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Benyam Dawit Mezmur

Benyam Dawit Mezmur

HRP Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow

Professor Benyam Dawit Mezmur is currently Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow at the Harvard Law School, Human Rights Program. He is a Professor of Law at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, and serves as Deputy Dean for Research and Post-Graduate Studies at the Law Faculty. He is also Coordinator of the Children’s Rights Project at the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance, and Human Rights, at UWC.

Since 2012, he is serving on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, and served its Chairperson from 2015-2017. Within the Committee, he has served as coordinator of various working groups including on SDGs; on a communications procedure (OPIC); and the Working Group that co-drafted (with the Committee on Migrant Workers) the joint General Comment on children’s rights in the context of international migration. During his time as Chairperson (2016), the Committee held its Day of General Discussion on children’s rights and the environment.

At the regional level, Benyam served on the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, a treaty body of the African Union, for a little over a decade (from 2010-2021). He served as its Chairperson twice (2012-2014 and 2015-2017) and was focal person on violence against children and later served as its special rapporteur on children and armed conflict. In these capacities, he has led and participated in a number of investigative/promotional missions to African countries and (co)facilitated amicable settlements on diverse topics such as childhood statelessness, children and armed conflict, and contemporary forms of slavery.

Benyam has lectured a number of postgraduate courses on human rights, children’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the African human rights system, and international family law. He has been invited to serve as a guest lecturer in many parts of the world. His scholarship has focused principally on the rights of the child, and he has published numerous articles and chapters in books on various related topics.

Over the years, Benyam has received a number of fellowships/awards including from DAAD and the Mellon Foundation. In 2020, he received the Vera Chirwa Award by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, as the alumnus of the LLM/MPhil in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa who best embodied the principles of the programme in his or her subsequent career by “making a difference” to the protection of human rights or the strengthening of democratisation in Africa.

Prior to entering academia on a full time basis, Benyam has offered his technical services to a large number of organizations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, OHCHR, African Union, and the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children. He currently serves on the advisory and/or expert boards of a number of organizations including the Children’s Institute (Cape Town), Keeping Children Safe (UK), All Survivors Project (Liechtenstein), Institute on Statelessness (The Netherlands and UK), and the KidsRights International Children’s Peace Prize (Netherlands).

In 2018, Pope Francis appointed him to serve on the Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors. The Commission, which is presided by Cardinal Sean O’Malley (Archbishop of Boston), advises the Holy Father on the “most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church”.

Benyam was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and earned both his LLB (from Addis Ababa University), and  LLM (in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria) with distinction. He earned his Doctor of Laws degree from the University of the Western Cape in 2010.

Publications

Journal articles

Mezmur B.D (2021) “The protection of internally displaced children in Africa: A doctrinal analysis of Article 23(4) of the African Children’s Charter” 65 Journal of African Law (with R Adeola) 1-15

Mezmur B.D (2020) “The African Children’s Charter @ 30: A distinction without a difference?” 28 The International Journal of Children’s Rights 693-714

Mezmur B.D (2019) “Taking measures without taking measurements?: An insider’s views on monitoring the implementation of the African Children’s Charter in the context of armed conflict” 911 International Review of the Red Cross 623-651

Mezmur B.D (2019) “Technology Changing @ a Dizzying Pace: Reflections on Selected Jurisprudence of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and Technology’, (with A Skelton) 3(3) Peace Human Rights Governance 275-305

Mezmur B.D. (2019) “No second chance for first impressions: The first amicable settlement under the African Children’s Charter” 19 African Human Rights Law Journal 62-84

Mezmur B.D. (2019) “The Convention on the Rights of the Child, migration, and Australia: Repositioning the Convention from being a ‘wish list’ to a ‘to do’ list” 9 Australian Journal of Human Rights 1-23

Mezmur B.D. (2019) “Every ‘i’ dotted, and every ‘t’ crossed?’: Reflections on the Joint General Comments on the rights of children in the context of international migration, with a focus on its relevance for the Horn of Africa” Ethiopian Journal of Human Rights 1-32

Mezmur B.D. (2018) ‘Follow-up as a “Choice-less Choice”: Towards Improving the Implementation of Decisions on Communications of the African Children’s Committee’ (2018) 2 African Human Rights Yearbook, 200-222

Mezmur B.D. ‘(2018) “Don’t Try this at Home?”: Reasonable or Moderate Chastisement, and the Rights of the Child in South Africa with YG v S in Perspective’ 32:2 Speculum Juris 75-92

Mezmur B.D. (2018) “A Step to Zero Attacks: Reflections on the Rights of the Persons with Albinism through the Lens of X v United Republic of Tanzania” (2018) 6 African Disability Rights Yearbook, 251-262

Mezmur B.D. (2017) “Happy 18th birthday to the African Children’s Rights Charter: not counting its days but making its days count” (2017) 1 African Human Rights Yearbook 125-149

Mezmur B.D. (2012) “’Acting like a rich bully’?: Madonna, Mercy, and Malawian children’s rights in intercountry adoption” 20 International Journal of Children’s Rights 24-56

Mezmur B.D. (2010) “Like running on a treadmill? The 14th and 15th sessions of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child” 10 African Human Rights Law Journal 2 (with J Sloth-Nielsen) 534-556

