About Sarah Hager

Sarah Hager is a volunteer leader at Amnesty International USA, serving as Chair of the Southern Africa Co-Group where she guides the efforts of Country Specialists monitoring human rights in twelve countries. Sarah provided crisis intervention and trauma therapy counseling services to rape survivors for seven years after college before returning to graduate school. Her Master's level coursework focused on the intersection of law and psychology and in law school, Sarah concentrated on international law and public policy. She has traveled to Russia and Thailand to complete legal research on national and international terrorism policies and the impact of HIV/AIDS policies on women. Sarah also worked in South Africa at the Legal Aid Board where she assisted with criminal defense and appellate cases as well as civil litigation challenging violations of constitutional rights. She has published a paper examining the international soft law regarding internally displaced persons and the ability of international actors to regulate behavior of States that displaces persons within a sovereign border, utilizing Zimbabwe as a case example. Sarah also volunteered as a statement taker for the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Diaspora project. Sarah has a Master's degree in Clinical Forensic Psychology from Drexel University and a law degree from Northwestern University. She currently practices law in Washington DC.
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#Remember #Noxolo, Murdered in South Africa Without Justice

A group of people from the gay, lesbian and transgender community in South Africa demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town (Photo Credit: Rodger Bosch/AFP/GettyImages).

A group of people from the gay, lesbian and transgender community in South Africa demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town (Photo Credit: Rodger Bosch/AFP/ GettyImages).

We often hear the egregious acts of violence perpetrated against women in South Africa. Yet the headlines often forget to mention the violence carried out against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. Violence directed at individuals perceived to be LGBTI has steadily increased, yet there has been a consistent failure of police authorities to address these acts of targeted violence.

April 24, 2013 marks the two year anniversary of the brutal death of Noxolo Nogwaza. The 24-year-old was raped, repeatedly beaten and stabbed, apparently because of her sexual orientation. Two years after her death, no progress has been made into the investigation of her murder and her killer(s) remain at large.

To mark the two year anniversary, Amnesty International, together with Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC), a local community-based organization, are organizing a Day of Commemoration in honor of all LGBTI individuals murdered due to their sexual orientation. A short memorial service will be held and participants will be given the opportunity to write messages of hope/condolence which will remain at the site as a memorial.


Arresting Referendum in Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe voted Saturday on whether to adopt its first constitution. Until now, the country operated under a vastly revised document called the Lancaster House Agreement, the de-colonization plan between Rhodesia and the UK. Despite poor turn-out and general apathy for the process, poll monitors initially indicated the constitution would be adopted with a substantial “yes” vote and the Zimbabwe Election Commission just affirmed.

There were incidents of intimidation reported; however, as the day progressed, so did arrests. On Sunday, four officials in the MDC-T political party were arrested. Beatrice Mtetwa (A personal hero of mine-if you’ve ever met her, know of her work, or met any of the multitudes of people she defends in the battle for human rights and dignity, you understand why.) was also arrested for obstruction of justice when she arrived at the police station to serve as their attorney. The irony of arresting a woman fighting for justice for obstruction by those who consistently obstruct it is not lost on me. As of this writing, she is still detained by the police-in defiance of a judicial court order demanding her release. Beatrice and the others appeared in court this morning for a bail hearing and Beatrice will remain in jail until another hearing tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. Harare time.


Violence in South Africa

South African police  block a march by protesting miners in Rustenburg after a security crackdown in the restive platinum belt where officers shot dead 34 strikers (Photo Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP/GettyImages).

South African police block a march by protesting miners in Rustenburg after a security crackdown in the restive platinum belt where officers shot dead 34 strikers (Photo Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP/GettyImages).

The prevalence and acceptance of violence in South Africa is disturbing. Almost 20 years after the fall of Apartheid, it is still a country deeply divided along racial, ethnic and political lines. The recent attack on a Mozambican taxi driver is simply one such example. One need only look to the police attacks on protesting miners in Johannesburg that led to the deaths of 34 miners and more than 70 injuries in 2012, or the fact that South Africa has one of the highest incidences of violence against women (and children) in the world, to understand how violence threatens this “Rainbow nation.”

