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April 2015 Newsletter

The Headlines

The following are the news stories featured in this issue:
Secretariat News
News from Our Members News from Other Organizations Upcoming Events Advertisements and Vacancies

PALU Joins in Burkinabe Bar’s Commemoration of its 25th Anniversary and Official Inauguration

PALU participated in the celebration of the 25th Anniversary and official inauguration of the Bar Association of Burkina Faso that was organized from 19 to 21 March 2015 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The commemoration was held under the theme “Legal Governance and Judicial Investment in Africa: The Role of Lawyers”. Present at the opening ceremony was His Excellency the Interim President of Burkina Faso, Mr. Michael Kafando, the Minister of Justice of Burkina Faso, Ms. Josephine Ouedraogo, the President of the Bar of Burkina Faso, Mr. Mamadou Traore, the President of the Bar Association of Senegal and of the Conférence Internationale des Barreaux (CIB), Mr. Ameth Ba, the President of the Bar of Lyon, Mr. Pierre Yves Joly, the Vice-President of the Conference of the Bars of West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), Mr. Moussa Coulibaly and the Secretary General of PALU, Mr. Kari Abdoul Bagui.

During his speech President Kafando outlined the political context of Burkina Faso since the transition, pointing out how the population has displayed the will for a democratic society based on a fair legal system. Mr. Bagui delivered a speech on behalf of PALU and he presented sincere appreciation for the honour to be invited in the profound tribute. He also highlighted PALU’s specific mission to reach more lawyers and lawyers associations based in Francophone regions of Africa in a bid to expand the implementation of the platform’s vision. Moreover, he pinpointed the role of PALU in the drafting of the Malabo Protocol and stressed its essence in the continent’s promotion of justice and rule of law.

The speech delivered by Mr. Bagui is available here in French.

PALU’s Mission in Washington D. C., USA

The PALU Secretariat undertook an outreach mission in the Washington D. C. State of the United States of America from 23-25 March 2015.

On 23 March PALU held a roundtable at Covington & Burling LLP under the theme “Defending Human Rights and Promoting Good Governance in Africa: Benefits and Opportunities of Supporting African lawyer”.

On 24 March PALU participated in a Panel of international legal experts at RFK Human Rights for a discussion which was held under the theme “Strengthening the African Human Rights System: Opportunities and Obstacles.”

On 25 March held an interactive dialogue at Georgetown University Law Center under the theme “Advancing the Legal Profession, Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance: Strengthening ties with African lawyers.”

PALU would like to express its gratitude to partners and participants who made our events a success.

PALU Mourns and Urges Actions Following Recent Terrorist Attacks

PALU joins the National Bar Association of Tunisia in condemning the attack of the National Bardo Museum on 18 March 2015 and presents its deepest condolences to the victims’ families for their loss and to the Tunisian population. Click here to read PALU’s Statement on Tunis terrorist attack.

To the Kenya Law Society, Kenyan government and to the Kenyan population, PALU extends its solidarity following the unfortunate terrorist attack against Garissa University College on 2 April 2015 and is in full support to the ongoing effort to combat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism.

It is with great sympathy that PALU received the information about the assassination of the former Ugandan Senior Principal State Attorney, Ms Joan Kagezi who was reportedly shot by two assailants on 30 March 2015 in Najjeera, Kira Town Council in Kampala, Uganda. The news was devastating because Ms Kagezi was not only a dedicated lawyer but also a loving mother of four children.  We extend our sincerest sympathy to her family and immediate colleagues.

PALU Condemns the Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa

PALU condemns in the strongest terms the recent xenophobic attacks against foreigners, mostly other Africans, which have been carried out by a small section of the South African Society. PALU appreciates that the vast majority of South African citizens, and their leaders, are peaceful, law-abiding people, who are conscious of their obligations towards each other and towards any persons that happen to be on their territory, either by choice or by circumstance, and whether for short or for extended periods. We highly commend the Citizens’ March against Xenophobia held on 23 April 2015 in South Africa to verify the aforementioned citizens’ consciousness and unity. Among other things, PALU urges for Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to undertake an immediate joint mission to the Republic of South Africa and secondly proposes that in the upcoming Summit of the African Union to be held in the Republic conduct a discussion with a view to concluding an actionable Statement on steps to be taken to guarantee non-recurrence of such attacks.

