African Court Rules Mali Violated Maputo Protocol

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ARUSHA, Tanzania – On May 10, 2018, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) decided the case between the Association Pour le Progrès et la Défense des Droits des Femmes Maliennes (APDF) and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) against the Republic of Mali.

African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Photo Courtesy of AfCHPR.

Applicants APDF and IHRDA, human rights organizations in Africa, alleged that the Malian Family Code was inconsistent with AfCHPR’s Maputo Protocol.  Applicants alleged that the Family Code violated the minimum age of marriage for girls, the right to consent to marriage, the right to inheritance, and the obligation to eliminate traditional practices and undermine women and children’s rights. The Maputo Protocol is a legal instrument ratified by the court in 2005 that aims to promote women’s rights in Africa.

AfCHPR held that the Republic of Mali violated the Maputo Protocol, the African Charter on the rights and Welfare of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. AfCHPR ordered Mali to amend their Family Code to comply with these treaties. The court requested a report to be submitted to the court within two years of the judgement.

After the court announced its verdict, IHRDA Executive Director, Gaye Sowe said, “It is important for States to take measures to domestic international treaties they adhere to. Today’s decision is very important not only for the promotion of women’s rights in Mali and Africa, but especially for the visibility and effective use of the Maputo Protocol which so far has been underutilized by women’s rights actors and stakeholders in Africa.”

This case is the first application of the Maputo Protocol by the AfCHPR.

For further information, please see:

African Union – APDF & IHRDA v. Republic of Mali Case Summary – 11 May 2018

African Union – APDF & IHRDA v. Republic of Mali Judgement  – 11 May 2018

IHRDA – IHRDA, APDF obtain favourable judgment against Mali in first case before the African Court applying provisions of Maputo Protocol – 11 May 2018

American Society of International Law – African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Rules Mali Violated the Maputo Protocol (May 11, 2018) – 16 May 2018

International Justice Resource Center – African Court Finds Mali’s Family Law Violates Human Rights Obligations – 29 May 2019


Central African Republic Concludes Peace Negotiations With Rebel Groups

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

BANGUI, Central African Republic – On February 2nd, the Central African Republic government and 14 armed groups signed a peace deal to end the conflict that began in 2013.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui. Photo Courtesy of MINUSCA.

In 2013, Muslim Seleka rebel groups seized Central African Republic capital Bangui. Rebel groups and the government began fighting over control of lands with valuable resources such as gold and diamonds. Since 2013, the fighting targeted civilians, health facilities, schools, religious centers, and camps for internally displaced peoples. Thousands have been killed in the fighting in addition to the one million internally displaced and over one half million who have fled Central African Republic.

A UN report previously identified a high risk for genocide in the Central African Republic. As a result of the conflict, two Central African citizens have been sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for war crimes. The ICC prosecutor has alleged crimes committed by both Muslim Seleka and Christian anti-balaka forces. These crimes include both war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The peace negotiations were organized by the UN and the African Union directed African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that more than 63 percent of the country will require humanitarian assistance. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix called on UN member states to assist with the implementation of the peace agreement.

For further information, please see:

BBC – Central African Republic agrees peace deal with rebel groups – 2 February 2019

New York Times – Central African Republic Armed Groups Reach Peace Deal – 2 February 2019

UN News – UN calls for support to implement Central Africa’s newly minted peace agreement – 2 February 2019

UN News – ‘Everyone must be on board’ for peace in Central African Republic: UN’s Lacroix – 10 January 2019


Hate Speech Complaint Filed at South African Human Rights Commission

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Several groups have filed a complaint against the Black First Land First (BLF) group at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for hate speech.

Collapsed walkway at Hoërskool Driehoek. Photo Courtesy of Christa Eybers.

On Monday, February 4th, 2019 the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FFP) filed their complaint. They were later joined by the Congress for the People (COPE). All three groups have condemned the comments made by BLF spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp after a walkway collapsed at the Hoërskool Driehoek school in Vanderbijlpark. This event resulted in the deaths of three students.

After the walkway collapsed, Maasdorp tweeted that the deaths of the students should be celebrated. Maasdorp also supported derogatory comments made on Facebook by other users. In response to Maasdorp’s tweets, COPE stated that the BLF’s intent is to “drive our country into a civil war.” Maasdorp has previously been criticized for his social media posts. 

SAHRC recently announced that they were going to hold the municipal government accountable for the walkway collapse. The Commission specifically stated that they would conduct a human rights audit for the school’s infrastructure.

