The right to life in Africa: General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

paul_ogendiAuthor: Paul Ogendi
Researcher, Working Group on death penalty and extrajudicial summary or arbitrary killings in Africa, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

During its 57th Ordinary Session held from 4 to 18 November 2015 in Banjul, The Gambia, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) adopted General Comment No. 3 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (General Comment No. 3) focusing on the right to life.

The document is timely because the protection of the right to life is currently under threat globally. Africa is no exception.

The Commission in 2012 expanded the work of one of its working groups focusing on the right to life to include not just death penalty but also extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings in Africa.

Some of the salient features of the new General Comment are discussed below.

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It’s official: The East African Court of Justice can now adjudicate human rights cases

ally_possiAuthor: Ally Possi
Lecturer, Law School of Tanzania; Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania

The legitimacy of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to adjudicate human rights cases has been a debatable aspect ever since the Court’s inception. Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty mention human rights, which ordinarily the EACJ is mandated to interpret. However, article 27(2) of the Treaty implies to suspend what seems to be a legitimate human rights authority of the Court. Consequently, articles 6(d), 7(2) and 27(2) have made litigants, legal scholars and even EACJ judges to be at cross-roads with respect to EACJ’s human rights jurisdiction.

The recent decision in Democratic Party v. The Secretary General of the EAC, Appeal No. 1 of 2014 (Democratic Party case) will make the functioning of the EACJ rather interesting within the near future. In that case, the EACJ unequivocally held that it has ‘jurisdiction to interpret the Charter [African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights herein the African Charter] in the context of the [EAC] Treaty.’ This lining of the decision becomes more authoritative as it is from the Appellate Division section of the Court.

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Banning female circumcision in The Gambia through legislative change: The next steps

satang_nabanehAuthor: Satang Nabaneh
Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia.

There is nothing more powerful than a decision made at the right time, especially one which is a desideratum. So it was with the ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia. From the coastal village of Brufut, on the chilly night of 24 November 2015, President Jammeh declared a ban on FGM stating that it was a cultural and not a religious practice (that is not to say that the practice would have been justifiable if it was a religious practice, given its well documented harmful effects). The news was as unexpected as it was music to the ear. It was every campaigner’s wish, to see an end to FGM in The Gambia. This was swiftly followed by the passing of the Women’s (Amendment) Bill 2015 by the National Assembly on 2 December 2015 to prohibit female circumcision. The amendment addresses one of the key deficiencies of the Women’s Act 2010 which was the absence of a provision on eliminating harmful traditional practices. The Amendment Act added sections 32A and 32B in the Women’s Act. With the enactment, The Gambia joined a number of African countries in adopting legislation as a reform strategy for ending FGM.

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International human rights day: A call to Eritrea to own up to its shocking human rights record!

Legogang MaxeleguAuthor: Lebogang Maxelegu
Assistant Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

10 December 2015 marked the 65th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day, which the international community celebrates annually to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The UDHR is arguably the first global document to pronounce on human rights standards that countries ought to aspire to. Though not a treaty itself and therefore not binding on Member States, the UDHR serves as the cornerstone for the definition of human rights and fundamental freedoms as outlined in the United Nations Charter, which is legally binding on all State Parties including Eritrea which joined the United Nations(UN) in 1993.

The UDHR is also the bedrock upon which treaties such the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were founded. Eritrea has notably ratified both covenants, further and invariably placing upon itself a legal obligation to abide by the human rights norms enunciated in the declaration as well as other ratified treaties.

The United Nations General Assembly held its Seventieth Session in October 2015, during which the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, H.E. Mr. Osman Saleh, was invited to address the assembly. In his speech, the Honourable Minister declared that Eritrea is making remarkable progress in building a nation founded on the respect for human rights, contrary to what he described as “unfair and baseless accusations” of human rights violations that Eritrea has been subjected to. But is Eritrea truly making the progress that it has committed itself to in terms of the UDHR? Is it being unfairly targeted by the international community? These questions warrant an examination of some of the observations on the state of human rights in Eritrea made by treaty bodies and the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

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We must include and empower people with disabilities

william_asekaAuthor: William Aseka
Disability Rights Program Advisor, Kenya Human Rights Commission

Today one billion people around the world are living with disabilities. According to Kenya National Survey for Persons with Disabilities more than three million people in Kenya are living with disabilities. Many persons with disabilities have good jobs and proper education. However, far too many persons with disabilities in Kenya face barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

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Eritrean Independence: Form over substance

Legogang MaxeleguAuthor: Lebogang Maxelegu

Assistant Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Eritreans observed the 54th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Armed Struggle for Independence on 1 September 2015. While the success of the armed struggle in attaining independence from Ethiopian rule should have been a cause for celebration for the whole nation, it was instead characterised with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, the ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) and some Eritreans, embraced and glorified the country’s protracted 30 year war with Ethiopia-describing it as one of Africa’s formidable revolutions.  On the other hand, many Eritreans, in particular those who  fled, have by implication of their seeking refuge in other countries, expressed their discontentment with the current  socio-political landscape in which widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations are perpetrated with impunity.

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The National Migration Policy and its implementation framework: A precursor for a more effective migration governance in Nigeria

Uche Hilary-OgbonnaAuthor: Uche Hilary-Ogbonna

Humanitarian Affairs Officer, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (UN OCHA) Abuja

Legal frameworks are the bedrock for any effective management system. They underscore the importance of articulating a set of aspirations in concise directives and regulations, offering guidance to the myriad of field operatives and interventions in the varied sectors of migration management, development or the society at large. For the migration sector in Nigeria, it has been a long, tough journey to the adoption of the National Migration Policy and its implementation framework. The Policy is widely considered a breakthrough piece of legal document which came to fruition on account of years of toil by a host of government functionaries, development actors, the academia and civil society organizations.

The Policy comes at a very important time in the global migratory scene with the rise in international migration across the Mediterranean resulting in multiple deaths. With over 170 million citizens, Nigeria is important in migration management as a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants. Nigeria faces challenges such as effective diaspora engagement and remittances, inter-regional, rural-urban migration flows, migration of highly skilled and unskilled labour, data generation, as well as trafficking in persons to mention a few.

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