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Press Release by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa on the arrest of Mr Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Mr Bheki Makhubu

press-release

Press Release by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa on the arrest of Mr Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Mr Bheki Makhubu

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner Reine-Alapini Gansou are concerned about reports of restrictions to freedom of expression, judicial harassment, persecution, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

In particular, they are concerned that Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko, a prominent human rights lawyer and defender who is also a senior member of the Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland, was arrested on 17 March 2014. It would be recalled that Mr. Maseko was also arrested on 3 June 2009 and on 4 June 2009 charged for uttering words with a subversive intention, contrary to a section of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (Act No 46 of 1938 as amended). Mr. Bheki Makhubu, Editor-in-Chief of the Nation Magazine on the other hand, was arrested on 18 March 2014.

Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu, are being charged with two counts for the offence of contempt of court alleging that they violated and undermined the dignity, repute and authority of the High Court of Swaziland by publishing malicious and contemptuous statements in the monthly Nation Magazine, about the case of The King v Bhantsana Vincent Gwebu.                            

Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu are still in custody and were set to appear in court on 25 March 2014 for their bail hearing. On 25 March 2014, through an order made by Justice Mpendulo Simelane after a Court Session in Mbabane, they were remanded in custody for 7 more days until 1 April 2014. The accused persons are concerned that their continued prolonged detention amounts to pre-trial punishment.

The Special Rapporteurs express their concern on reports of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and charges against Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu. In this regard, they would like to remind the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland of its international obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Kigali Declaration, the Grand Bay Declaration and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (the Declaration). In particular, they draw the King of the Kingdom of Swaziland’s attention to Principles I (1) and II of the Declaration which provides that “no one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his or her freedom of expression” and that “any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate interest and be necessary in a democratic society”.

The Special Rapporteurs further draw the King’s attention to Principle XI (1) of the Declaration which provides that “…intimidation of and threats to media practitioners and others exercising their right to freedom of expression…undermines independent journalism, freedom of expression and the free flow of information to the public;” and Principle XI (2) which puts an obligation on State Parties “to take effective measures to prevent such attacks and, when they do occur, to investigate them, to punish perpetrators and to ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.”     

The Special Rapporteurs call on the King to ensure that human rights defenders are able to conduct their activities in a safe and conducive environment.

The Special Rapporteurs urge the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland, to order the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu, and withdraw all charges against them. The Special Rapporteurs further urge the Swazi authorities to take the necessary measures to stop all acts of judicial harassment and intimation carried out against human rights defenders working in Swaziland and to respect and guarantee their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Special Rapporteur would also like to encourage the Swazi authorities to continue their efforts towards ensuring the physical integrity and the safety of human rights defenders in Swaziland.

 Done in Banjul, 27 March 2014

Communiqué de presse de la Rapporteure Spéciale sur la Liberté d’Expression et l’Accès à l’Information en Afrique et de la Rapporteure Spéciale sur les Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme en Afrique sur l’arrestation de M. Thulani Rudolf Maseko et de M. Bheki Makhubu

La Rapporteure Spéciale sur la Liberté d’Expression et l’Accès à l’Information en Afrique, Commissaire Pansy Tlakula, et la Rapporteure Spéciale sur les Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme en Afrique, Commissaire Reine Alapini-Gansou, sont préoccupées par les rapports de restrictions de la liberté d’expression, de harcèlement judiciaire, de persécution,  d’arrestation et de détention arbitraires qui leur parviennent du Royaume du Swaziland.

Elles sont particulièrement préoccupées par l’arrestation, le 17 mars 2014, de M. Thulani Rudolf Maseko, éminent avocat et défenseur des droits de l’homme, mais également membre émérite de Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland. M. Maseko avait déjà été arrêté en  juin 2009 pour avoir tenu des propos subversifs, ce, en violation d’un article de la Loi sur la Sédition et les Activités Subversives (loi n° 46 de 1938 telle que modifiée). M. Bheki Makhubu, Rédacteur en chef du Nation Magazine, quant à lui, a été arrêté le 18 mars 2014.

M. Maseko et M. Makhubu sont inculpés, pour outrage et atteinte à la dignité, à la réputation et à l’autorité de la Haute Cour du Swaziland, au motif qu’ils ont publié dans  le Mensuel Nation Magazine des déclarations malveillantes et méprisantes dans le cadre de l’affaire Roi c/Bhantsana Vincent Gwebu.

