Around the Commonwealth
- Compiled by Vaishali Mishra
Media & Communication Officer, CHRI
acquits military police captain of arbitrary torture charges
Rights Group International (MRG) has raised serious concerns
with the government of Cameroon regarding its respect for
the due process of law following the acquittal of a military
police captain on charges of arbitrary arrest and torture
of a member of the Mbororo pastoralist community. The rights
group has complained directly to the government about the
actions of a military tribunal and called for an independent
appeal hearing, highlighting a list of judicial irregularities,
which cast doubts over the validity of the acquittal.
policy will protect workers
government of Nigeria has released its National workplace
policy on HIV/AIDS, which aims to protect people with the
virus from any form of discrimination and stigmatisation,
particularly in the workplace. The policy will promote and
protect the rights and dignity of affected workers, provide
them with access to HIV/AIDS information and services, manage
and integrate impact of the virus within the workplace and
eliminate and reduce stigma and discrimination.
government of Ghana released the final report of the National
Reconciliation Commission (NRC) on 22 April 2005 which was
appointed in May 2002 to investigate past human rights abuses
in the country. The report recommends reparations for victims
and institutional reforms, and exposes some of the causes
for the collapse of democracy in Ghana.
the course of 18 months of hearings, the NRC heard testimonies
from more than 2000 victims, selected from over 4000 written
submissions. Some 79 perpetrators also testified. Victims
reported a wide range of violations dating back to Ghana’s
independence in 1957, including abductions, beatings, detentions,
execution-style killings, sexual abuse, torture, and seizure
of property. The Commission offered the first opportunity
for Ghanaians to publicly relate their experiences of abuse,
uncover the truth about the past, and seek redress.
Ghana is today considered to be a comparatively peaceful
and democratic country, its post-independence history has
been marred by authoritarian and military rule, with accompanying
human rights abuses. Violations intensified under the four
military regimes that ruled Ghana intermittently for more
than 22 of the 27 years between 1966 and 1993. The Commission
was mandated to focus its investigation on human rights
violations that took place between 1957 and 1993, particularly
on the periods of military rule
Leone: Draconian Law Used To Muzzle Critics
Sierra Leone, where journalists can be jailed for libeling
public officials, the Public Order Act has become a convenient
tool for silencing critics. Just ask Paul Kamara, Sydney
Pratt and Dennis Jones. All three journalists have been
imprisoned on charges of seditious libel after
writing articles about alleged government corruption.
move has provoked outrage from the International Press Institute
(IPI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters
Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF),
who are urging authorities to immediately release the journalists
and drop the criminal charges against them. The IFEX members
say press offences should be decriminalised and treated
under civil law.
and Jones, who work for the weekly newspaper Trumpet,
were arrested in Freetown on 24 May 2005 after publishing
an article headlined Kabbah Mad over Carew Bribe Scandal.
It cited an unnamed source who claimed that President Ahmad
Tejan Kabbah was angered by earlier allegations that two
senior cabinet ministers had accepted bribes.
the editor and publisher of the newspaper For Di People,
is serving two concurrent two-year prison sentences for
articles that were critical of the president. He was sentenced
in October 2004. The charges stem from articles Kamara wrote
in October 2003 which detailed a 1967 commission of inquiry
linking Kabbah to fraud allegations.
Leones Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established
by the UN to document human rights abuses, has called on
the government to repeal laws criminalizing seditious and
defamatory libel and has recommended a moratorium on prosecutions
under those laws. According to the commissions statute,
the government is required to implement its recommendations
faithfully and in a timely manner.
the five year conflict (1998-2003) driven by long-standing
resentment of the rapid centralisation of economic development
around the nation’s capital, Honiara on the nation’s largest
island of Guadalcanal, hundreds of women and girls were
raped and tortured. Many of these crimes remain unresolved,
and those responsible for violence against women – whether
police, members of armed groups, or private individuals
– have rarely been brought to justice.
55 women interviewed by Amnesty International, 19 were raped
by forces occupying or raiding their village on the Weathercost.
Even though now the conflict is over, violence against women
continues unabated. Nearly 200 rapes were reported in the
first six months of 2004.
Human Security Centre launces free e-resources
The Human Security Centre at the Liu Institute for Global
Issues at the University of British Columbia, Canada, has
launched three free e-resources: the Human Security Gateway,
Human Security Research and Human Security News.
e-resources were developed with the aim of making human
security-related research more accessible to the policy
and research communities, the media, educators and the interested
public. The Human Security Gateway is a searchable online
database of human security-related resources including reports,
journal articles, news items and fact sheets. For further
World Press Freedom Day
third day of the month of May 2005 was celebrated as the
World Press Freedom Day. The day marks the crucial role
a free press plays in strengthening democracies and fostering
each year since 1993, when it was proclaimed by the United
Nations, the day is an occasion to pay tribute to journalists
who have been killed because of their work and to promote
the importance of protecting the right to freedom of expression.
International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
On 21 March 2005, the International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was marked with warnings that the virus of racism is on the march around the world and urgent calls for a global assault on the scourge, and with new proposals to strengthen human rights and panel sessions on overcoming hate crimes. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, noting the persistence of discrimination in our culture despite all the efforts to get rid of it, referred to his report submitted on the same day which proposed a new Human Rights Council and better means to combat genocide, ethnic cleansing and other such crimes against humanity. The High Commissioner for Human Right, Louise Arbour said in her speech to the panel on effective practices to overcome hate crimes in Geneva that we must combat all forms of intolerance by celebrating diversity and differences.
Law of Succession discriminates against women
law of succession in Kenya has come under tremendous criticism
from all quarters including the judiciary. “Most tribes
do not recognise daughters and should a widow remarry, her
interests in the late husband’s property would cease,” said
Kenyan High Court Judge Vitalis Juma.
land under the Land Act that does not lie under a municipality
is termed as agricultural land, in which case, ownership
is decided under customary law. Customary law on inheritance
of agricultural land and livestock can however be side stepped
by writing a law.
judges unite against bid to control judiciary
Africas top judges have united in opposition to a
government move to change the Constitution and do away with
the judiciarys right to administer its own affairs.
A report in one of the leading
news dailies the Sunday Times says the judges, including
outgoing Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and his replacement,
Judge Pius Langa, made their opposition known at a two-day
meeting attended by Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla and
her deputy, Johnny de Lange, to discuss proposed new laws.
The amendment would pave
the way for the government to implement several controversial
laws thereby allowing it to educate and discipline
judges. It says that while the Chief Justice is the head
of the judicial function, the Minister of Justice
will exercise final administrative power over all courts.
The government should
take heed of the fact that judges arguing for independence
were not white right-wingers but former anti-apartheid activists,
said Judge Mohammed Navsa, Supreme Court of Appeal.
Newsletter, Summer 2005
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