ACHPR prize for Centre for Human Rights

Centre wins ACHPR's first ever NGO prize for human rights

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

October 10th, 2012

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) may have its critics but few could complain about it awarding its first ever NGO Prize for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to the Centre for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria.

Awarded as part of the ACHPR’s 25th birthday celebrations, the award was given to the Centre due largely to the positive and far-reaching influence of its Masters Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa – a unique programme presented in collaboration with twelve other law faculties.

Thirty highly qualified individuals from African countries are admitted each year and these students work on the Centre’s Human Rights Clinics – helping to strengthen various aspects of the Commission’s mandate, in particular the work of its Special Rapporteurs. Indeed, a former director of the Centre, Professor Christof Heyns, who received the award on behalf of the Centre, is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

"This Prize recognises the Centre’s distinctive blend of research, teaching and activism – and the impact of its alumni and partners working across the continent for the promotion and protection of human rights,” said the current Director of the Centre, Professor Frans Viljoen.

For more than a decade, alumni from the Centre have rendered invaluable service as legal interns and legal officers to the ACHPR. The Centre also publishes the Commission’s law reports, disseminates its documents, and has conducted research on many aspects of the Commission’s work, in particular on indigenous peoples’ rights.

The Centre has also been a long term partner of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

“OSISA congratulates the Centre for Human Rights on this well-deserved award,” said Louise Olivier, OSISA’s Law Programme Manager. “The Centre has helped us to pioneer ground-breaking disability rights work in universities across southern Africa.”

The Centre has been instrumental in the Disability Rights and Law School project that OSISA initiated in 2010 through the provision of a disability rights component in its Human Rights LLM. Today five universities from the region have participated in the disability rights Masters project, including Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, Chancellors College in Malawi, Midlands State University in Zimbabwe, Dodoma University in Tanzania and the University of Zambia.

The Centre has also spearheaded OSISA’s Freedom of Information (FOI) project working with the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on FOI to support critical activities in countries across the continent, including advocating for the ratification of the AU Charter on Elections, Democracy and Governance; and developing model FOI legislation.

The Centre is both an academic department of the Faculty of Law and an NGO, and in the latter capacity it enjoys observer status with the African Commission.

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