The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) has appointed Commissioner Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Sonoo of Mauritius as the new Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.
Commissioner Topsy-Sonoo, who is the Parliamentary Counsel of Mauritius, takes over from former Commissioner Jamesina Elsie L. King of Sierra Leone, whose tenure as a member of the Commission and its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa ended on November 15, 2021.
Commissioner Topsy-Sonoo was appointed by members of the Commission through a resolution to that effect, adopted on December 5, 2021 at its 69th Ordinary Session, which was held virtually from November 15 to December 5, 2021.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur includes, among other things, monitoring the implementation of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa; monitoring compliance by African Union (AU) Member States with freedom of expression standards; undertaking investigative missions to Member States where reports of massive violations of the right to freedom of expression are made; and undertaking country missions and other promotional activities to strengthen the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in Africa.
The Special Rapporteur is also tasked with making public interventions where violations of the right to freedom of expression have been brought to his or her attention; keeping proper records of violations of the right and publishing them in his or her reports submitted to the Commission; and submitting reports at each Ordinary Session of the Commission on the status of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in Africa.
Commissioner Topsy-Sonoo is the fifth person to hold the position since the establishment of the mandate by the Commission in 2004, coming after four former members of the Commission – Commissioner Andrew Ranganayi Chigovera of Zimbabwe, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, of South Africa, Commissioner Lawrence Mute of Kenya, and, most recently, Commissioner King.
As the Parliamentary Counsel of Mauritius, Mrs. Topsy-Sonoo is mainly responsible for drafting and vetting all Government Bills and Regulations as well as advising the Executive as to how its policy objectives can best be achieved through sound legal frameworks.
She also advises the country’s legislature, the National Assembly, on law-making procedures and attends sittings of Parliament when Bills are being debated to ensure that all the procedures are complied with and to deal with any legal issue that may arise either in relation to the substance of the Bill or to the passing of it.