For further information, please see:

Times Live – Human Rights Commission to take on govt over Hoërskool Driehoek deaths – 2 February 2019

EWN – DA, FFP to take BLF to SAHRC over comments on Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy – 2 February 2019

Times Live – BLF to be reported to Human Rights Commission over ‘racist’ Hoërskool Driehoek remarks – 3 February 2019

The Citizen – Cope charges BLF with ‘racist hate speech’ on Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy – 4 February 2019

Boko Haram Attack in Rann, Nigeria Displaces Thousands

By: Hannah Gabbard
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria – On January 14th, 2019 terrorist organization Boko Haram attacked Rann in northeast Nigeria. 76,000 civilians living in Rann were internally displaced due to the conflict with Boko Haram.

Burial procession after Boko Haram attack in Nigeria. Photo Courtesy of Audu Marte.

In the attack over 100 structures were destroyed or damaged by fires that burnt south and west parts of the city. Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, stated that he believed the attack may constitute a war crime as civilians in the city were intentionally targeted.

Internally displaced civilians living in Rann were dependant on aid agencies for necessities such as food and health services. Since the attack the humanitarian services have no ability to reach those still living in Rann.

72 hours after the attack about 9,000 civilians moved towards the Cameroon border. Many arrived in Bodo, Cameroon, seven kilometers from Rann, where Medicins Sans Frontieres was available with health services. Cameroon authorities forced many refugees to return to Nigeria. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Nigeria has begun to appeal to Cameroon not to send refugees back to Nigeria.

Attacks by Boko Haram have increased as the Presidential election in February nears. Current Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second term.

For further information, please see:

Premium Times – How Boko Haram attack destroyed Nigerian community, Rann – 20 January 2019

Channel NewsAsia – Boko Haram claims attack on northeast Nigerian town of Rann – 18 January 2019

Amnesty International – Nigeria: Satellite imagery shows charred remains of Rann after Boko Haram attack – 18 January 2019

Reuters – Tens of thousands cut off from aid in northeast Nigeria after attack – 18 January 2019

The Guardian – Thousands of Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram forced back by Cameroon – 18 January 2019

Medicins Sans Frontieres – Thousands fleeing Rann attack seek refuge in Cameroon – 16 January 2018

Tribunal Court Overturns Homicide Conviction for 29-Year-Old Mother

By: Zoe Whitehouse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Latin America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — A state tribunal court in Querétaro, Mexico has overturned a sixteen-year prison conviction for Dafne McPherson, a woman accused of inducing her own abortion. The reviewing court has found the evidence presented by prosecutors was unreliable.

                                          Dafne McPherson leaving the tribunal court in Querétaro. Photo Courtesy of El Heraldo de Mexico.

In early 2015, McPherson felt a sharp pain in her abdomen while working at a Liverpool department store in San Juan del Río. At the time, McPherson was unaware that she was pregnant. Rather, she believed that her weight gain and infrequent periods were symptoms of her hypothyroidism.

McPherson then went into labor in a department store bathroom and sought medical assistance. However, private security guards at the department store refused to call a Red Cross ambulance, leading McPherson to wait for a private ambulance. The attending paramedics noted that she had fainted and had experienced extreme blood loss when they arrived.

While Mexico City outlawed the criminalization of abortion in 2007, conservative Mexican states are still filing criminal charges against women who miscarry or experience complications during childbirth. On September 2, 2015, police detained McPherson.

Prosecutors had alleged that McPherson intentionally induced her abortion and suffocated the baby when attempting to flush infant down the toilet.

McPherson’s initial case was fraught with defense issues. Her family members state McPherson’s first attorney charged for legal services but failed to develop a defense or trial strategy. Immediately prior to trial, the lower court disqualified her second attorney because he had not prepared for a newly implemented judicial system. The court then assigned a public defender at the last minute. However, the attorney failed to call witnesses, to offer exculpatory evidence, and to object to the prosecutor’s characterization of McPherson’s acts as doing something “not even a dog would do.”

As a result, Dafne McPherson was convicted of homicide and sentenced to a sixteen-year prison term in 2016.

29-Year-Old Dafne McPherson. Photo Courtesy of El Heraldo de Mexico.

Aureliano Hernández, McPherson’s appellate attorney, had introduced evidence that the infant’s death was caused by inadequate facilities and a lack of medical attorney. Attorney Hernández had stated that the baby fell into the toilet because McPherson had fainted from extreme blood loss.

The tribunal court overturned McPherson’s conviction. The twenty-nine-year-old mother has returned home to her seven-year-old daughter, Lia.

For further information, please see: 

BBC — Mexico woman accused of killing newborn child after miscarriage freed — 25 Jan. 2019

The Guardian — Mexican woman jailed for miscarriage released after conviction is overturned — 25 Jan. 2019

The Guardian — Mexico baby death trial reveals growing persecution of women who miscarry — 8 Nov. 2017