M. Maseko et M. Makhubu sont toujours en détention et devaient comparaître le 25 mars 2014 devant un tribunal pour leur libération sous caution. Le 25 mars 2014, ils ont été maintenus en détention provisoire pour 7 jours supplémentaires, jusqu’au 1er avril 2014, par décision du juge Mpendulo Simelane au tribunal de Mbabane. Les accusés sont préoccupés de ce que leur détention prolongée constitue une punition d’avant procès.

Les Rapporteures Spéciales expriment leur inquiétude quant aux circonstances dans lesquelles ces défenseurs des droits de l’homme sont arrêtés et détenus. A cet égard, elles voudraient rappeler au Gouvernement du Royaume du Swaziland ses obligations internationales en vertu de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples, de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les défenseurs des droits de l’homme, de la Déclaration de Kigali, de la Déclaration de Grand Baie et de la Déclaration de Principes sur la Liberté d’Expression en Afrique (la Déclaration). Elles attirent particulièrement l’attention du Roi du Royaume du Swaziland sur le Principe II de la Déclaration qui dispose : (1) « Aucun individu ne doit faire l’objet d’une ingérence arbitraire à sa liberté d’expression » et (2) « Toute restriction à la liberté d’expression doit être imposée par la loi, servir un objectif légitime et être nécessaire dans une société démocratique ».

Les Rapporteures Spéciales attirent en outre l’attention du Roi sur le Principe XI (1) de la Déclaration qui dispose :  « …… l’intimidation et la menace contre des journalistes ou d’autres personnes exerçant leur droit à la liberté d’expression …… sape le journalisme indépendant, la liberté d’expression et la libre circulation des informations vers le public » ; et le Principe XI(2)qui dispose : « Les Etats sont dans l’obligation de prendre des mesures efficaces en vue de prévenir de telles attaques et, lorsqu’elles sont perpétrées, mener une enquête à cet effet, punir les auteurs et veiller à ce que les victimes aient accès à des recours efficaces. »     

Les Rapporteures Spéciales exhortent le Roi à veiller à ce que les défenseurs des droits de l’homme puissent mener leurs activités dans un environnement sûr et propice.

Les Rapporteures Spéciales demandent au Gouvernement du Royaume du Swaziland d’ordonner la libération immédiate et sans condition de M. Maseko et M. Makhubu, et le retrait de toutes les accusations portées contre eux. Elles exhortent en outre les autorités du Swaziland à prendre les mesures nécessaires pour mettre fin à tous les actes de harcèlement judiciaire et d’intimation menées contre les défenseurs des droits de l’homme travaillant au Swaziland et à respecter et à garantir leur droit à la liberté d’opinion et d’expression.

Elles voudraient également encourager les autorités du Swaziland à poursuivre leurs efforts visant à garantir l’intégrité physique et la sécurité des défenseurs des droits de l’homme au Swaziland.

Fait à Banjul, le 27 mars 2014

South Africa and Zimbabwe

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South Africa and Zimbabwe

Eddie Cross

30 March 2014

Eddie Cross says that in both countries getting economic policy right is critical

One of the many things we did not do right in 2000 when we formed the MDC and took on the Zanu PF monolith, was to stop and think through the regional context in which we were operating. I cannot recall this subject coming up in any of our early meetings or training sessions. It was a serious error and we paid for it many times over in the following 14 years.

South Africa did not make that mistake – when we won the February 2000 referendum and went on to nearly defeat the ruling Party in the June elections, they set up a special group to analyse the situation in Zimbabwe and to decide on a policy approach to our affairs. This group was headed by the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and had on it several people with specialist knowledge and interest. They concluded that the MDC, a labour based movement, was a threat to the ANC Alliance made up of the ANC, Cosatu (the South African Federation of Trade Unions) and the SACP.

They concluded that if the MDC was allowed to take power in Zimbabwe and made a success of their new responsibilities, that this would encourage a restive labour movement in South Africa to leave the ANC Alliance and fight the next elections on their own. The Workers Party of Brazil reinforced this fear by encouraging Cosatu to strike out and form a Party on the left in South Africa. Cosatu, increasingly aware of the slow drift of the ANC towards the center field, was tempted. The Zimbabwe group was spot on in their analysis.

The result was that over the next 6 years we faced not only a total onslaught from Zanu PF, the JOC and the machinery of the State in Zimbabwe, but behind the scenes, the South African government used its considerable regional and international influence to curb and control the situation against the MDC. So when we won the 2002 Presidential elections, it was South Africa who weighed in and allowed the cover up. When they received their own report on the elections, they suppressed it and to this day it has not been released.