PALU’s Statement on the recent xenophobic attacks in the Republic of South Africa is available here in English and here in French.

For African Union Commission Chairperson, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and AU-ECOSOCC Statements on xenophobic attacks in South Africa click the underlined.

PALU’s Statement on Burundi Anarchy

The Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), the continental body of African lawyers, is deeply concerned about the current situation in Burundi, and calls for more robust action from the African Union (AU) and the East African Community (EAC). We have supported the institutional development of the AU, the EAC and other African intergovernmental bodies so that they may be ready to intervene, in a timely and meaningful manner, in crises such as the one currently befalling Burundi.

The Vice President of the Constitutional Court of Burundi fled the country to avoid signing under duress, a judgment that he did not believe in. Yet, the same Constitutional Court rendered a decision declaring that President Pierre Nkurunziza is entitled to run for a third term as President of Burundi. In such circumstances, it is hard to accept the legitimacy or credibility of any decision of that Court. Urgent steps must be taken to establish the circumstances in which the litigation was undertaken, and the ultimate decision of the Court was rendered.

The recent turn of events has led to an avalanche of street protests and demonstrations, civilian deaths and injuries, and an influx of refugees into Rwanda.  PALU urges the government and police to ensure law and order and enable the people of Burundi to peacefully exercise their rights to expression, assembly and association.

We demand immediate and decisive action, including: -  
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to carry out an immediate fact-finding mission to report on the human rights situation in Burundi.
  • The Chairperson of the East African Community (EAC), H.E. President Jakaya Kikwete, to convene an Emergency Summit to consider amelioratory measures for the refugees who have fled into neighboring countries, and also urgent measures to prevent a descent into conflict and ethnic violence in the region.
  • The African Union (AU) to immediately deploy its Panel of the Wise, to operationalize their “good offices” mandate.
  • PALU also urges the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to take immediate action in passing a resolution to protect the people of Burundi.
Click here for African Union Commission Chairperson’s statement following the wave of events in Burundi.

Click here for the press statement by the Secretary General of the East African Community on the situation in Burundi.
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20 Officials of Habré Dictatorship Convicted for Torture

In a groundbreaking decision, a Chadian criminal court on 25 March 2015 convicted twenty (20), once most feared torturers and officials for carrying out acts of torture under the 1982-1990 dictatorship of Hissene Habre. Following his rise to power, Habré created a secret political police force known as the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), under which his opponents were tortured and executed. Among those convicted to life sentences were Mahamat Djibrine, who was described as one of the "most feared torturers in Chad" by a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission, and Saleh Younous, the former head of Habré's DDS. The criminal court acquitted four others, but ordered that 75 billion CFA francs (£84.2m, $125m) be handed as reparations to over 7,000 victims; of which half is to be paid out from the defendants' assets and half by the Chadian government, which was found to be liable for the defendants' actions. The torture conviction is indeed, as described by Human Rights Watch, a victory for justice.

Click here to read more about the torture conviction of the former Chadian officials.

Benin, Guinea Bissau, Kenya and Mauritania Sign the Malabo Protocol

At a recent conference, the Legal Counsel of the African Union, Prof Vincent Nmehielle, confirmed that, as at Friday, 20 March 2015, four countries had signed the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (the Malabo Protocol). Kenya was the first to do so on 27 January 2015. The West African nations of Benin and Guinea Bissau signed the Protocol on January 28 and 31, respectively, while Mauritania did so on February 26. In order for the Malabo Protocol to enter into force and effect the extension of jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, fifteen (15) Member States of the African Union ought to ratify it. Signature to the instrument is just the first step, ratification must also be undertaken in order for a State to be bound by it.

