Monthly Archives: September 2014

HURISA CELBERATES 20 YEARS OF EXISTENCE

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HURISA CELBERATES 20 YEARS OF EXISTENCE

PRESS STATEMENT

For immediate release

5 September 2014

 

On the 6th of September 2014, The Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) celebrates 20 years of existence as one of the leading human rights NGOs in South Africa.

HURISA traces its origins to the Richard Goldstone Commission established in late 1991 by the then President Frederick de Klerk, to investigate political violence and intimidation during the tumultuous period leading to the first democratic elections in 1994. In June 1993, HURISA was formally founded as the Institute for the Study of Public Violence and began to serve as the research and documentation arm of the Goldstone Commission.  When the Goldstone Commission’s mandate ended in 1994, the name of the organisation was changed to the Human Rights Institute of South Africa.

During its 20 years of existence, HURISA has worked hard to transform, safeguard and advance human rights not just in South Africa, but also in the southern African region and on the African continent as a whole. The institute has worked with a wide number of NGOs and community-based organisations in South Africa, and provided training to government officials, legal practitioners, grassroots communities, students, educators and learners. For more than 10 years, HURISA coordinated the Pan African Human Rights Training Programme through which individuals, academics, human rights defenders, NGOs and government officials were provided with training on human rights and human rights mechanisms on the African continent. Training camps were successfully held in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco and Egypt.

Understanding the need to strengthen the work of continental and international human rights mechanisms and institutions, HURISA has worked closely with bodies such as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (African Commission), the Organisation for African Unity (now the African Union), SADC and the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

HURISA enjoys observer status with the African Commission and has since 2002 served as a vital source for promoting and protecting the African human rights mechanisms in South Africa and beyond. HURISA also serves as a focal point for the Executive Committee of the NGO Forum for the SADC region, and organises pre meetings to consolidate human rights issues for discussion in the NGO Forum as well as in the public sessions of the African Commission.

The organisation has contributed to the development of the legal architecture of the African Union through advocacy and lobbying of the African Commission for adoption of a number of regional mechanisms and resolutions. It is in this vein that the institute played a seminal role in the development and adoption of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Protocol Establishing the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, and the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Other milestones for which the institute can justifiably claim pride include the adoption of guidelines for the nomination and appointment of commissioners and judges of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, the adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines on Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, and the Kigali Declaration which promotes the work of human rights defenders on the African continent. Forced disappearances and extra judicial executions continue to plague the human rights landscape in Africa a fact which made HURISA lobby strongly for the African Commission to expand the mandate of the Committee on Death Penalty to include the afore-mentioned egregious human rights violations.

Proud as we are of our history and of our achievements, we cannot nevertheless turn a blind eye to the many challenges facing South Africa 20 years since that proud moment when all South Africans, irrespective of their colour, gender or creed, were able for the first time to exercise their bitterly fought for right to elect a government of their choice. South Africa’s peace and security is threatened by high unemployment, deep inequality and social exclusion. Spiralling crime, violence against women, children, gays, lesbians and migrants, and a disregard for the basic rights of others now define the new South African society. In a society defined by consumerism and the ostentatious display of material wealth, corruption has become endemic. From the non-delivery of school books in Limpopo thus compromising the right to education of a whole generation of children, to  corruption in the tender processes, wasteful state expenditure by provincial departments and entities, municipalities, negligence and incompetence have claimed over R30 billions of governments’ annual procurement budget ( Head of Special Unit Investigation and the Auditor General’s report, 2011-2012 report).

Community anger at the lack of basic services such as water, electricity, health clinics and roads has seen a dramatic rise in what are now labelled ‘service delivery protests’. These protests have become increasingly violent often resulting in deaths, injuries and the destruction of public and private property.

Institutions established to support constitutional democracy in South Africa such as the South African Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Auditor General, Commission for Gender Equality and the office of the Public Protector continue to be of pivotal importance to our maturing democracy and for folding the state accountable. However, disregard for the rule of law and the undermining of these institutions is a worrying sign that all is not well in the “Rainbow Nation”.

As HURISA celebrates twenty years of actively promoting the cause of human rights in South Africa, it cannot lose sight of the many challenges confronting the young democracy. However, these challenges are the reason why the work of the institute and many other similar civil society organisations remain important.

The Institute has planned a series of commemorative events around Johannesburg. They will include seminars, an exhibition and a gala dinner during which an award will be presented to a South African who has made the most outstanding contribution to the defence of human rights in the country and beyond. HURISA will appreciate any donations in cash or in kind, towards the successful 20 years celebration of its existence which will be on 27 November 2014.

HURISA acknowledges the sacrificial role of the late Tata Nelson Mandela in soliciting funds for the Goldstone Commission of Inquiry from the Royal Norwegian community, Danish Embassy, Finish, Konrad-Adenauer–Stiftung e.V., Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa, Open Society Foundation, Open Society Foundation of Southern Africa, Ford Foundation, Mott Foundation, Oxfam-Novib, Hivos, Southern Africa Trust, Oxfam-Great Britain, Foundation for Human Rights, European Union, Lifeline advocacy sub grant (CIVICUS), Freedom House South Africa.

