acts, as unconstitutional. Botswana joins Angola, Mozambique, Seychelles, and South Africa as members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to have decriminalised same-sex sexual acts, a progressive outlook for this region. The Botswana decision comes not so long after Kenyan judges upheld similar provisions in the Kenyan Penal Code criminalising same-sex sexual acts, a sad contrast.

Acknowledging and understanding intersex

In conversation with Ronie Zuze

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Africans concerned about human rights are closely following a meeting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights taking place in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh.

The commission – the continent’s primary continental human rights body – is meeting in the shadow of a decision it took last year that’s raised questions about its reputation. The view among activists is that it yielded to political pressure from the African Union when it took away the observer status of the Coalition of African Lesbians. It had granted the organisation the status in 2015.

Engaging the African Commission on sexuality matters

Conversation with Mr Berry Nibogora

On so many levels, the last week of February 2019 was a risky leap for the Queer Space Collective, comprising the Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Sexualities AIDS and Gender, University of Pretoria. It was the maiden edition of the Invitation: Pride and Letters - Queer Literary Festival. The Pride and Letters ran hand in glove with the Advanced Human Rights Course: Sexual Minority Rights 2019, weaving its content through a more narrative and intimate approach than is the tradition. The three themes addressed in the course of the week were: queer exploration; queer resistance and queer celebration. These days have been chronicled in the week’s diary.

The Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC) and the SOGIESC Unit are currently hosting the annual short course on Sexual Minority Rights in Africa. The maiden edition of the Pride & Letters Queer Literary Festival forms part of the week-long programme.

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Angola has decriminalised consensual same-sex acts between adults in private.

An erstwhile Portuguese colony, Angola inherited an ancient colonial statute – dating back to 1886 – that criminalised “indecent acts” and persons habitually engaging in “acts against nature”. These formulations have widely been interpreted as a ban on homosexual conduct.

The Centre for Human Rights (the Centre) congratulates the government, parliament and people of Angola, for the brave steps taken, through its judicial reform programme, towards the decriminalisation of ‘habitual unnatural vices’, into which consensual adult same-sex sexual conduct was read. The Centre also expresses its pleasure towards the criminalisation of crimes based on discrimination including prohibiting crimes based on discrimination based on sexual orientation. To further galvanise the reforms, employment and service discrimination based on sexual orientation is also now illegal. These are major achievements towards respecting and promoting the rights of all citizens of Angola including sexual and gender minorities.

The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) Unit continues to celebrate LGBTIQ+ Africans who have bravely served and are still bravely serving their communities in various capacities worthy of note.

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, cordially invites you to apply for the Capacity Building Workshop on Strategic Advocacy & Litigation targeted at the promotion and protection of the human rights of lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in Africa.

pdfDownload the Call for Applications

Please join us for a panel discussion in celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOT). The theme for this year, Alliances for Solidarity, is a welcome reminder of the need for solidarity within the communities of sexual and gender minorities, as the rights of one specific group cannot be solidly secured if the rights of other groups are left unchallenged. 

pdfDownload this invitation

The Queer Space Collective calls on you to participate in fostering the creation, telling, re-telling, archiving and accessibility of queer books and stories by donating used or brand new queer literature to the Queer Library for use by members of the University of Pretoria community.

pdfDownload the Call for Donations

In commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, is developing a photo exhibition and short video on the theme ‘Transwomen are women’. The exhibition and video will focus on the strength of Article 1(k) of the Maputo Protocol which provides that 'Women means persons of female gender, including girls'.

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, is convening a colloquium on 2 - 3 August 2018 and is calling for abstracts on non-heteronormative African sexualities and genders.

The colloquium has the following main themes:

  1. reading the LGBTI category at the African locale; and
  2. indigenising stigmatised non-heteronormative African sexualities and genders.

It is anticipated that papers presented at the colloquium will be reworked by authors with a view to their consideration for publication as chapters in an edited volume.

pdfDownload this Call for Abstracts

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria cordially invites you to a Panel discussion - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as a basis for asylum and refugee status.

pdfDownload this invitation

On Saturday 4 November 2017, the Centre for Human Rights (Centre) in partnership with Iranti-org and SIPD -Uganda convened a panel discussion on intersex human rights in Banjul, The Gambia. The event came on the side-lines of the 61st ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) which is taking place from 1-15 November. This was monumental considering that the African Commission is celebrating its 30 years anniversary and achievements ever-since it became operational 30 years ago.

The Centre for Human Rights works for the improvement of the human rights of minorities - including sexual minorities - and other disadvantaged or marginalised persons or groups across the continent.

Funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Pretoria, the Centre's SOGIE Unit focuses on education, capacity-building, advocacy and legal aid in the area of LGBTI rights and anti-discrimination. This poster highlights great Africans who identify as LGBTI persons, who are leaders in their field, and whose work contributes to the realisation of sexual minority rights in Africa.

pdfDownload the poster on African LGBTI icons

The Centre for Human Rights calls for the immediate release of the 42 persons who were unjustly arrested by law enforcement agents at the HIV awareness training for sexual and gender minorities which was held at the Vincent Hotel, Weigh Bridge in Owode Onirin, Lagos State, Nigeria on Saturday 29 July 2017.

pdfDownload this statement

On Thursday 27 July 2017, Queer Africa 2: New stories made its grand entry into the University of Pretoria(UP) community at its well-attended book launch organised by the Queer Space Collective (QSC) at the Library Auditorium, University of Pretoria, Hatfield Campus. This was preceding earlier launches at the University of Witwatersrand, Cape Town and Oslo.

