OHCHR 2012 Report

The 2012 Report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights has been released. The thematic issues dealt with include impunity and the rule of law and violence and security. It also contains a number of case studies on African countries in relation to torture and arbitrary detention.

The report is available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/ohchrreport2012/web_en/allegati/downloads/1_Whole_OHCHR_Report_2012.pdf

Immigration: SA still not dealing effectively with asylum seekers

SA attracts the largest number of asylum seekers in the world, but grants refugee status to very few, ranking only 36th in the world for the size of its refugee population, which the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) puts at about 58 000, notes an Irin report.

The Department of Home Affairs approved just 15.5% of the applications it processed in 2011, less than half the global average recognition rate of 38%, according to UNHCR.

Researchers and activists have repeatedly pointed to serious flaws in the country’s refugee status determination process, including the lack of individualised assessments, misapplications of both local and international refugee law, and high levels of corruption among Home Affairs officials. The government’s routine response has been that its asylum system is simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications it receives.

Source: LegalBrief

UN General Assembly Enacts Global Standards on Access to Legal Aid

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted the world’s first international instrument dedicated to the provision of legal aid. The new UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, approved on December 20, are groundbreaking: they represent some of the most progressive principles and guidelines on legal aid, that are grounded on theĀ  emerging best practices and evolving jurisprudential and normative developments around the world.

The important components recognized include:

  • Prompt access to effective legal aid from the outset of police custody, through all stages of the criminal justice process;
  • A right to be informed about a right to legal aid and other procedural safeguards from the moment of deprivation of liberty and before any questioning, including of the right to remain silent;
  • The involvement of a range of legal aid providers including lawyers, paralegals, civil society group, and university legal clinicians and; and
  • The development of a nationwide legal aid system with designated legal aid management authorities that are sufficiently staffed and resourced and are independent from undue political pressure to ensure effective and quality legal aid services delivery.

NOTE: The Street Law South Africa founder and Chairman of the Board, Prof. David McQuoid-Mason, was involved in drafting the resolution discussed in this post as well as the Lilongwe Declaration on which it was based.

UN, US sanctions DR Congo rebel over atrocities

As written by the Daily Nation

The United Nations and United States on Tuesday ordered sanctions against the head of a rebel group accused of atrocities as it seized territory in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN ordered a travel ban and assets freeze against Sultani Makenga, head of the M23 rebels who have been accused of killing and raping civilians as they carve out a mini-state in the mineral-rich east of the African country.

The US government ordered the seizure of any Makenga assets in the United States and banned Americans from dealing with the 38-year-old former DR Congo army colonel. Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, accused Makenga of “heinous atrocities”.

The M23 rebellion erupted in March this year when mutineers broke away from the army and seized a number of towns near the Nord-Kivu provincial capital of Goma, close to the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

UN experts have accused both neighbouring governments of aiding the rebels.

Makenga is behind “killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, and forced displacement,” said a statement by the UN sanctions committee for DR Congo.

“Under the command of Sultani Makenga, M23 has carried out extensive atrocities against the civilian population,” including the rapes of women and children aged as young as eight, the statement added.

“New US and UN sanctions on Sultani Makenga show the world will not stand for heinous atrocities committed on his orders by the M23,” Rice said on Twitter.

“These new sanctions send an important message to other perpetrators of atrocities in DRC: accountability,” she added.

“Makenga is responsible for extensive atrocities against the population in the DRC,” said Adam Szubin, head of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The UN statement said M23 has received arms and other material “in violation of measures taken by the DRC to implement the arms embargo” against the country.

The statement did not say where the arms had come from. Rwanda and Uganda have strongly denied any link to M23 and have condemned a report by UN experts which alleged their backing of the rebels.

By AFP (14 November 2012)