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Speaking out for justice
by Nelson Mandela
United Nations, agencies
The 70th anniversary of the United Nations founding provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the life and work of Nelson Mandela with a call to action for helping others, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed today as he joined the world gathers in marking Nelson Mandela International Day.
“Nelson Mandela International Day is an annual call to action for people around the world to make a difference in the communities where they live and work by taking time to serve others,” the Secretary-General stated in his message for the Day.
“Nelson Mandela gave 67 years of his life to the struggle for human rights and social justice,” Mr. Ban said.
The UN General Assembly declared 18 July Nelson Mandela International Day in 2009 in recognition of the former South African President"s contribution to democracy, justice and reconciliation and to mark his birthday. Mr. Mandela passed away in December 2013 in Johannesburg at the age of 95.
The overall campaign slogan – Take Action, Inspire Change – seeks to inspire people around the world to help others and, in so doing, empower entire communities and build a global movement for good.
A few statements by Nelson Mandela.
As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. We shall never forget how millions of people around the world joined us in solidarity to fight the injustice of our oppression while we were incarcerated. Those efforts paid off and we are able to stand here and join the millions around the world in support of freedom against poverty.
Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference. Religion, ethnicity, language, social and cultural practices are elements which enrich human civilization, adding to the wealth of our diversity. Why should they be allowed to become a cause of division, and violence? We demean our common humanity by allowing that to happen.
It will forever remain an indelible blight on human history that the apartheid crime ever occurred. Future generations will surely ask: What error was made that this system established itself in the wake of the adoption of a universal declaration of human rights? It will forever remain an accusation and a challenge to all men and women of conscience that it took as long as it has before all of us stood up to say ‘enough is enough.’...
Let us travel it together. Let us, by our joint actions, vindicate the purposes for which this Organization was established and create a situation wherein its Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will become part of the body of law on which will be based the political and social order of a new South Africa. Our common victory is assured.
Quite appropriately, this 53rd General Assembly [of the United Nations] will be remembered through the ages as the moment at which we marked and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Born in the aftermath of the defeat of the Nazi and fascist crime against humanity, this Declaration held high the hope that all our societies would, in future, be built on the foundations of the glorious vision spelt out in each of its clauses.
For those who had to fight for their emancipation, such as ourselves who, with your help, had to free ourselves from the criminal apartheid system, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights served as the vindication of the justice of our cause. At the same time, it constituted a challenge to us that our freedom, once achieved, should be dedicated to the implementation of the perspectives contained in the Declaration.
Today, we celebrate the fact that this historic document has survived a turbulent five decades, which have seen some of the most extraordinary developments in the evolution of human society. These include the collapse of the colonial system, the passing of a bipolar world, breath taking advances in science and technology and the entrenchment of the complex process of globalisation.
And yet, at the end of it all, the human beings who are the subject of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights continue to be afflicted by wars and violent conflicts. They have, as yet, not attained their freedom from fear of death that would be brought about by the use of weapons of mass destruction as well as conventional arms.
This is probably the last time I will have the honour to stand at this podium to address the General Assembly. Born as the First World War came to a close and departing from public life as the world marks half-a-century of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I have reached that part of the long walk when the opportunity is granted, as it should be to all men and women, to retire to some rest and tranquillity in the village of my birth.
As I sit in Qunu and grow as ancient as its hills, I will continue to entertain the hope that there has emerged a cadre of leaders in my own country and region, on my continent and in the world, which will not allow that any should be denied their freedom as we were; that any should be turned into refugees as we were; that any should be condemned to go hungry as we were; that any should be stripped of their human dignity as we were.
Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation.
We live in a world where knowledge and information have made enormous strides, yet millions of children are not in school. We live in a world where the AIDS pandemic threatens the very fabric of our lives. Yet we spend more money on weapons than on ensuring treatment and support for the millions infected by HIV. It is a world of great promise and hope. It is also a world of despair, disease and hunger.
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.


War crimes trial for former Chadian leader ‘a milestone for justice in Africa’
by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
High Commissioner for Human Rights
20 July 2015
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, welcomed the opening today of the trial of Hissène Habré, the former President of Chad – who is accused of crimes against humanity – before a special court in Senegal, calling it “a milestone for justice in Africa.”
Mr. Zeid said in a press release that the trial, before the Extraordinary African Chambers, was of tremendous significance in a number of ways.
