In December 2015, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) was invited to participate in the pre-session of the second cycle of Namibia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
At the pre-session, SALC presented two statements. The first on behalf of itself, Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN) and Women’s Leadership Centre (WLC). This statement raised concern related to traditional laws and cultural practices which perpetuate gender inequality, gender-based violence and the perception that women are inferior to men or are the property of men and which continue to be a cause for concern. In addition, it addressed coerced and forced sterilisations and called for recommendations to be made for Namibia to, among other things, immediately develop, adopt and implement policies and guidelines relevant to informed consent and sterilisation in line with the guidelines on informed consent adopted by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (the FIGO guidelines). The statement further called for Namibia to review the Abortion and Sterilisation Act with a view to eliminating the existing complex and onerous administrative procedures that impede women’s access to safe abortion services in accordance with recommendations by other UN bodies; as well as to incorporate into the constitution and national legislation, the right to highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and take measures to eliminate negative attitudes and discriminatory practices and barriers in the area of health and social services, particularly towards those living with HIV, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities and sex workers. Read the full statement: Namibia-Pre-sessions-statement-SALC-NWHN-WLC.
The second statement was read on behalf of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) and the Southern Africa Christian Initiative (SACHI). It addressed the failure by Namibia to pass laws to domesticate provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which it is a signatory. Other concerns raised in this statement included human rights violations in the criminal justice system; as well as Namibia’s involvement in the demise of the Tribunal of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC Tribunal). With regard to the latter concern, the statement held that Namibia’s signing of the revised SADC Tribunal protocol, which removes the human rights jurisdiction and individual access to the court, constitutes a retrogressive step for, if not a violation of, the right of access to justice and an effective remedy. Read the full statement: Namibia-Pre-sessions-statement-LAC-SACHI.
The other participant at the pre-session was Advocate John Walters, Namibia’s Ombudsman. In addition to his own statement, Adv. Walters also read a statement on behalf of the organisation, Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWS).
The UPR is a process by which states review the human rights record of other states, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council. All 193 states that are members of the UN are reviewed over a period of four-and-a-half years. Civil society organisations are given an opportunity to present a report in writing about six months prior to the UPR session of a country under review. SALC submitted a report together with NWHN, LAC, WLC and SACHI. The pre-session takes place about a month before the review and provides a further opportunity for civil society organisations to raise concerns by addressing diplomats.