When South Africa finally recognised that the threat from Cosatu was diminishing and that the crisis they had allowed in Zimbabwe was spinning out of hand, they engineered the conditions that brought about the political agreements signed in September 2007 and 2008 that in turn brought the Government of National Unity into being in February 2009. Having created the conditions for a solution they then failed to follow through and allowed Zanu PF to again wrest back power in a totally manipulated and controlled election in mid 2013. Zimbabwe was back to square one – an illegitimate government in place, a collapse of confidence in the State and control by a corrupt and inept administration.

Now South Africa itself is going through a transition of sorts. It is 20 years since South Africa became a democracy (the same period before a serious threat emerged in Zimbabwe to the rule of the liberation Party) and this time it is the ANC that is under threat, both from within and without and the situation in Zimbabwe is doing nothing to help. My friends and contacts in South Africa say that the elections are likely to go as follows: ANC 58 to 62 per cent, DA 25 per cent, EFF 8 per cent and the rest of the field (27 Parties) the balance, 7 per cent.

The prediction is that if the ANC vote falls below the 60 per cent threshold, that a leadership reshuffle will ensue, first in the incoming Cabinet and then in the Presidency. The latter will take place sooner than planned and will entail the ANC changing jockeys in preparation for the 2019 elections. More significantly, although it cannot be seen on the surface, the ANC is maintaining its drift to the center started in the 1990’s. The left is being abandoned and is expected to regroup before the 2019 elections and take on the ANC in its traditional strongholds.

Once again these developments in South Africa do not help in dealing with the situation that is developing in Zimbabwe. The MDC is to the left of Zanu PF and is still very much the child of the labour movement and its civil society parents. The emerging ANC is going to be quite hostile to both, the former because they will constitute the most serious threat to the ANC and the latter because of their strength within the South African State and their commitment to the rule of law and the Constitution, both uncomfortable companions to the ANC.

For the immediate future the main problem is a matter of time and attention. The ANC is fighting for its life and its leadership, and therefore the leadership of the State, is totally engaged in the election. Zimbabwe does not make it to center stage and is very much put on the list of those things to be attended to once the elections are won or lost. Our problem is that we have never been able to resolve our problems without the help of big brother to the South. We were colonized from the South; in 1976 the South enforced a transfer of power and regime. In 2008 the South forced us into a GNU that proved to be a mule – stubborn, stupid and sterile.

I would hope that we might now resolve our problems without the South, but I think it is unlikely. Mixing oil and water takes heat and pressure; we generate the former but need help with the latter. Zimbabwe is not an issue for the global community; they will help, but will not take center stage, neither should they, this is an African problem.

It is an interesting feature of the situation in both States that economic policy is paramount. In South Africa it is the issue of how to get the economy onto a faster growth track and out of the rut of 2 per cent growth/6 per cent inflation where they are now. They need to grow like the Asian Tigers – above 8 per cent per annum for a long time, to address their human problems. Clearly a resolution lies in their success or otherwise in dealing with the militant trade unions that are demanding ever higher wages without supporting increases in productivity. It also depends on their commitment to constitutionalism and the rule of law, both of which are under serious threat.

In this respect two issues present South Africans with clear choices – how they deal with the Nkandla issue and how they manage the platinum strikes. In the case of the former, all the President has to do is accept the Protectors report and pay back the money with taxes on the development of his rural home. In the case of the latter, it is clear the Government is backing the companies and that they will break the strike sooner or later and Cosatu will no longer be a serious contender for power or able to dictate to the ANC in areas of policy and appointments.

In our case it is how to get Zimbabwe back to some form of legitimacy and growth, rapid growth. This is only possible with a change of government; Mr. Mugabe simply cannot bring Zimbabwe back into the real world or deliver confidence and growth. Once this is in place then we, like South Africa, have to clear the road ahead of the obstacles to growth – rule of law, respect for property rights and the Constitution and the removal of indigenisation. The economy and the people will do the rest.

Eddie Cross is MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website www.eddiecross.africanherd.com

Statement of South Africa Forum on International Solidarity (SAFIS) for immediate release

press-release

28 March 2014

Statement of South Africa Forum on International Solidarity (SAFIS) for immediate release

SAFIS is responding to South Africa’s proposed amendments to the Draft Resolution on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protest, currently under consideration at the Twenty Fifth (25) Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council under agenda item 3.

SAFIS is raising serious concerns with South Africa’s complete disregard of the country’s Constitutional foundation and guaranteed rights promoting and protecting the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration.  These amendments are in absolute contradiction of the spirit and purport of the Constitution which brought to end the repressive regime of apartheid. The country is making great strides in ensuring gatherings of collectives are treated as rights and not as mere privileges as was during the dark periods of apartheid. The month of March is dedicated to commemoration of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre which left 69 people brutally killed and 109 injured. We are concerned that South Africa would violate observing this critical period by engaging in actions that have the potential to infringe the right to freedom of assembly.

