Inclusive national dialogue and accountability for rights violations can heal Ethiopia from a culture of impunity

DuniaMekonnenTegegnAuthor: Dunia Mekonnen Tegegn
Human Rights Lawyer and Gender equality advocate

On 3 November 2020, conflict broke out between the Tigray People Liberation Front and Ethiopia’s National Defense Forces when the Tigray People Liberation Front assaulted the Northern command. Due to the conflict in Ethiopia, women and girls continue to bear the brunt of the cruel and inhuman acts committed by all parties involved in the conflict for the last 17 months. Many have lost their lives, suffered sexual violence, been displaced, and starved. Young girls, women living with disability, older women, and refugee women have been the target of brutal sexual violence. These crimes are horrific in nature as they represent the level of vengeance and humiliation pursued by actors to the conflict. Reports have highlighted the extent of these violations and implicated all sides to the conflict in war crimes and crimes against humanity.     Read the rest of this entry »


Making sense of Africa’s massive abstentions during the adoption of the UNGA resolution on the Aggression Against Ukraine

Sa-Benjamin-TraoreAuthor: Sâ Benjamin Traoré
Assistant Professor of Law at the Faculty of Governance, Economics and Social Sciences of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Rabat (Morocco).

Introduction

The ongoing Ukrainian crisis has shown profound divisions among African countries. The UN General Assembly’s voting on 2 March perfectly captures such a division. Resolution A/RES/ES-11/1, titled “Aggression against Ukraine”, was adopted by a vote of 141 in favour and 5 against, with 35 abstentions. Of these 35 abstentions, 17 were African states including Algeria, Angola, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. This figure represents almost half of the abstaining states. Eight African countries did not even submit their votes (including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Togo) and Eritrea voted against the resolution. All in all, almost half of the African states did not vote in favour of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution. The split between African states in the voting also reflects the divide in public opinion about the Ukrainian crisis across African countries. While the West has shown unfailing support for Ukraine, Africa and the rest of the world have adopted a more ambivalent position. The significant number of African abstentions has raised international concerns, especially in the West. This voting attitude of African states abstaining remained almost the same during the adoption of the UNGA resolution on humanitarian assistance to Ukraine on 24 March. South Africa had proposed a rival resolution that was not eventually discussed by the UNGA. On 7 April, more African countries abstained and many other voted against the resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council. It is also well-known now that African countries have not adopted sanctions against Russia despite the avalanche of sanctions adopted by western countries.

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Sexual harassment in higher education institutions: the law and the practice

Kebkab-Sirgew-GelawAuthor: Kebkab Sirgew Gelaw
International Human Rights Lawyer

Sexual harassment has been a fact of life ever since humans inhabited the earth.[1] Despite its existence, it has been ignored and the tradition has made women keep quite concerning the act as if nothing went wrong. It is hard to unthink what you know, but there was a time when the facts that amount to sexual harassment did not amount to sexual harassment, the facts amounting to the harm did not socially “exist,” had no shape, no cognitive coherence; far less did they state a legal claim.[2]

Sexual harassment is a manifestation of the male domination and has clearly indicated that the domination extended socially, economically, and politically. Women were socially expected to be passive about many activities, which the society believed to be challenging, and those challenges were passed on to men to be handled.

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War, global health and human rights: drawing inspiration from the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Abasiodiong-Ubong-UdoakpanAuthor: Abasiodiong Ubong Udoakpan
Data Protection Advisor, Researcher and a Human Rights Lawyer

Introduction

The first principle of health is life and war is a direct threat to life. For millions of people worldwide, avoiding and not only surviving war is the predominant objective in their daily existence. Sadly, the situation in Eastern Europe creates a global crisis for public health, therefore, ending the war would be a major step towards the promotion of the health and well-being of persons in this region. The challenge presented by this ongoing regional conflict also marks a crucial opportunity to prioritize human rights and public health concerns in ongoing foreign policy and diplomatic efforts by concerned nation-states. Ergo, this article seeks to explore the human rights threats that are associated with the Russia-Ukraine conflict especially as it relates to public health.

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Questions at the Interface Between Automated Decision Making, Administrative Law and Socio‑Economic Rights: The Example of Access to Affordable Housing in Kenya

Alexander-BeyleveldAuthor: Alexander Beyleveld
Senior Researcher at the Mandela Institute, University of the Witwatersrand

A number of African governments have begun to integrate automated decision-making (ADM) into processes that give effect to fundamental rights, which has given rise to a number of interesting questions about the manner in which different areas of law interact in ADM contexts.  ADM has thus far been most directly regulated by data protection legislation, such as the Kenya Data Protection Act (KDPA).  Automated decisions, however, also implicate administrative law, and constitutionally enshrined rights related to administrative action.  An additional layer of complexity is added in situations where automated decisions form part of the process governments have elected to use to give effect to fundamental rights, especially when a number of different rights are implicated.  Understanding the interface between ADM, data protection laws, administrative law and constitutional law, then, will only continue to grow in importance in assessing the extent to which governments are giving effect to certain fundamental rights – as well as for assessing the extent to which governments and individuals are actually reaping the potential benefits of ADM technologies in the first place.

