Over the years, the HURISA has built up much expertise on African Human Rights issues. Since the start of 1995, a Camp has been held annually over a period of two weeks and it brings in participants from all over Africa. The course covers the human rights system of Africa, with comparative analysis of the European and Inter-American systems as well as the United Nations. Thereafter it focuses on some of the major human rights issues which are plaguing the continent such as freedom of expression and ethnic and religious diversity; refugees and internally displaced persons; the role of gender; the protection of children’s rights; issues of HIV/AIDS and human rights; socio-economic rights including the right to health, housing and food; freedom of expression and the right to vote.
The African Union (AU) has developed regional accountability system such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, institutions such as the Pan African Parliament, the African Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (human rights Court). In order to complement these initiatives a strong human rights culture needs to be developed and maintained within the continent. Strong and healthy pressure from an informed, coherent civil society is a vital component for building countries that have good governance and democracy as well as strong economic infrastructures.
AFRICAN COURT ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
HURISA acted as the secretariat of the Coalition of an Effective African Human Rights Court. The objectives of the coalition was to have an effective and independent human rights court that will provide redress to victims of human rights violations and strengthen the human rights protection system in Africa and at domestic level. HURISA provides training on the establishment of the African Court, its functions and role of civil society and African Commission on the court. HURISA also advocates for more ratifications by African states on the protocol which established the human rights Court;
PARTICIPATION AT THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
HURISA has found that there was limited knowledge of the African human rights system, which has been in existence for some 30 years. Very few organisations engage with the African Commission or use the standards and principles within the African human rights system in their work. HURISA has therefore been co-ordinating meetings of the SADC HRDs and NGOs ahead of the sessions of the African Commission. HURISA participates in this forum as part of the SADC Human Rights Defenders Focal Point and a Member of the Executive Committee of the NGO Forum preceding sessions of the African Commission on Human and people’s Rights. The purpose for these meetings is to define strategies to raise critical human right issues at sessions of the African Commission. This provides opportunities for NGOs to strengthen their relationship with the regional institutions of human rights.
Preparation of shadow reports and statements of situation of human rights in the SADC are developed in partnership with SADC HRDs for strengthened advocacy for adoption of critical human rights resolutions by the NGO forum and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. One of the commissioners is the current Chair Person of the Independent Electoral Commission, Honourable Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa Advocate Pansy Tlakula. Advocacy initiatives are embarked upon return from the African Commission to popularise decisions and recommendations of the African Commission. Representatives from the departments of justice, constitutional development and International Relation, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission on Gender Equality, Culture Religion and Linguistic Commission are identified stakeholders in commemoration of Africa Human Rights Day
ADVOCACY AROUND ZIMBABWE, DARFUR SUDAN
Although the African Union has also included human rights in its agenda, implementation of policies is still very inadequate. Firstly, there is still increasing reports of torture, rape and limited protection of civilians in most African countries. Specifically, the current conflict in Darfur and the ongoing violations of human rights in Zimbabwe calls for the urgent implementation of the Responsibility to Protect civilians. Over the past 12 years, thousands of cases of Zimbabwean government violations of human rights have been reported which have been characterised by political violence, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detention, attacks on human rights defenders, systematic violence against women, repressive legislation, break down of the rule of law, restrictive laws for freedom of expression and association.
HURISA organises advocacy meetings for HRDs of the region to further discussions around good governance and the rule of law in effort to end political crisis in Zimbabwe and Sudan. HURISA lobby the South African government to play a leading role in the region to end conflicts and human rights violations in Sudan and Zimbabwe. Further, HURISA presents statements on situation of human rights at the Pan African Parliament, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the media and solicit partnership from key stakeholders such as the South African Human Rights Commission and the Elder’s Committee. HURISA has sought strategies to advocate for peace in Sudan at global level, in particular the United Nations Human Rights Council. The new paradigm was explored after South Africa’s ascension to the UN Security Council and the lack of united African voice at UN level.