The civil society continues engaging the government to increase its protective mechanism on the ground to out root the culture of police brutality and impunity where it acts seriously to ensure its horrific history of human rights abuses is not further tarnished. Since 2008 the country has been inundated with over 1200 service delivery protests per month which ended bringing the country human rights records to disrepute and haunted by the Marikana Massacre, AndriesTetane and other innocent citizens whose human rights continue to be violated by law enforcers.  South Africa should use its domestic human rights dispensation to guard against violation of this right nationally, regionally and globally by states parties and encourage the states to fulfill their responsibility to protect citizens by facilitation of g conducive environments for assemblies.  SAFIS calls the Minister of DIRCO, her Excellency Maite Nkoana- Mashabane to urge the South African officials in Geneva to withdraw all the 5 amendments and to support the resolution as tabled. SAFIS has the following concerns about the amendments:

  • The amendments would substitute a call for the development of concrete guidelines for facilitation and protection of peaceful protests based on good practice which will assist States to promote and protect human rights in the context of peaceful assembly, with further regional consultations on the management of assembles
  • The adding of a reference to the UN General Assembly Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States, whose provisions are not clearly related to the protection of protesters’ of human rights, would portray protests as not being driven by local constituencies
  • Proposed language regarding the possible threat of protests to the stability of the State, is both inconsistent with existing international human rights law and open to subjective interpretation, therefore undermining the protection of protesters’ human rights
  • Proposed additional language on the responsibilities of protesters are worded to deflect from the responsibility of States to protect individuals from human rights violations
  • The amendments also suggest language that confuses the message that international human rights standards ought to underpin national legislation and policies

By SAFIS Contact: 27 11 333 1730

South Africa Forum on International Solidarity (SAFIS) is a broad-based platform that brings together individuals, civil society organisations; labour, interfaith base organisations, youth and women formations around a common goal of supporting other people’s struggles for human rights and justice across the world.

Endorsement by

Legal Resources Centre

SWEAT

Marianne Buenaventura Goldman

SAFIS will be holding a critical discussion

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SAFIS will be holding a critical discussion

on Thursday 6th December 2013

Topic: “South Africa 20 years of International relations:

A just Foreign Policy is possible”

 

South Africa engagement with the rest of the world is centered on Pan-Africanism and South –South solidarity, it see it self as an important part on the African continent and sees its interests as being linked to the political stability, unity and success of other African countries.

South Africa is a versatile, multicultural and multiracial country that embraces the concept of Ubuntu as a way of defining its identity and how it relates to others. Ubuntu means ‘humanity’ and is reflected in the idea that it affirms its humanity when it affirms the humanity of others. It has played a major role in the forging of a South African national consciousness and in the process of its democratic transformation and nation-building.

Venue: Constitution Hill, 11 Kotze Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg

Time: 09h00 am to16.00 pm

(Refreshments will be served)

 

The program will follow shortly with the names of speakers

 

Please RSVP to Sipho Theys on sipho@safis.org.za

SAFIS MEDIA STATEMENT ON REACHING CONSENSUS DIALOGUE ON THE EASTERN DRC SITUATION, 26 SEPTEMBER 2013, COSATU HOUSE, BRAAMFONTEIN

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South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS) in collaboration with the Congolese Civil Society organizations in South Africa will be hosting a Reaching Consensus Dialogue Seminar under the theme “Understanding the Politics/Economics, Human Rights and Possibilities of Reconciliation in the DRC, Developing Intervention Strategies for the Solidarity Movement” on the 26th of September 2013 at Cosatu house, Braamfontein, 9am- 1pm.

SAFIS is a broad based platform bringing together activist individuals and organizations around the common goal of supporting, through solidarity actions, struggles being waged for human rights and justice across the African Continent and the world.

Despite existing local expertise and strategies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to build regional solidarity, peace-supporting structures at the community level, provincial level, national level, official debates, dialogues, peace talks and media coverage continue to focus predominantly on military interventions. The new Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) agreement for DRC, an accord signed by 11 African heads of state in Addis Ababa in February 2013, has no mention of local civil society and it was not prepared with any involvement of those local actors. This means for peace building and regional solidarity that the relevant actors need to be on panel such as the Congolese government, the Rwandan government, the Ugandan government, South Sudan government, the Angolan government, the South African government, customary chiefs and influential business community, various armed groups of the East and the ordinary Congolese civil societies both at home and abroad.

