Uganda’s blasphemy law is unconstitutional

Author: Nimrod Muhumuza
Lawyer and LLD candidate, Dullah Omar Institute, University of Western Cape

Laws prohibiting blasphemy are astonishingly widespread worldwide with many countries criminalising conduct deemed blasphemous with disparate punishments ranging from prison sentences to lashings or the death penalty. A comprehensive report prepared by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found that 71 countries prohibit views deemed blasphemous. These laws have dire consequences for those who find themselves on their wrong side as the most recent and much publicised case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan has demonstrated.

South of the Sahara, the report found that only four countries criminalise blasphemy. Uganda did not make that list. This is despite the provisions of Chapter III, sections 118-122 of the Penal Code Act. Sections 118-121 proscribe conduct that involves the destruction or damage or defilement of any place of worship with the intent of insulting the religion; disturbing religious assemblies, trespassing on burial places hindering burial of a dead body. The utility and legality of these provisions is not inherently the protection of religions and religious ideas and their constitutional validity will not be canvassed at this point.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

The unclear relation between Angola and its Muslim citizens and migrants: Is Angola discriminating against them?

Author: Cristiano d’Orsi
Research Fellow and Lecturer at the South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

 Angola is a country where the traditional Islamic relation between Muhajirun (‘immigrants’) and Ansar (‘helpers’: locals)[1] seems not to find a fertile ground. Islam in Angola represents a minority religion, with an estimate number of proselytes amounting to approximately 1%[2] of the entire population.[3] These are mostly Sunnis who arrived in Angola from West Africa,[4] Somalia[5] and from families of Lebanese descent[6] following the end of the Angolan Civil War in 2002.

Historically, as many of these immigrants entered Angola illegally, which created the misperception of associating Islam with illegal immigration and crime (almost predominantly counterfeiting of money and money laundering), although barely any evidence of this has been proved.[7] This was affirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief on her visit to the country in 2007.[8]

Read the rest of this entry »


In pursuit of Social Justice

thato_motaungAuthor: Thato Motaung
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

World Day of Social Justice – 20 February 2015

Social justice becomes a reality when social protection measures against discrimination and marginalization are enforced, thus targeting systemic social injustice and differential treatment. This is what the United Nations General Assembly aimed at emphasizing when it proclaimed The World Day of Social Justice on 20 February 2007.[1] The advancement of social justice requires the removal of such barriers which discriminate against people based on – but not exclusive to – their age, gender, religion, culture, ethnicity or disability.

In Eritrea, religion can be a basis for differential treatment and persecution. A 1995 Presidential Decree declared that the country would recognize only four religions: the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, and Sunni Islam. The 1997 Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but because it was never implemented, the Decree trumps this right. All other faiths were banned and those who practice them would incur penalties of arrest, detention in inhumane conditions, intimidation and even social exclusion.

Makda[2], a young Eritrean girl, recounts how her father was expelled from his government job and left with no income to support his wife and seven children for being a Jehovah’s Witness.

“Our family were called “traitors” and our neighbours harassed us when we went outside. One day my parents and I were arrested during a religious gathering – I was only 14 years old. After three days, locked up in a cold prison cell with my mother, the officer released me with a warning: “Do not follow your parents’ religion or you will be expelled from school”.

Read the rest of this entry »