How would international human rights law deal with a potentially automized future?

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

Introduction

In a scene from Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the ‘Terminator’ played by Arnold Schwarzenegger says, ‘Cybernet has become self-aware’. While the context of such words are within a scripted science fiction world, they nevertheless seem to be echoes of a futures we seem to be writing – whether willingly or not.

While Mostow’s ‘killer robots’ or ‘terminators’ –  are essentially autonomous weapons systems sent through time to kill a person seems farfetched and squarely within the realm of science fiction, perhaps it is not life imitating art, but art imitating life. The United States Future Combat System Project which aimed to manufacture a ‘robot army’ seems to have hinted that the future might not be as fictitious as we think.

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The promises and limitations of law in guaranteeing freedom in Africa: The right to a Revolution

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

One of the main objectives of international and regional law is to maintain peace and security. It has been reasoned that where there is peace and security, humanity stands a better chance to protect individual rights and freedoms. On account of the importance of peace and security at national, regional and international level, States agreed to criminalize those who engage in violent conduct or seek to change governments through the use of violent force. Yet, is it a coincidence that in many dictatorial governments with atrocious human rights records, opposition leaders are often charged of attempting to unconstitutionally change the government of the day? This contribution seeks to discuss the right to a just-revolution and how existing laws promise freedoms but is limited in delivery when it comes to dictatorial governments. In this contribution, a just-revolution is defined as a revolution to overthrow a government of the day whose rule is characterised by gross human rights violations or international crimes such as crimes against humanity and genocide. Do citizens have a right to a just-revolution?

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Angola’s Law and Justice Reform Commission: an opportunity for broader and more robust reforms?

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

In May 2020 Angolan President Joao Lourenço through Dispatch 72/20 established the Commission for Law and Justice Reform (the Commission). The Commission has the mandate to reforming Angola’s law and justice institutions. At first glance the Commission is in line with achieving continental objectives such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which stresses that key to achieving Africa’s developmental needs requires ‘democratic values, culture practices, universal principles of human rights, gender, equality, justice and the rule of law are entrenched’.

The Commission has within its scope of work to reform Angola’s judicial system with a particular focus on amending the organic laws of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Court of Auditors, the State House, the Attorney General’s Office and the Angolan Bar Association. The exact nature and concrete steps of such reform are still to be seen.

In the commission’s first meeting, Angola’s minister of justice and human rights Francisco Quiero who also serves as coordinator stated that, the establishment of the Commission attested the to the interest of ‘maintaining and reinforcing the institutional cohesion of Angola’s sovereign organs in the promotion of justice and in the construction of justice’. Ironically enough and though Angola’s law and justice reform is of vital importance, the approach in which such reforms are being proposed seem to raise a number of eyebrows.

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Democracy in times of COVID-19: a time for introspection?

Author: Eduardo Kapapelo
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

My father used to say ‘politics must be conducted in a country which is open, a country which has the space for deliberation and opposing views’. He added that ‘politics must be conducted in a country which is mature’. We find ourselves in challenging times, times in which the openness and maturity of our countries are being tested.

A scale we can use to test the openness and maturity of our institutions is to interrogate (i), the nature our institutions; and (ii) the quality of our institutions. In regards to their nature we can reflect on how they are structured, what they look like on paper, and how they actually function in reality. As regards quality, we can reflect on how institutions respond to stress – how they respond to the demands of the people and whether they are mature enough to understand that when individuals take to the streets in the exercise of their human rights demanding better quality of life, they are not challenging the State, but rather exercise their constitutional right to be heard.

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