The Southern Africa Litigation Centre is pleased to share the report, Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Services for Women in Southern Africa.  Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among women in southern Africa, and is either the primary or secondary cause of cancer death among women in all 10 countries in which the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) works. Moreover, the negative impact of cervical cancer is exacerbated in southern Africa given the high prevalence of HIV among women in the region.

Cervical cancer is easily preventable and treatable in any resource setting. However, necessary services to prevent and treat cervical cancer have not been made available or easily accessible in southern Africa. The report, based on a combination of desktop research and field research in Namibia and Zambia on the availability of and access to cervical cancer services, found that very few countries in the region have comprehensive policies on cervical cancer. Essential prevention services such as screening and vaccination are also not widely available in the public health sector in most countries, and treatment for both pre-cancerous lesions and invasive cancer remains a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

SALC’s work on cervical cancer benefitted from our attendance at the 6th Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa Conference (SCCA) which ended in Zambia on Tuesday the 24th of July 2012. The objective of the conference was to encourage participants to mobilise their governments to increase and secure funding for cervical cancer prevention.

The three day conference which focused on the theme “A New Era in Cervical Cancer Prevention” attracted over 1,000 participants from 25 countries, including Congo-Brazzaville, Belgium, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. Among those who attended were the First Lady of Mozambique  Dr. Maria da Luz Guebuza,  First Lady of  Swaziland  Queen Nomsa LaMatsebula while the Congo Brazzaville, Gambia, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe sent representatives to the conference. Other attendees included researchers, health professionals, policy makers, cancer advocates and representatives from non-governmental organisations. Read the rest of this entry »

From 22-27 July, 2012 many working in the field of HIV, together with policy makers, persons living with HIV and others committed to ending the pandemic will gather in Washington, DC, USA for the XIX International AIDS Conference. As the HIV community at large reflects on and celebrates the “recent scientific advances in HIV treatment and biomedical prevention, the momentum for a cure, and the continuing evidence of the ability to scale-up key interventions in the most-needed settings”, SALC, together with many other stakeholders, will also take the opportunity to reflect on the role of human rights in “turning the HIV tide”. A recent report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law highlighted the continued negative impact of the failure to protect human rights on the HIV response. Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, a member of the Commission has suggested that the report provides “compelling evidence that the epidemic of bad laws is costing lives”. 

At AIDS 2012, SALC will participate in discussions that will reflect on the impact of punitive and discriminatory laws, policies and state practices on HIV responses. We will also share our experiences on litigation and law reform strategies that we have used to address these challenges. 

Click SALC at AIDS 2012 to find out more about how SALC will be involved in AIDS 2012. You can also follow live updates from the conference on SALC’s twitter feed (@Follow_SALC

At the end of March the North Gauteng High Court reserved judgment in SALC’s landmark torture case in which SALC and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum asked the High Court to set aside a decision of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority and police service not to investigate and prosecute high level Zimbabwean officials accused of torture. The case, the first to be brought in terms of South Africa’s domestic Rome Statute Act, raises important questions about the content and nature of South Africa’s obligations to investigate and prosecute international crimes. Although the judgment is only expected in May 2012, the issues raised certainly provide food for thought. 

In this regard, Christopher Gevers of the University of Kwazulu Natal provides an excellent analysis of the case through the lense of universal jurisdiction on EJIL:Talk, the European Journal of International Law blog.

 The blog post is titled The Application of Universal Jurisdiction in South African Law and to wet your appetite, this is Gevers’ overall impression of the case:

Having witnessed the judge’s handling of the case, I would certainly not characterize him as a shrinking violet, quite the contrary. Equally so, it was clear that he had a complete and considerable grasp of all of the complex issues raised by the parties, as well as the significance of the case both from the perspective of the victims, and its broader context. All this augurs well for those of us looking for a wide-ranging, precedent-setting judgment fitting of the inaugural judicial pronouncement on South Africa’s ICC Act.”

 

 

Last week, two of SALC partners, Gift Trapence the Director of the Centre for the Development of People and Undule Mwakasungura, the head of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation were under direct threat for their role in the 20 July protests and their general questioning of President Bingu wa Mutharika’s dictatorial actions.  They had both been threatened by name by President Mutharika. They are both safe at the moment, but President Mutharika does not seem close to backing off.

You can read the letter here.

More news to come, but we just learned that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were found guilty on all three charges–carnal knowledge against the order of nature, permitting carnal knowledge against the order of nature, and gross indecency between males. Sentencing was reserved. We will post the Magistrate’s decision as soon as we can.

Proving that Mswati can give Mugabe a run for his money, prominent Swazi human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko has been arrested and detained. Initially, charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which at least would have provided an opportunity to challenge the legality of that Act, Thulani is now being charged under the Sedition Act.

This is the same strategy employed in respect of Mario Masuku, president of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) — initially charged under the Terrorism Act, he now faces charges under the Sedition Act. Mr Masuku has been awaiting trial for six months.

Thulani has been acting as his lawyer. He has also acted recently in matters relating to whether police have the right to form trade unions, he took up an ambitious challenge to the Constitution itself and he recently won a very impressive victory in a judgement relating to the rights of schoolchildren to free education.

Zimbabwe has certainly merited all the attention it has received for its political crisis but I do think that, regionally and internationally, we may have been doing a disservice to human rights defenders in Swaziland by not paying enough attention to what has been happening there.

Someone soon has to write a book about the heroic, progressive lawyering that has been done in Zimbabwe over the past few years — along the lines of Richard Abel’s magisterial ‘Politics By Other Means’, about progressive lawyering in South Africa under apartheid. It would be a great book — filled with courageous, indefatigable characters like Alec Muchadehama, Beatrice Mtetwa, Sternford Moyo, Andrew Makoni, Arnold Tsunga, Irene Petras, Gugulethu Moyo and many, many more. Sadly, even as the situation improves in Zimbabwe, human rights lawyers are still facing harassment and intimidation. Alec was arrested last week and two lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Rose Hanzi and Tawanda Zhuwarara have been charged for allegedly contravening the Criminal Law Act by participating a gathering with “intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry”. Here’s the oped I wrote for Business Day about Alec’s arrest and what it signals for change in Zimbabwe.
Nicole
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So the only reason for the postponement was that the lawyer assigned to the case from the Attorney-General’s office was unable to come to Livingstone from Lusaka for the trial today. A few reasons why I find this surprising. First, the date of the trial has been set for months now and both sides have been informed of the date. Second, Paul Mulenga the lawyer for the two men, has communicated with the Attorney-General’s office regarding this case as recently as last week. Third, for those of you who may not know Zambian geography, Livingstone is an hour plane ride or a 5 hour bus ride from Lusaka. There are daily flights from Lusaka to Livingstone. There are also regular buses throughout the day from Lusaka to Livingstone.

Some of the people I spoke with today thought that maybe the Attorney-General’s office was not prepared for the case and they needed the extra time. I don’t know what the real reason is.
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So I was just talking to the lawyer who is standing in for the Attorney-General’s office today.  It seems that the actual lawyer for the Attorney-General who was assigned to the case has not traveled from Lusaka and so they will be asking for a postponement until tomorrow.  The likelihood is that they will receive the postponement until tomorrow given that the lawyer who is actually here right now doesn’t know anything about the case, but it will be up to the judge.  The judge in the case is Elizabeth Muyovwe, formerly an alternate judge on the Special Court of Sierra Leone.  We should know what happens in the next hour.