PALU has continuously advocated for a strong continental Court in Africa and is thus engaged in activities to promote continental ratification of the Malabo Protocol. A number of other civil society organizations are of the same opinion. PALU will therefore continue to engage African governments and citizens, as well as friends of Africa, to push for a speedy ratification of all the six treaties adopted in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2014 and a number of earlier ones that touch on democracy, good governance, the rule of law, human and peoples’ rights and the fight against impunity in Africa.

Uganda Presents its 5th Periodic Report to the ACHPR 56th Ordinary Session

Pursuant to Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter), the Attorney General of Uganda presented the country’s 5th periodic report on 27 and 28 April 2015 during the ongoing 56th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, Gambia. The country report was compiled using input from all ministries, departments and agencies of the Government and is structured into three parts. The first is on information and statistics on the general state of the country; the second on the legal and administrative measures the Government has adopted in order to implement the requirements of the Charter; and the third is on challenges that Uganda continues to face as it strives to implement the provisions of the Charter. PALU highly commends Uganda’s compliance to the Charter’s obligation and calls upon all the African Union Member States to live up to the periodic reporting obligation.

For more information click here.

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ACHPR and Ipas Africa Alliance Launches the Guide on Article 14 of Maputo Protocol

On 21 April 2015 at the Fifty-Sixth Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in the capital of the Gambia, Banjul, the Commission in collaboration with Ipas Africa Alliance launched General Comments on Article 14 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol). It is hoped that the Guide and the General Comments will serve to strengthen advocacy towards realization and respect for women’s reproductive health rights in Africa.

Two General Comments have been issued on Article 14 to the Maputo Protocol, which relates to women's health and reproductive rights. The first General Comments, which were adopted in 2012, focus on the provisions of Article 14 which relate to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV and AIDS. The second set of the General Comments on Article 14 speak of the specific actions that States should take in order to guarantee the health and reproductive rights of women. As a supplement to the General Comments on Article 14, the Centre for Human Rights, with the generous support of the Sigrid Rausing Trust and Equality Now in collaboration with The Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition (SOAWR), prepared a Guide which is intended to assist States Parties to the Maputo Protocol to better understand the commitments contained in Article 14. The Guide also aims to support civil society in efforts to hold governments accountable for their obligations contained in article 14.

Click here for a Guide to the General Comments on Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol.

New Judges of the COMESA Court of Justice Appointed During the COMESA Summit

The Eighteenth Summit of the Authority of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was held at the African Union Complex, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 30 to 31 March 2015. The Summit was held under the theme “Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization”. The Summit attended by COMESA Head of States and Government and Plenipotentiaries commended the Government of the Republic of Sudan for setting up and furnishing the COMESA Court of Justice Building and for organizing a successful inauguration ceremony of the Court Building. Furthermore, the Summit commended and expressed gratitude to the outgoing Judges and appointed a total of twelve (12) Judges of the First Instance and Appellate Divisions of the Court for a term of five years. In addition, the Summit renewed the tenure of office for five Commissioners of the COMESA Competition Commission for another three years.

Click here for a Final Communique of the Eighteenth Summit of the COMESA Authority of Head of States and Government.

New Special Criminal Court in Central African Republic (CAR)

The National Transitional Council of the Central African Republic (CAR) adopted a law to establish a Special Criminal Court within the national justice system. The draft law, which the government sent to the transitional parliament on 6 February 2015 was adopted by an overwhelming majority on 22 April 2015 during a plenary session. The law now awaits the enactment by the Head of State of the transition, Catherine Samba-Panza. These key steps towards the establishment of a Special Court come following an acute crisis that befell CAR since early 2013 when the rebels of the Seleka coalition, largely from the northern part of the country, seized power in a campaign characterized by widespread killing of civilians, burning and looting of homes, and other serious crimes. In mid-2013, militias calling themselves the Anti-Balaka organised to fight against the Seleka. The Anti-Balaka began committing large-scale reprisal attacks against civilians, mostly Muslims thought to be supporting the Seleka. Thousands of people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced by the conflict. The Special Court will investigate and prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the CAR since 2003. The Court will be a hybrid judicial mechanism made up of Central African and international judges within the Central African justice system for a renewable five-year period.

Click here for the update.

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