“It was the victims’ remarkable and tireless quest for justice and accountability for the gross human rights violations committed during Habré’s eight-year rule which made it possible for this trial to take place, more than 25 years after he left office and found refuge in Senegal.”
On 22 August 2012, Senegal and the African Union (AU) signed an agreement establishing the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese justice system to try alleged perpetrators of international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990 – including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture.
The UN human rights chief praised the unprecedented agreement as “a historic example of regional leadership and willingness to fight against impunity for international crimes.”
“This shows that leaders accused of serious crimes should not assume they can evade justice forever,” he underscored. “Nowadays, there is a good chance their crimes will eventually catch up with them.”
The High Commissioner noted that his Office, which over the past few years has actively supported accountability efforts in Senegal and Chad, will also closely monitor the trial’s progress.
Mr. Zeid also welcomed the ongoing outreach efforts deployed by the special court in Chad as “fundamentally important” in establishing “a clear two-way communication between the special court in Senegal and the Chadian population,” to ensure that the conduct of the trial “breeds a real sense of ownership and justice within Chad itself.”
July 2015 (AllAfrica)
Hissene Habre, the former ruler of Chad once described as "Africa''s Pinochet" by Human Rights Watch (HRW), is about to face trial in Senegal over the alleged political killings of thousands of people during his time in power.
The trial, starting on Monday, will be the first of an African leader on the African continent for crimes against humanity.
It is seen by many as a milestone in African justice. Habre, who led Chad between 1982 and 1990, will be tried by the Senegalese courts'' Extraordinary African Chambers under an agreement by the African Union.
It is the first trial in Africa of a universal jurisdiction case, in which a country''s national courts can prosecute the most serious crimes committed abroad by a foreigner and against foreign victims, HRW said.
It is also the first time the courts of one country are prosecuting the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes, it said.
"It shows that you can actually achieve justice here in Africa," said HRW counsel Reed Brody, who has been working on the case against Habre since 1999.
The former ruler had been living in exile in Senegal for 22 years until his arrest in July, 2013, following years of procrastinating by Senegal under former president Abdoulaye Wade.
Habre''s government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to report published in May 1992 by a 10-member Chadian truth commission formed by Chad''s current president, Idriss Deby.
The Chad commission particularly blamed Habre''s political police force, the Directorate of Documentation and Security, saying it used torture methods including whipping, beating, burning and the extraction of fingernails.
Human Rights Watch said it had evidence that at least 1,200 were killed and 12,000 tortured under Habre''s rule.
A Belgian investigating team that travelled to Chad in 2002 visited detention centres and mass graves and found thousands of documents from Habre''s political police, providing strong evidence of torture and rights violations.
In 2010 about 8.6 million euros ($10m) was pledged by the European Union, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the African Union and Chad to hold the trial.
The International Court of Justice in 2012 ordered Senegal to either try or extradite the former leader. The trial will be conducted by Senegalese and other African judges.
Former Chadian President to stand trial for crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes. (Amnesty)
The opening on Monday of the trial against former Chadian President, Hissene Habré, in Senegal will put an end to 25 years of impunity and give hope to the tens of thousands of victims of human rights violations and crimes under international law committed under his watch, Amnesty International said.
Habré is being tried by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar on charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes committed while he was in power between 1982 and 1990. This is the first time a court in one African state will try the former leader of another African state.
"The trial against Hissène Habré is a major milestone for justice in Chad and in Africa. For many victims, this day will mark the end of a 25-year-long wait," said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International''s West Africa researcher, who worked on Chad during Habre''s presidency.
"Amnesty International spent years shining a spotlight on the torture, arbitrary arrests, executions and enforced disappearances so prevalent under Habré''s regime. This historic trial will also send a message that there is no safe haven for those suspected of criminal responsibility for war crimes or crimes against humanity. The organization hopes a fair trial that meets international law and standards will ensure that justice is done."
The National Commission of Enquiry estimated that 40,000 people may have died at the hands of Habré''s security forces between 1982 and 1990. Arbitrary arrests and torture, extra judicial executions and enforced disappearances were also common.
While Amnesty International welcomes Habré''s trial as a significant step against impunity, it notes that five other senior officials in Habré''s administration indicted by the Court are yet to be brought to trial.

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