Author: Urias Teh Pour
Legal Advisor on the Liberia Law Society Land Rights and Freedom of Expression Projects
The recent move to repeal Liberia’s Criminal Libel laws by the newly elected Government of former Liberian Football legend, George Manneh Weah, has been hailed by human rights groups as a positive step in the right direction. The effort to decriminalise section 11.11 of the Penal Law comes barely two months following the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to Liberia. The UN Officials called on the Government of Liberia to review all laws that undermine free speech, as guaranteed by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other instruments ratified by Liberia.
What seemed unimaginable has happened. After an uninterrupted ‘reign’ of 37 years, Robert Mugabe, the de facto emperor of Zimbabwe, has ‘resigned’ from office. There has been genuine jubilation not least among those who have been at the receiving end of Mugabe’s increasingly despotic, corrupt and dysfunctional governance – the majority of Zimbabweans. Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken office as Mugabe’s successor. It is a historic moment. Since attaining independence in 1980, Zimbabweans have only known Mugabe as their political supremo – initially as prime minister and latterly as president. The fact of Mugabe’s departure from office, alone, has raised hopes that we might be at the cusp of a compassionate, fairer, humane and democratic Second Republic. At the same time, the clouds are pregnant with contradictions, counselling us not to throw caution aside even as we pine for change. Why is this?
Author: Daniel Marari
LLM, International Human Rights Law, Lund University, Sweden
Although the Tanzanian Constitution (1977) guarantees the right to equality and prohibits discrimination based on gender and sex, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people still face deeply rooted hostility, prejudice and widespread discrimination in the Tanzanian society. Threats of criminal penalty, social exclusion, harassment and violence make it particularly unsafe for one to come out as an LGBT person.
At present, certain homosexual acts between consenting adult males are criminalized under the Penal Code (Chapter 16 of the laws). Under section 154 of the Penal Code, committing or attempting to commit “unnatural offences” are crimes punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and twenty years’ imprisonment, respectively. “Unnatural offence” is defined as (1) sexual intercourse with any person “against the order of nature” as well as (2) consensual sexual intercourse between a man and man or woman “against the order of nature”. The words “against the order of nature” are not statutorily defined. Also, under section 157 of the Penal Code, it is an offence punishable with a maximum of five years imprisonment for any male person, whether in public or private, to commit an act of gross indecency with another male person. By section 3 of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, “gross indecency” is defined as “any sexual act that is more than ordinary but falls short of actual intercourse and may include masturbation and indecent physical contact or indecent behavior without any physical contact”. Consent is no defense to any of these offences and no distinction regarding age is made in the text of the law. As the consequence of the existence of these laws criminalizing private consensual homosexual acts, LGBT people in Tanzania live in psychological stress and unceasing fear of prosecution and imprisonment.
Read the rest of this entry »
Author: Saul Leal
Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA)
Leopold Sedar Senghor said: emotion is African. This emotion has been channeled to constitutions. Happiness is a core value in many African constitutions. It was explicitly mentioned in Liberia, Namibia, Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland, and Egypt.
Article 1 of the Constitution of Liberia, 1986, proclaims that all free governments are instituted by the people’s authority, for their benefit, and they have the right to alter and reform it when their safety and ‘happiness’ require it. The preamble of the Egyptian Constitution, 2014, cites ‘a place of common happiness for its people’. The Namibian Constitution, 1990, assures the right ‘to the pursuit of happiness’. In this regard, Frederick Fourie defends the preamble of the Namibian Constitution, explaining that it is coloured by the struggle against colonialism and racism; that it is built around the denial of the ‘right of the individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ by colonialism, racism and apartheid.
A case currently before the Constitutional Court of Uganda is providing an interesting test for how far courts can go in protecting basic human rights. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings. Every person is equally entitled to them without discrimination. They are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
Universal human rights are often guaranteed by law through treaties and various sources of international law which generally oblige governments to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
Apart from international obligations, countries have various ways of entrenching human rights. Most contemporary constitutions entrench basic human rights. Such constitutions include the 1996 Constitution of South Africa and the 2010 Kenyan Constitution. Likewise, the 1995 Constitution of Uganda contains the Bill of Rights that guarantees fundamental freedoms and basic rights including the rights to health and to life.