Violence is not something only perpetrated in the townships of the country, but rather it is perpetrated at, and by, the highest echelons of society. When a country allows individuals who are specifically tasked to protect its citizens, such as police officers and civil servants, to commit acts of atrocity with little to no reprisal, what is the hope that ordinary citizens will not resort to such violence? Who are our role models?


Angola’s Contrasts: Forced Evictions and Billionaires

Angola housing eviction

In 2009, as many as 15,000 people were believed to have been made homeless in forced evictions on the southern peripheries of Luanda. The string of land clearances were an effort to make way for gated condominiums and shopping centres. (Photo: LOUISE REDVERS/AFP/Getty Images)

Angola celebrated a milestone when it was revealed in early January as home to Africa’s first female billionaire. While at first this seems like a “You go girl!” moment, the reality is the woman is the daughter of President dos Santos and she had a little help along the way via corruption and nepotism. Less than a month later, Amnesty International learned the government of Angola is once again forcibly evicting citizens in the capital of Luanda. How are these two events related?

There is a severe wealth dichotomy in Angola, where most citizens subsist on $2 dollars a day with limited access to safe housing, running water, electrical services, and adequate healthcare. Conversely, a small percentage of the population is benefitting from the oil and diamond resource boom, accumulating vast personal fortunes. Accompanying this is a demand for luxury housing and high rise office buildings. The government has long engaged in a campaign of violent forcible evictions to make way for these new buildings, destroying the homes of the most vulnerable citizens in the process.


Rule of Law vs. Repression in Zimbabwe

Okay Machisa has been remanded in custody until 30 January© ZimRights

Okay Machisa has been remanded in custody until 30 January© ZimRights

In early 2009, Zimbabwe entered an agreement to form a unity government following contested elections in 2008. Part of that agreement required the establishment of a new constitution through public consultation and a referendum vote by citizens. Due to political maneuvering, purposeful delays, and budget shortcuts that referendum has not occurred. Accordingly, new elections are mandated no later than October 2013. What does all this mean?

It means Zimbabwe, a country without an election free from violence and intimidation in one form or another since really, well, independence, will have elections sooner rather than later. While the opposition party MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) does not have clean hands, most violence is perpetuated by the party with government control for over 30 years, ZANU-PF. Under the unity government, ZANU-PF retained control of security structures in Zimbabwe, and continues to use the police, security agents, and courts to harass, intimidate, threaten and torture civil society members, political opposition figures and human rights defenders.


Zimbabwe Goes After Activists Again

Earlier this week, scores of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members were arrested and detained by riot police during a march in Bulawayo, including National Coordinator Magadonga Mahlangu. All were eventually released without charge, but the efforts of police to harass and intimidate serve as a reminder of the challenges to practicing freedom of expression and assembly in Zimbabwe.

WOZA members have been conducting a series of protests demanding the draft constitution process be completed and brought to a vote. Currently Zimbabwe does not actually have a constitution. It has operated for 30 years under the Lancaster House agreement, which governed the transition from UK colonial power to self-government.

It has been modified multiple times, but following the political violence of the 2008 elections and the subsequently negotiated Government of National Unity (GNU), it is mandated that a new constitution be drafted and voted on through a referendum process. This process has been delayed multiple times and many civil society organizations in Zimbabwe express concern the process has been politicized and does not adequately reflect rights and government structures desired by Zimbabwean citizens.

Coup Again in Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau protests

Some 30 people hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the national assembly, where the negotiations are taking place, on April 15, 2012 in Bissau, before soldiers violently disperse them. (Photo SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Demonstrating again the worst employment record for job security, members of the military staged a coup last week, arresting the president and prime minister, in the small, west African nation of Guinea-Bissau.

Since independence, no democratically elected president has completed a 5 year term of office.

Reacting to domestic and international condemnation, including suspension by the African Union, the army is becoming increasingly repressive of the basic rights of freedom of movement and expression, particularly of the media.


Zimbabwe's Continuing Struggle for Freedom

zimbabwe flagApril 18th is Zimbabwe National Day. This year, Zimbabwe will commemorate 32 years of independence from colonial rule. While today is a day to celebrate, freedom has its limits in Zimbabwe.

Specifically, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are sharply curtailed by the government. In March, six people were convicted of “conspiracy to commit public violence.” Just how did they conspire? They gathered with others last year to watch video footage of the Arab Spring events in Egypt and Tunisia.