Freedom of the press? Not for the Ugandan press

william_asekaAuthor: William Aseka
Program Assistant (Human Rights Advocacy for Children with Disabilities), Governance Consulting

The freedom to form opinions and express them without fear of repression is a fundamental tenet for the development of a pluralistic, tolerant, and democratic society. This right represents not only the right to privacy of individuals to hold opinions and formulate thoughts, but also to express them in a public forum, especially as part of exercising the right to political participation. In addition, the right to access information, that is the right to seek and receive information, which also forms an important component of this right and which has added significance in the current age of information technology, is intrinsic to the transparent functioning of a democratic government and the effective and well-informed participation of civil society. In this context, freedom of opinion, expression and information is one of the core civil and political rights as it is essential for the exercise of all other human rights.

The right to freedom of opinion, expression and information is well-established and protected at both international and regional levels both legally and institutionally. The right is enshrined in various international instruments, namely: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (Article 5(d)(viii)), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 13) and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Article 6). The main international human rights body within the United Nations system, the Human Rights Council, also provides through its system of special procedures for a Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, which was established in 1993.

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Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill in Nigeria – Any human rights implications?

Onuora-Oguno AzubikeAuthor: Azubike Onuora-Oguno
LLD candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

A same-sex union is known to be a sexual relationship between people of the same sex; namely, between two or more males or two or more females. This relationship often described as unnatural and amongst the Christian and Islamic faiths in Nigeria is general not accepted. Without any intentions of making an ideological or philosophical argument on the issue of the morality of this kind of relationship, I would like to explore the human rights implications of passing of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill in Nigeria on 31 May 2013.

The new Bill refutes any benefits that may accrue to a marriage and restates that such a marriage will not be recognised, even when contracted outside Nigeria. It further outlaws the gathering of people of the same-sex and provides in very wide terms “directly or indirectly” liability for any person or group that is involved in a same sex relationship. It further stipulates a minimum period of 10 years imprisonment for direct or indirect involvement in issues concerning the rights of people of the same-sex. In enacting the Bill, the House of Assembly of Nigeria propose a $40million internet monitoring project to clamp down on people involved in same-sex unions.

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A call to shift the seat: The Gambia is not a suitable seat for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

frans_viljoen_newAuthor: Frans Viljoen
Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Professor of Human Rights Law

In 1986, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) entered into force. Under the African Charter, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) is established to monitor state compliance with the Charter. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1987 decided that the Commission’s Secretariat should be based in Banjul, The Gambia. It has been located in Banjul ever since.

The initial rationale for the choice of seat has since fallen away

At the time this decision was taken, the choice of Banjul made much sense. Much of the drafting of the African Charter took place in Banjul, to the extent that the African Charter is often referred to as the ‘Banjul Charter’. In fact, The Gambia was one of the few states in Africa that, at the time, had any claim to democratic credentials. The head of state at the time, President Jawara, strongly supported the drafting process of the Charter, and assisted in overcoming political difficulties that arose in the drafting process.

However, this situation has changed dramatically. Since Jawara’s removal from power through a coup d’état in 1994, The Gambia has lost its claim to democratic legitimacy. The 1994 coup leader and current President, Jammeh, has now been in power for almost 20 years. While elections have subsequently been held, they are widely regarded as not meeting the standard of “free and fair”. In 2011, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided not to send an electoral observer mission to The Gambia for the presidential election because the political environment was not conducive to free and fair elections (http://thinkafricapress.com/gambia/jammeh-win-extend-rule). The Gambia is now generally regarded as the “odd country out”, in an ever-democratising Africa, and counts among the most undemocratic and authoritarian states on the continent.

At the first session after the unconstitutional change of government had taken place, the Commission adopted a resolution condemning the coup as a “flagrant and grave violation of the right of The Gambian people to freely choose their government”, and called on the military government to observe international human rights standards (Resolution on The Gambia, adopted at the Commission’s 17th session, 22 March 1995, Eighth Annual Activity Report, Annex VIII). However, short of finding a violation of the Charter in a communication submitted by the Former President Jawara (communications 147/95, 149/95 (joined), Jawara v The Gambia (2000)), the Commission seemed initially to have settled comfortably into life under the new regime.

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Ensuring access to essential medicines through the inclusion of the right to health in the Mauritian Constitution

ashwanee_budooAuthor: Ashwanee Budoo
Full-time candidate for the Law Practitioners Vocational Course in Mauritius

The right to health is protected by various international and regional instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (article 12) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (article 16) and being a party to these instruments, Mauritius has the obligation to ensure that its citizens’ right to health is protected. One aspect of the right to health is the right to access essential medicines. Essential medicines have been defined by the World Health Organisation as those which satisfy the health care needs of a majority of the population. In view of fulfilling this right Mauritius, a welfare state, provides for free essential medicines in government hospitals, area health centres and community health centres.

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Should the African Union be accountable and answerable to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights?

Roopanand Amar MahadewAuthor: Roopanand Amar Mahadew
Doctoral candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) has recently delivered a judgment in the case of Femi Falana v The African Union. The judgment is rather controversial on various levels. Firstly, the Court decided to interpret Articles 5(3) and 34(6) which, read jointly, imply that individuals or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) can have access to the Court only if the state from which they are has deposited the declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with Article 34(6). This was certainly not the issue in the Falana case. What had to be determined was whether the African Union (AU), which is not a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights or the Protocol establishing the African Court (the Protocol), could be sued and such an interrogation required the interpretation of Articles 3, 30 and 34 (1&4) of the Protocol. Secondly, the Court, at the very onset, failed to consider whether or not it has jurisdiction ratione personae and decided to proceed to judicial consideration of the applications which is procedurally flawed.

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30 years of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Challenges, progress and prospects for Portuguese speaking African countries

Author: Emerson U Lopes
Legal Consultant, SAL & Caldeira Advogados, Mozambique

During its 30 years of existence, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its enforcement mechanism, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, have not been used much by citizens of Portuguese speaking African Countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tomé e Príncipe, hereafter referred to as PALOP).

What is the reason behind the lack of participation by PALOP citizens in the African human rights system? Could this mean that PALOP States have a better human rights record than other State Parties?

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