So what are Human Rights, what is CHRI, and what is the purpose of this blog?
Human Rights are set out in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The thirty articles of the UDHR establish the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of people. These rights include the right to life, food and shelter, freedom of expression, the right to not be arrested and detained without being charged and the right to privacy.
CHRI is an independent non-governmental organisation created to ensure the practical realisation of these basic rights in the countries of the Commonwealth. We have been operating since 1987 and have three offices in Delhi, London and Accra.
The Africa office was opened in Accra in 2001 and is at forefront of the fight to uphold basic human freedoms in the region. We work in three main areas of human rights: Human Rights Advocacy; Access to justice and The Right to Information.
The Advocacy programme is involved in bringing to light breaches of human rights in the African members of the Commonwealth and applying pressure for change. One of the biggest feats of the CHRI advocacy team was its involvement and investigation into the case of the extra-judicial disappearances and killings of approximately 50 Africans that took place in the Gambia in 2005. We are currently looking at elections in the region. For example The Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Sierra Leone all have presidential elections in 2011/2012 and we hope to ensure that people are allowed “to frame the society in which he or she lives”. This right is set out in the Commonwealth’s Harare Declaration.
The Access to Justice Programme has been involved in monitoring the accessibility of justice to Ghanaians and other Africans nationals in terms of accessibility to the judicial system, especially the right to fair trials. CHRI has also endeavoured to ensure the availability of courts and the provision of legal aid to guarantee the right to fair trial. As part of this programme CHRI have held police workshops and set up Justice Centres.
The CHRI Right to Information Programme is the secretariat of the Coalition on the Right to Information. CHRI understands that the right to information is fundamental to the process of democracy and is working tirelessly to achieve the passing of the Right to Information Bill which would help to create a more transparent and accountable government in Ghana and beyond.
So what is the purpose of this blog? This blog aims to provide an up-to-date civil society perspective of what is going on in the African members of the Commonwealth. It will be a forum for discussion on human rights and the pressing issues for Africans today. We want and need your involvement and comments to help make the Commonwealth a place where human freedoms are adhered to in letter and in spirit.