For comments/enquiries, please contact Corlett Letlojane, the Executive Director, HURISA. Telephone numbers:  011 333 1730 /082 574 7773

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Press statement on the situation of peace, security and gender equality in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

28 August 2014

Gordon Institute of Business Science

Issued by the Human Rights Institute of South Africa

As we celebrate the women’s month, we observe with serious concern the slow implementation of the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) peace and security mechanisms in armed conflict countries, especially in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). One of the important instruments is the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which is 14 years in existence, but its implementation has been staggering at national, regional and international levels. The aim of this resolution is to ensure women’s participation in the conceptualisation, negotiation and mediation in the peace process.

The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed in January 2014, was not observed, and the insurgency continued unabated. This has resulted in people being displaced, as the United Nations report (2014) states, 1.1 million people are internally displaced, with 405,000 displaced in neighbouring countries. Most of these displaced are women and children. Two more peace agreements were signed between February and June 2014, however, none of these brought sustainable solutions. The fourth peace agreement subsequently signed in August 2014 states that there should be formation of a unity government in 45 days, this is yet to be respected by both warring groups.

The findings from South Sudan are that as the peace process is staggering, conflict and humanitarian crisis escalates, women and children suffer the most, through increased famine, internal displacement, and lack of access to health and education services among other critical services, torture, mass killings and rape. These suppress human rights, and the situation is devastating in areas such as the Blue Nile, Nuba mountains and Malakal. This becomes a challenge to peace process. In DRC, the situation is so terrible that women can’t exercise their rights to access basic necessities and livelihood, they face life threatening risk, abduction, rape, which is used as a weapon of war especially when they go out to fetch water and firewood in the forest. They also experience severe taxes imposed each time they cross the border between DRC and Rwanda to sell their goods.

Recommendations

Our recommendations include ending the war permanently and the implementation of the fourth signed peace agreement.

Regional institutions specifically IGAD and the AU should continue to put pressure on all concerned parties in the conflict in South Sudan to sign an immediate ceasefire, which should be binding, and to punish those who do not abide by the agreements. Furthermore, there is a need to engage on a national healing and reconciliation process, and the invitation of Emeritus Arch-Bishop Tutu to work with South Sudan Churches is highly welcomed by South Sudanese stakeholders we engaged. As well as for the South African government through the embassy in South Sudan to have outreach programmes and stakeholder consultations on the ground.

There is urgent need for rigorous capacity building of women’s CSOs, across South Sudan. Programmes should be established on Long term for CSO to deliver their oversight functions and contribute to the peace process and be part of the decision making so that they claim ownership of the process as they have been compromised by the armed conflict.

The fact that there is no media coverage on the conflict in DRC and in South Sudan, implies that atrocities continued unreported. Therefore media should cover DRC and South Sudan conflict extensively. There is limited media coverage, especially international media houses.

It is important to include women as lead mediators and negotiators in the peace process. The appointment of Dr. Binta Diop as AU’s gender and conflict special envoy is a positive step, and more women should be given the opportunity to serve as lead mediators and negotiators.

It is therefore urgent to popularize the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and other mechanisms to put pressure on Pan African and global leaders for the implementation these UN and AU peace, security and gender equality protocols.

Litlhare Rabele: 0838819095, litlhare@hurisa.org.za

 

 

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Statement of the political tensions in Lesotho

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

02 September 2014

The Human Rights Institute of South Africa  (HURISA) and the South Africa Forum on International Solidarity (SAFIS) note that military coup in Lesotho is not a new phenomenon ,with slightly under two decades, Lesotho has experienced a military coup twice . Lesotho is the only country in the SADC region to have had coups in our recent times.  Since independence in October 1966 Lesotho has had several military coups, which happen despite Lesotho’s constitutional provisions on democratic governance and many other regional and international protocols that the country has ratified.

Since prorogation of parliament in June 2014, we note with disappointment that the country is battling to consolidate good governance, democracy and the rule of law, within its coalition government. We also note that the Lesotho army is highly politicised and therefore compromised.

The AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (article 23) is appalled to illegal means of attaining or maintaining power as an act of unconstitutional change of government.  During the recent SADC summit in Victoria Falls- Zimbabwe, the SADC Heads of States and governments appealed to all political leaders and the general population of Lesotho to refrain from any action that could undermine peace, security and stability in their country.  HURISA is urging all parties to resolve their concerns through guidance of the constitution and laws of the country.

The political crisis in Lesotho has led to people of the region not having confidence on Lesotho as the chair of the SADC Troika on the organ for peace, security and defence cooperation and not being given the opportunity to chair this important SADC troika. The current chair of SADC Troika of the organ on politics, defence and security cooperation has been given to South Africa, for three months to give Lesotho a chance to solve their political problems at home and not regenerate into a crisis.

We condemn and reject in total the unconstitutional attempts to change government.

We call all parties to adhere to the country’s constitution, laws, SADC decisions of the summit dated 18 August 2014, the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which Lesotho is a state party to and its acts.

We call upon the army to respect the democratic government and decisions made by the prime minister. They must stop the attacks on police and civilians immediately. The police must continue protecting civilians and ensuring safety and that human rights are upheld. All state parties must respect human rights and democratic principles of the country, regional and international commitments.

 

Issued by: Litlhare Rabele- HURISA’s Peace, Security & Gender Equality Programme Coordinator

0838819095. litlhare@hurisa.org.za

Sipho Theys- SAFIS’s Project Coordinator

0825000811. sipho@safis.org.za

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