Accra, Ghana
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent non-governmental organisation created to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth. We push for an adherence to the Commonwealth's Harare Principles and the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CHRI was established in 1987 after several Commonwealth countries voiced their concern about a lack of focus on Human rights within the Commonwealth organization. CHRI currently has three offices; in Delhi, London and Accra. The Africa office was opened in Accra in 2001 and is at the 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.

Friday 6 May 2011

African Commonwealth Human Rights Weekly Update (30/04 - 06/05/2011)


Sunday 01/05: Right to Information:  CHRI took part in the May Day celebrations at Independence Square in Accra. CHRI and other memebrs of The Coalition on the Right to Information called upon parliament to finally pass Right to Information (RTI) Bill which has been tabled since 2002. The Bill is currently awaiting regional consultations.

The UN holds that “freedom of information is a fundamental human right and the touchstone for all freedoms”. Disclosure of information creates a conductive environment for a functioning democracy as it allows individuals to understand the governance of their affairs in areas such as food, housing, health care and education.

Ghanaians have a constitutional right to information which was guaranteed under Article 21 of the 1992 Constitution. Nonetheless 19 years after the advent of the fourth republic Ghanian citizens still have no mechanism to access government records. The RTI bill is designed to finally make right to information a practical reality in Ghana. For further information on the Right to Information click here.

                                                   CHRI activists pictured below


Wednesday 04/05: War Crimes Trial:     The trial of two Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) leaders accused of masterminding atrocities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo started in Stuttgart in Germany.  Ignace Murwanashyaka and his deputy Straton Musoni are both Rwandan Hutus living in Germany. They are accused of ordering militias to commit mass murder and rape in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between January 2008 and the date of their arrest in November 2009.

The FDLR was established by Hutu exiles (many of them the perpetrators of the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis), who fled to the DRC after the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front won the 1994 civil war.  The FDLR’s political leadership is largely based in Europe whilst its military arm operates in the Kivu area of the DRC.  It is believed to make millions of dollars a year from extortion and mining activities.

The trial comes under a new law which allows the prosecution of foreigners for crimes committed outside Germany. Senior public prosecutor Christian Ritscher said "We have a long list of attacks on the civilian population, killings, people shot because they were not co-operating with the FDLR, women gang raped, rape as a means of armed fight, as means of civil war"

Rwanda has been a member of the Commonwealth since 2009. See the CHRI report about Rwanda’s application by clicking here.


Tuesday 03/05: Human Rights Campaigner Honoured:   The Matin Ennals Awards for Human Rights Defenders, a prestigious international human rights prize, has named its 2011 winner as Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, the Ugandan founder and Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian, gay and transgender (LGBT) human rights organization.

Kasha was chosen for her courage to appear publically and speak about LGBT issues despite being previously harassed, threatened and even attacked by people for appearing in the media. On the 26th January 2011 one of her colleagues, gay activist David Kato, was murdered following the publication of a “gay list” by the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone. Kasha Jacqueline’s name also appears on this list.

The Chairman of the Jury of the Awards, Hans Thoolen, describes the laureate as “an exceptional woman of a rare courage, fighting under death threat for human dignity and the rights of homosexuals and marginalised people in Africa”..

Wednesday 04/05: Right to Assembly:  300 lawyers gathered in Kampala to protest about the recent handling of protest by the police and the treatment of opposition leader Kizza Besigye. All of the lawyers were dressed in black to mourn the death of the rule of law.

Uganda Law Society’s President Bruce Kyerere gave a petition to the chief justice and said "We condemn the indiscriminate beating of protesters, including some senior and respectable members of society, the indiscriminate shooting of peaceful protesters and the firing of tear gas in schools and hospitals." (BBC World Service)

The Law Society's memebers will be on strike until next week.

Meanwhile Anne Mugisha, a top official in Besigye's Forum For Democratic Change party, said that Besigye's eyesight was improving after it was damaged by pepper spray used by the police when he was arrested in last Thursday’s walk to work protests.   

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