The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law
Volume 5, Issue 1, September 2002
Human Rights NGOs Form a Federation in Congo
A number of human rights organizations in the Republic of Congo (ROC) have formed a coalition with the objective of bringing about closer collaboration in their efforts to promote democracy, good governance, and human rights in the country, according to a communiqué from the ROC government.
Speaking in the capital, Brazzaville, at a ceremony to launch in August, the Federation Congolaise des Droits de l’Homme (Fecodho), its president, Cephas Germain Ewangui, a former vice-president of the national electoral commission, said: “The work of the Federation will not consist of disseminating inflammatory pamphlets or declarations against public authorities; rather, it will focus on providing a deeper analysis of the strengths and weaknesses in the domain of human rights and democracy with a view towards a campaign focused on community education and the support, promotion and development of a culture for respect of human rights and basic liberties.” He also stated that there will be a focus protection of citizens against abuse by state authorities.
Fecodho is made up of the following NGOs and associations: l’Association Panafricaine Thomas Sankara (APTS), of which Ewangui is the head; la Convention nationale des droits de l’homme (Conadho); la Ligue des droits de l’homme; l’Association pour la democratie et les droits de l’homme; le Club UNESCO [UN Scientific and Cultural Organisation] des droits de l’homme et la culture de paix (Cudhoc); l’Association Afrique avenir; l’Association congolaise pour la sante et le developpement; and la Communaute de developpement et d’actions sociales au Congo.
Critics dismissed the federation as a vehicle to endear its leaders to President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and better position them for appointments in his new government. They added that apart from APTS, Conadho and Cudhoc, they had never heard of the member organizations. KWS (based on a report in the IRIN News Service of the United Nations).
The NGO Law, which was enacted in 2001, is now available online on the website of Malawi SNDP , which is a UNDP funded Malawi Government Programme executed by the National Research Council of Malawi. SNDP assists with development of Internet and Information Services in Malawi, with emphasis on sustainable development. The site also includes a list of NGOs in Malawi as well as the text of the “NGO Appeal” against the bill in January 2001.
A number of NGOs have objected to the Law’s requirement that membership in CONGOMA is mandatory, and they are working on an amendment. There is an “informal” agreement that this section is not being enforced. KWS
“Prohibition of Certain Associations Bill.” The government has introduced a bill to give it power to ban any association of individuals or quasi-military groups formed “for the purpose of furthering the political, religious, ethnic, tribal, cultural or social interests of a group” in a manner contrary to peace and order in the country. The bill has been challenged in the Federal High Court by the O’odua People’s Congress on the grounds that it infringes the rights of freedom of association and assembly enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. PB
(The Prohibition of Certain Associations Bill 2002, reported in Integrated Regional Information Networks, 24 April 2002; Champion Newspapers Limited, 6 July 2002)
Report by Human Rights Organization in Nigeria Impounded and Organisations and Individuals Associated with it Harassed
The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the world’s largest coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engaged in the fight against torture, reports that copies of a report published by OMCT and Nigerian NGO the Centre for Law Enforcement Education (CLEEN) have been seized by the customs office in Lagos. The report is entitled “Hope betrayed? A Report on Impunity and State-Sponsored Violence in Nigeria,” and it is based on the input of some 60 local NGOs, Furthermore, a researcher and two persons who collaborated in drafting the report are reportedly being subjected to harassment by Security Services agents.
According to the information received by OMCT, over 2000 copies of the report that were sent by OMCT to CLEEN for distribution in Nigeria have been impounded at the customs office in Lagos, due to alleged political undertones of a subversive nature within the report’s content. The report was launched publicly in Lagos on August 26th, 2002, and OMCT is surprised by the sudden change of mood by the authorities towards this publication and those who participated in producing it.
Two of the co-authors of a chapter on the so-called “Benue Killings” – in which the Nigerian Army massacred a large number of civilians in response to the abduction and killing of soldiers during inter-ethnic clashes between the Tiv and Junkun groups in the Benue Valley – are being harassed by the authorities, who have called upon them to report immediately to the Department of State Security Services (SSS) in Abuja. OMCT is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of these two persons, Miss Isioma Ojugbana and Miss Ijeoma Nwachukwu, who are both members of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Lagos, and fears that they may be arbitrarily detained and risk being subjected to ill-treatment if they present themselves to the SSS. A further person associated with the report, Ms. Idris Bawa, one of the researchers for the National Human Rights Commission, has been invited to the SSS and questioned in relation with this affair.
The International Secretariat of OMCT is also gravely concerned by the fact that the authorities are attempting to block the dissemination of this report, which represents an important milestone in the collaboration of Nigerian NGOs and the monitoring of the human rights situation in the country, and calls upon them to immediately enable these reports to be delivered to their intended destination. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the SSS’ use of threats and harassment against members of civil society and fears that such behaviour may augur a departure from recent improvements in Nigeria towards a time in which civil society once again becomes the target of repression, in violation of the rights to the freedoms of association, opinion and speech. OMCT calls upon the Nigerian authorities to immediately halt all forms of repression, threats and harassment against the persons who took part in the production of this report and, more generally, civil society as a whole.