Mezmur B.D. (2010) “Inter-country adoption in Eastern and Southern Africa” (with B Van Heerden and J Sloth-Nielsen) (2010) International Family Law 86-97

Mezmur B.D. (2009) “Listen to us: Arguing the case for child participation in NEPAD” (with J Sloth-Nielsen) 17 African Journal of International and Comparative Law 1-28

Mezmur B.D. (2009) “Intercountry adoption as a measure of last resort: Advancing the rights of a child than a right to a child” 10 SUR-International Journal of Human Rights 84-103

Mezmur B.D. (2009) “From Angelina (to Madonna) to Zoe’s Ark: What are the ‘A-Z’ lessons for intercountry adoptions in Africa” (2009) 23 International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family”

Mezmur B.D. (2008) “’As painful as giving birth’: A reflection on the Madonna adoption saga” 41 Comparative and International Law of Southern Africa 382-403

Mezmur B.D. (2008) “Win some, lose some: The 10th ordinary session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child” (with J Sloth-Nielsen) 8 African Human Rights Law Journal 207

Mezmur B.D. (2008) “An ice breaker: The 11th ordinary session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child” (with J Sloth-Nielsen ) 8 African Human Rights Law Journal 596

Mezmur B.D. (2008) “2 + 2 = 5? Exploring the domestication of the CRC in the South African courts (2002-2006)” (with J Sloth-Nielsen) 16 International Journal of Children’s Rights 1

Mezmur B.D. (2008) “A dutiful child: The implications of article 31 of the African Children’s Charter” with J Sloth-Nielsen (2008) 52 Journal of African Law 159

Mezmur B.D. (2008) “The African Children’s Charter Versus the Convention on the Rights of the Child: A zero-sum game?” (2008) 23 SA Public Law 1

Mezmur B.D. (2007) “Still an infant or now a toddler? : The work of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and its 8th ordinary session” 7 African Human Rights Law Journal 267

Mezmur B.D. (2007) “(Illicit) transfer by De Gree” (with J Sloth-Nielsen) 11 Law, Democracy and Development 81

Mezmur B.D. (2007) “Looking back to look ahead: The 9th meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child” 7 African Human Rights Law Journal 545

Mezmur B.D. (2007) “Surveying the research landscape to promote children’s legal rights in African context” (with J Sloth-Nielsen) 7 African Human Rights Law Journal 330

Mezmur B.D. (2006) “The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: An update” 6 African Human Rights Law Journal 2

Book chapters

Mezmur B.D. (2020) “The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child” Encyclopaedia of International Procedural Law (Oxford University Press)

Mezmur B.D. (2020) “Continued reflections on family law issues in the jurisprudence of the UN CRC Committee: The Convention on the Rights of the Child @ 30:” (with O Khazova) The International Survey of Family Law (ISBN 9781780686639) 337-363

Mezmur B.D. (2019) “Reflections on family law issues in the jurisprudence of the UN CRC Committee: The Convention on the Rights of the Child @ 30:” (with O Khazova) The International Survey of Family Law 305-327

Mezmur B.D. (forthcoming, 2019) “The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child” Encyclopaedia of International Procedural Law (Oxford University Press)

Mezmur B.D. (2017) ‘The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’ in Boezaart CJ (ed.) Child Law in South Africa (Juta) (2017) pp. 401-423

Mezmur B.D. (2012) “Ethiopia at a critical juncture in intercountry adoption and traditional care practices” (with K Rotabi and K Bunkers) in International perspectives in intercountry adoption (eds. JL Gibbons and K Rotabi ) (Ashgate Publishers: UK)

Mezmur B.D (2009) “The right to education in Africa: Taking stock” (with J Sloth-Nielsen in Essays in honour of Hans Visser (ed CJ Davel), (Juta and Co)

Mezmur B.D (2008) “Children at both ends of the gun: Child soldiers in Africa” in Children’s rights in Africa: A legal perspective (ed. Julia Sloth-Nielsen) (Ashgate Publishers: London) (2008) 199-218

Mezmur B.D (2008) “Children’s rights in Africa in the era of HIV/Aids: Confronting the hydra head on” (with J Sloth-Nielsen) in Children’s rights in Africa: A legal perspective (ed. Julia Sloth-Nielsen) (Ashgate Publishers: London) (2008) 279-298

Academic interviews

P. E Veerman “An African and International Perspective on Children’s Rights: Interview with Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson of the African Children’s Rights Committee (ACERWC) and for Two Years (2015–2017) the Chair of the UN CRC Committee” (2017) 25 International Journal of Children’s Rights 672-697

M. J. Recalde Vela “An interview with Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child” in World’s Statelessness Report (2017) available at http://children.worldsstateless.org/3/the-right-of-every-child-to-a-nationality/an-interview-with-benyam-dawit-mezmur-chairperson-of-the-united-nations-committee-on-the-rights-of-the-child.html

L Oette and Ilias Bantekas in “Interview with Professor Benyam Dawit Mezmur, University of the Western Cape, Member and former Chairperson (2015-2017) of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in International Human Rights Law and Practice (3rd Edition, forthcoming) (Cambridge University Press) (2019)