The objectives of reaching consensus dialogue seminar are to:

 

  • To provide clear, credible information and public diplomacy to the people of the South Africa and the region on the crisis in the Eastern DRC;
  • Build better cohesion and trust between Congolese Diaspora in South Africa, taking into consideration the  cultural diversity and the Congolese dynamic in order to contribute to a positive change in the Great lake Region;
  • Develop visible strategies for intervention by the solidarity movement in collaboration with Congolese organizations in South Africa and beyond and
  • To support and sensitize the importance of consensus dialogue between government and other stakeholders in the conflict for lasting solution in the Eastern DRC.

Details of the reaching consensus dialogue on the Eastern DR Congo:

 

Venue:  COSATU House, Braamfontein

Date:     26th September 2013

Time:     09h00 – 13h00

Issued in Johannesburg on behalf of SAFIS on 25th of September 2013.

For more information, contact:

South Africa Forum for International Solidarity

Secretariat hosted by HURISA

Sipho Theys

SAFIS Coordinator 

Tel:   +27 (11) 333 1730

Fax:  +27 (11) 333 1735

Mob: +27 825000811

 Email: sipho@safis.org.za

Web: www.safis.org.za

 

SAFIS STATEMENT ON THE KENYAN WESTGATE MALL TERRORIST ATTACK 23 SEPTEMBER 2013

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The South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS) joins other progressive movements on the continent in expressing grave concern by the recent development in Kenya; SAFIS strongly condemns the acts of terrorism perpetrated in the Kenyan Westgate Mall to innocent people. These barbaric attacks have taken the lives of more than 60 people and left more than 200 wounded.

 

SAFIS is calling on the regional and Continental leaders to strengthen Terrorism Acts Early Warning Mechanisms so as to reinforce the protection of the people of our continent. It is very sad to notice that some heartless groups of people can just decide to act in a savage manner without any human remorse, stated Sipho Theys SAFIS Coordinator.

 

These barbaric acts cannot be tolerated on the Continent since the African Union has put in place some legal instruments for prevention and combating terrorism, says Médard Abenge. This mechanism was in response of the bombing and killing of more than 240 African people and several thousand injured in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salam in 1998.

 

Out of 54 AU member States, only 14 have ratified the AU Protocol on Prevention and Combating Terrorism. Kenya is among the State parties that signed this Panafrican legal instrument in 2008 but has not yet ratified it, informed Corlett Letlojane. We therefore urge the Kenyan Government to ratify this Protocol and implement it without any further delay. At the same time all other African Countries that have not yet signed or ratified this regional mechanism should do so without anymore delay.

 

Issued in Johannesburg on behalf of SAFIS on 23rd September 2013

 

For more information, contact:

Sipho Theys: sipho@safis.org.za, 082 500 0811

HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA (HURISA) SALUTES THE HEROINE FOR DENOUNCING SUPPRESSION OF WOMEN ON 9 AUGUST 1960

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Immediate Media Statement

Date: 09 August 2013

This day remains a historical testament of political emancipation of women in the South African. The events of this day epitomize the women’s resistance to abuse, exclusion and defilement of their human dignity. It would be a mistake to perceive the significant of this day as power struggle between males and females. But the event affirmed women’s capacity to participate in political life of their country as well as making decisions in economic, social, religious and cultural matters that concern them. Read more

HURISA MOURNS AND PAYS TRIBUTE

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HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA (HURISA) MOURNS AND PAYS TRIBUTE TO FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE AND COMMISIONER OF HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE PIUS NKONZO LANGA

Immediate Media Statement

Date: 25 July 2013

Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) is sad and mourns the untimely passing of its African Human Rights defender and founding Commissioner of the then Human Rights Committee and retired South African Constitutional Court Chief Justice. Read more

Report on The Fourth National BDS Conference, 8 June 2013, Bethlehem

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Report on The Fourth National BDS Conference, 8 June 2013, Bethlehem

http://www.bdsmovement.net/2013/report-fourth-national-bds-conference-11080

Ramallah – 18 June 2013 – On 8 June 2013 the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)[1] organized its “Fourth National BDS Conference” at Bethlehem University, under the slogan: “Boycotting Israel and opposing normalization contribute to Liberation, Return of Refugees, and Self-Determination.” With 700 participants, mostly representatives of the national committee member entities, including political parties, trade unions, women’s organizations, professional syndicates, youth and student groups, and other civil society organizations, the conference was hailed by several commentators as a “turning point” for the BDS movement’s local work. A substantial part of the credit goes to the selfless efforts of tens of — mainly youth — volunteers who worked for long weeks on organizing all aspects of the conference with dedication and aptitude.

Read more

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