31 May 2010

International right to know advocacy

The South African History Archive's Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) is involved not only in the right to know in the South African context, but within the global context as well. Through international and national networks, FOIP has been able to make notable contributions to international developments utilising our local experience in exploring the boundaries of our information laws.

On 21 May 2010 SAHA lent its support to an international call to freedom of information law advocates to endorse the adoption of a right to know law in the Philippines. This was finally endorsed by 67 organisations and 21 individuals from around the world. The letter received high profile attention in the Philippines, getting on to the front page of the largest circulation newspaper of the area, the Philippines Star. However, progress on the piece of draft legislation is being threatened due to difficulties in certifying the Philippines' current election results.

On 27 May 2010 SAHA made a contribution to an amicus brief, alongside the Open Society Justice Initiative and others, in the case of Julia Gomes Lund and Others v The Federal Republic of Brazil (Guerrilha do Araguaia Case) which is set down to be heard in the Inter-American Court. The case is of significant political importance in Brazil and concerns a 28-year-long effort of relatives of members of the Guerrilha do Araguaia who disappeared during Brazil's military dictatorship in the mid-1970s. The applicants' central claims relate to Brazil's failure to investigate and punish those responsible for the arbitrary detention, torture, and forced disappearance of some 70 persons, including members of the Brazil Communist Party and residents of the region, as a result of operations carried out by the Brazilian Army, between 1972 and 1975, to destroy the Guerrilha do Araguaia.

In both of these cases SAHA would like to reiterate commitment and support to their international comrades in their pursuits of justice and their significant efforts in advancing the right of access to information in their regions, but also their commitment to advancing the human rights of their citizens generally.