College of Law, University of Juba hosts Academic Conference on Human Rights in South Sudan

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JUBA, May 24, 2016 – Moving towards a people-centered human rights state in South Sudan is the focus of a three-day Symposium for academic discussion opening today in Juba, hosted by the College of Law (COL) at the University of Juba in South Sudan.

The COL is promoting greater awareness and dialogue on contemporary human rights issues in South Sudan. With support from the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), the COL has organized the Symposium to provide a platform for dialogue on important legal, political and human rights topics.

“No constitutional government exists without protection of human rights. Human rights is as topical an issue in South Sudan as it is in the region and the continent. Therefore, a learning institution like the College of Law at University of Juba should disseminate knowledge on human rights for the realization of dignity and equality,” observed the Dean of the College of Law, El-Faki Chol Lual on the eve of the Symposium on 23 May 2016.

The Symposium is bringing together key subject matter experts from the region – including Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, and South Sudan – to engage with national policymakers and leading legal practitioners in South Sudan. Participants will present a series of discussion papers addressing questions around enshrining human rights in the Constitution, empowering citizens and enhancing human rights awareness, as well as developing institutions to administer justice consistently and transparently.

The Symposium is significant for the COL as it seeks to re-establish itself as an institution since it relocated from Khartoum to Juba in 2011. The COL is responsible for educating future justice actors on the common law, English-language system adopted by South Sudan, helping justice professionals adopt a holistic, well-rounded view of justice. IDLO has partnered with the COL since 2011 to build capacity to provide relevant legal education.

“The United States is proud to support the College of Law through our partnership with IDLO, an organization renowned for its expertise in promoting the rule of law,” said U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Molly Phee at the opening session. This year the U.S. government awarded IDLO a $4.2 million grant to strengthen the College of Law through assistance with the curriculum, support for teachers, supplies for the library, and resources for a legal aid clinic. “The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan calls on the Transitional Government of National Unity to initiate a process led and owned by the people to draft a permanent constitution. I hope during the Transitional Period you will fully embrace this responsibility and privilege,” said Ambassador Phee.

Decades of civil war and neglect left South Sudan’s legal, judicial, legislative and law enforcement institutions without the human resources necessary to fulfill their mandates. The COL is making an essential contribution towards the development of a strong foundation in the nascent legal development of the country.

The Symposium is taking place from May 24 to May 26, 2016 at the Royal Palace Hotel in Juba, South Sudan.

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UN Human Rights Chief welcomes Pfizer decision to bar use of its drugs for executions

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GENEVA (19 May 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday warmly welcomed the initiatives announced by pharmaceutical company Pfizer to ensure that the drugs it produces will not be used by States to carry out executions by lethal injection.

“Businesses, across many industries, can help prevent human rights violations from occurring,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “It is heartening to see companies playing an active role in furthering the trend towards ending use of the death penalty.”

The company announced that it would restrict the sale of seven products that have been part of lethal injection protocols in some States. Resale will be restricted and Government entities will be required to certify that the products they purchase will not be used for any penal purposes. Pfizer has said it will monitor the distribution consistently.

High Commissioner Zeid called on all businesses to act in accordance with their human rights responsibilities as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur” as well as to “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services”.*

He noted that other companies, beyond the pharmaceutical industry, may be involved in activities relating to the administration of the death penalty, and called on such businesses to carry out human rights due diligence across their operations to ensure that they are not in any way contributing to the use of capital punishment.

Zeid also urged States not to resort to questionable sources for the drugs required to administer lethal injections. He stressed that the UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.