This report is taken from an OMCT press release.
Updates on Tax Status for PBOs
When the amendments to the Income Tax Act 1962 were passed in 2000 to require all existing tax exempt charitable bodies to apply for the new public benefit organization status if they wished to retain their tax privileges, the legislation required them to register by 15 July 2002. According to the Office of the Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service Media Release No. 10 of 2002 (26 May 2002), since only a limited number of applications has been received to date, the Ministry of Finance has recommended to Parliament that the deadline for registration be extended to 31 December 2002.
The Government has introduced legislation to extend the categories of public benefit activities that qualify for income tax exemption and for tax deductible donations under the Income Tax Act 1962. The new categories include education and training, conservation, housing and human rights. The new law also amends in similar terms the exemptions from certain other taxes available to public benefit organizations, including section 9 of the Transfer Duty Act of 1949 (with effect from 1 March 2002), section 4 of the Estate Duty Act of 1955 (with effect from 15 July 2001), section 4 of the Stamp Duties Act of 1968 (with effect from 15 July 2001), and section 4 of the Skills Development Levies Act of 1999. Income Tax Act (Taxation Laws Amendment Act 30 of 2002), August 2002.
President Lifts Ban on Political Parties
In a move reported by the UN’s IRIN News Service in August, the President of Sudan Umar Hasan al-Bashir lifted the ban on political parties. Legislation aimed at establishing freedom of association was enacted in 1997. This move is seen a step toward the establishment of democratic institutions in Sudan, which has been wracked by civil war. It is also a major step in the peace process, which is slowly moving ahead. KWS
by Karla W. Simon*
Recent developments in Tanzania on the proposed enactment of legislation to carry out the NGO Policy have not been good. Although the development of the legislation continued for awhile with an open and collaborative process, the recent decision by the Attorney General to cancel the “Second Retreat” to be held to discuss the draft bill set off alarms in the NGO community. Subsequent to that, the government gazetted a bill that does not reflect suggestions made by the NGOs at the First Retreat nor those of the ICNL consultants providing technical assistance on the project. It is due to be discussed by the Parliamentary Committee on Judicial and Constitutional Affairs on October 25.
Despite an intensive advocacy campaign in favor of progressive legislation consistent with both the NGO Policy adopted a year earlier and international best practices, draconian new legislation was enacted after three readings in Parliament on a single day. Led by HAKIELIMA, TANGO, TACOSODE, TGNP, and HAKIARDI, supported by Tanzanian and international legal experts, the NGO community is now working to develop effective strategies for combating the pernicious effects of the new legislation.
More positive developments have occurred in Zanzibar. On October 25, the first ever workshop will be held in Stone Town to discuss the proposed “NGO Policy” for Zanzibar (and the islands). Under Tanzania law, NGO matters are not Union matters, so this process will go forward on its own. The NGO Resource Center (NGORC), a project of the Aga Khan Foundation, is holding the workshop, together with ANGOZA, the principal NGO umbrella group in Zanzibar.
There are also positive developments on the side of taxes and customs duties, which apply both to the Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar. On 13 June 2002 the Budget for 2002/03 was presented to the National Assembly. According to the Ministry of Finance Budget speech, the proposals include the introduction with effect from 1 January 2003 of a new system of administering tax exemptions, which will apply initially to non-religious NGOs, but is intended to cover tax exempt persons generally. Under the new system organizations benefiting from tax exemptions will receive a Treasury Voucher for presentation to the Tanzania Revenue Authority. In addition, the Government will publish in newspapers on a quarterly basis the names of taxpayers that have been granted tax exemptions.
Customs duty exemptions for government imports are abolished from 1 July 2002. However, exemptions will continue to apply to projects funded by development partners, religious and other organizations that are currently entitled to exemption, either under statute or a bilateral agreement.
* Karla W. Simon is Editor-in-Chief of IJNL and Professor of Law at the Catholic University of America. She is also Co-Director of the Center for International Social Development at the University. Prof. Simon can be reached at email@example.com.
Failure to Register Religious Organizations in Togo
The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHCHR), reviewing the recent report of Togo, committee queried the Togolese officials on religious freedoms. According to UNHCHR, the officials said that applications for registration of religious organizations wren to being properly handled. According to the report of the Togolese delegation: “434 churches had applied, but only 95 were granted license to operate. The requests of many had been rejected as result of their moral conduct.” Committee experts told the Togolese officials, however, that the practices on the ground did not correspond to the law of the country.
Zimbabwe Enacts First Tax Preference for Donations to NPOs
The Budget for 2002 was presented to parliament on 1 November 2001. The proposals, which have now been enacted, include the introduction, with effect from 1 January 2002, of a deduction from taxable income for donations by a company to a research institution approved by the minister responsible for higher or tertiary education up to ZWD 10 million in each tax year. Finance Act No. 27 of 2001, promulgated 31 December 2001, reported in Tax News Service, 4 February 2002.