The force behind bringing Queer Africa 2: New stories home to UP, was the QSC’s vision to make the UP safer and more inclusive of queer identity and expression through creative writing and expressions. The QSC is an informal group comprising of individuals mostly from ten organisations representative of both themselves and their organisations. These organisations include: Student for Law and Social Justice; Up and Out; English Department and Drama Department of the University of Pretoria; Church World Services; Right to Care; Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action(GALA); Centre for Sexuality Aids and Gender; and the Centre for Human Rights. These organisations among other things engage actively at the core of their work with the issues of queerness and sexual and gender minority issues. Interestingly, individual membership of the QSC cuts across persons of various ages, races, sexual orientation, gender identities, nationalities and backgrounds working together through interdependence amongst members and member organisations to storm UP, to charm the UP space with the saturating consciousness of the need for equality, safety and inclusivity. The launch of Queer Africa 2: new stories is the Queer Space Collective’s maiden event.

The Queer Space Collective (an informal group with the vision of making the University of Pretoria safer and more inclusive of queer identity and expression through creative writing) invites you to the University of Pretoria launch of Queer Africa 2: New Stories. Join us for readings, performances and a Q&A session.

Queer Africa 2: New Stories is a ground breaking collection featuring twenty-six masterpieces from eight countries – Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, and the United States of America. The plots of all twenty-six stories are separately and skilfully woven to reflect a vast range of human emotions and experiences that abound in the lives of Africans of all shades and colour at home and abroad who own the queer identity.

Date: Thursday 27 July 2017
Time: 17:00 - 18:30
Venue: Merensky Library Auditorium, University of Pretoria, Hatfield Campus
RSVP: PLACES LIMITED, PLEASE CLICK HERE TO RSVP ONLINE BEFORE MONDAY 24 JULY 2017
Contact: Mr David Ikpo  ( david.ikpo@up.ac.za) / Pierre Brouard ( pierre.brouard@up.ac.za)

pdfDownload this invitation

Irish drag queen and LGBTI activist Rory O’Neill/ Panti Bliss launched the book Protecting the human rights of sexual minorities in contemporary Africa edited by Sylvie Namwase and Adrian Jjuuko. The launch took place on 17 May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia. The Embassy of the Netherlands, the Embassy of Ireland, HiVOS South Africa and the Centre for Human Rights partnered to organize a Rainbow Happy Hour and a round table discussion on that day.

pdfDownload this statement

kiki* with Panti (*A gathering of people for a casual chat, laughter, and at times serious discussions. May involve locked doors, tea and gossip.) In conversation with Rory O'Neill (aka Panti Bliss, performer, writer, mentor, and LGBTIQA+, HIV and human rights activist)

Event Details

Date: Thursday 18 May 2017
Time: 14:30 - 16:00
Venue: Conference Room 100, UP (Hatfield Campus)
RSVP: johan.maritz@up.ac.za by 15 May 2017

GENEVA (3 May 2017) – The Government of Eritrea must free journalist Dawit Isaak who has been awarded a prestigious press freedom prize some 15 years after he was detained, a United Nations human rights expert says.
 
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, is also calling on the authorities in Asmara to release unconditionally all others detained unlawfully.

“The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” said Ms. Keetharuth, welcoming the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 to Mr. Isaak.

Dawit Isaak, who is 52 and a playwright, journalist and writer, moved to Sweden in 1987, where he later became a citizen. He returned to Eritrea only after independence in 1993 and was one of the founders and reporters of Setit, the first independent newspaper in the country.

Mr. Isaak was arrested in September 2001 during a political crackdown on the so-called G-15, a group of politicians, and journalists critical of Government policies. Some were detained and tortured, others disappeared. The last known sighting of Mr. Isaak was in 2005. His whereabouts now are unknown.

“The case of Mr. Isaak is emblematic of all those who have been subjected to enforced disappearances by the Government of Eritrea and remain unaccounted for,” said Ms. Keetharuth.

The Special Rapporteur recalled the findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Eritrean officials had committed crimes against humanity, including the crime of enforced disappearance, in a persistent, widespread and systematic manner since 1991.

“The Government of Eritrea has an obligation to urgently provide information on the fate and whereabouts of all those deprived of physical liberty. This would be a first and long-overdue indication that the Government is committed to rebuilding trust with the Eritrean people,” Ms. Keetharuth said.

“By allowing independent monitors immediate and unhindered access to all places of detention, official and unofficial, the Government would send a strong signal that it acknowledges human rights violations of the past, while taking steps to improve the situation on the ground now.
“The arrests of Dawit Isaak and his fellow journalists remain the most visible sign of repression of freedom of expression. The Eritrean authorities continue to stifle all forms of expression that could be perceived as critical of the Government and its policies,” she said.

Ms. Keetharuth reaffirmed that freedom of expression was a basic human right, and a free press one of the tenets of a democratic society, providing a valuable check on potential excesses by government.

Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth (Mauritius) was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea in October 2012. From 2014 to 2016, she also served as a member of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. Since May 2014, Ms. Keetharuth is an expert member of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Until 2012, Ms. Keetharuth was the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa in Banjul, The Gambia. She also worked with Amnesty International in Kampala, Uganda, and as a lawyer and broadcaster in Mauritius. In 2017, Ms. Keetharuth was awarded with the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award by the University of Leicester, in recognition of her human rights work.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

- See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21571&LangID=E#sthash.rFwqqqsA.dpuf