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Marital rape as a human rights violation of women in Ethiopia: a case study of Alumni association of the faculty of law of Addis Ababa University and Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA)

Kebkab-Sirgew-GelawAuthor: Kebkab Sirgew Gelaw
International Human Rights Lawyer

The concept of rape of a woman by her husband in marriage was not a transgression at all because a man was allowed to treat ‘his chattel as he deemed appropriate’; thus, women who were forced to have sex in their marriage did not even have the option of seeking criminal prosecution.[1] The first marital rape case to reach the US court system took place in 1978 in New Jersey, when Daniel Morrison was found guilty of raping his estranged wife. Six months later, in Oregon, John Rideout became the first husband charged with rape while living with his wife.[2]  Rideout was acquitted and brought attention to the concept that rape can exist within the context of marriage.

Many states in the US including Minnesota at that time defended forced sexual intercourse committed by a man against a woman and not his wife; though there have been subsequent prosecutions of marital rape, but in general, the cases were charged to win, primary because the question of consent is clouded by societal beliefs about marriage.[3]

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The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in Africa

Author: Satang Nabaneh
Post-doctoral Fellow, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Sexual and reproductive health and rights has been recognized to be embodied in human rights instruments. The achievement of sexual and reproductive health relies on realizing sexual and reproductive rights. This means that States have general obligations to respect, protect and fulfill these rights. Despite these obligations, violations of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are evident, including denial of essential services such as obstetric care, lack of high-quality care, access to safe abortion, female genital mutilation (FGM), and early marriage. With regard to HIV infections, the WHO African region remains the most severely affected, with nearly 1 in every 25 adults (3.6%) living with HIV and accounting for more than two-thirds of the people living with HIV worldwide.

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The decline of democracy and the rise of coup d’états in Sub-Saharan Africa: Reflections and lessons

Garang-Yach-JamesAuthor: Garang Yach J
South Sudanese Political and security analyst and PhD Student, University of Juba, South Sudan

 

Summary

Although coup d’états have been straddling the African continent since the 1960s, their recent resurfacing and rise is a reverse to the democratic consolidation in the Sub-Saharan African region. In this article I try to locate the trends of coups in the history of the region in order to showcase the existing susceptibility of the states in the region. I further advance the argument that militarisation of politics, the dominant military aristocracy and proclivity to change constitutions in order to extend term and age limits, delays in holding free and fair elections are among the reasons why democracy is declining, and coups are on rise in the region. I also present a compelling argument that failure to incorporate human security into governance is stifling democracy and resuscitation of coup tendencies. The article concludes that military metiers in the Sub-Saharan region have entrenched themselves and apply mock democracy to actuate militaristic propensity. Finally, the article gives four recommendations that would improve democratic governance and mitigate trends of unconstitutional change of government in the region.

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UNCRC climate decision is a missed opportunity – A response to Muhumuza and Wepukhulu

Elsabe-BoshoffAuthor: Elsabé Boshoff 
 PhD Fellow, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo

Samrawit-GetanehAuthor: Samrawit Getaneh Damtew
Human Rights Advisor, GIZ Ethiopia and Djibouti

The UN Children’s Rights Committee (CRC) received its first Communication on climate change-induced child rights violations in Sacchi, et al. v. Argentina, et al. In its admissibility decision, the CRC confirmed that climate change has child right impacts and states have extraterritorial responsibility for harmful effects of emissions. However, the Committee declared the Communication inadmissible for failing to exhaust local remedies. In their article on AfricLaw, Muhumuza and Wepukhulu argue that this decision was the right one. We argue why the Communication should have been admissible.

Criteria for exhausting domestic remedies

The above-mentioned article argued that the decision is in line with the settled rules of exhaustion of domestic remedies. While this may be a general rule, it has exceptions. The CRC Optional Protocol in article 7(3) provides that exhaustion of local remedies is not required where the remedy is “unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to bring effective relief”.

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The ball is in our court: Why the UN Children’s Rights Committee decision on climate change was the right one.

Nimrod-MuhumuzaAuthor: Nimrod Muhumuza
 LL.D. candidate, Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape

Khatondi-Soita-WepukhuluAuthor: Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu
Reporter, openDemocracy, Uganda

In a ground-breaking decision, the UN Children’s Rights Committee recently found that states are legally responsible for the harmful effects of emissions originating in their territory on children outside their borders. The fact that climate change is a global problem does not absolve individual states of their responsibility to reduce their share of emissions. Nonetheless, it found the authors’ complaint inadmissible for failure to exhaust local remedies. The decision was welcomed in some quarters and criticised in others.

The rules on exhaustion of local remedies within public international law and international human rights law are settled. The requirement serves as a manifestation of a state’s sovereignty – that states should be allowed to deal with a claim brought against it using the judicial and administrative mechanisms within their domestic legal order. In human rights law, exhaustion of local remedies is premised on the principle of subsidiarity. The primary avenues for remedying human rights violations are states’ judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative bodies. Only when these domestic avenues are ‘objectively’ considered unavailable, ineffective, unduly burdensome or only obtainable after inordinate delays can the complainants turn to international human rights mechanisms for recourse.

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