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Human Rights on St Helena

Working for a fairer St Helena

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.{a}

St Helena’s Human Rights project began with the new Constitution in 2009…

Think your Human Rights have been abused? Contact the Equality & Human Rights Commission.

What are Human Rights?

Human Rights on St Helena

Human Rights are about ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to be treated fairly and not discriminated against.

Amnesty International defines human rights as:

basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status.

Many of the basic ideas that lead to the Human rights movement developed in the aftermath of World War 2 and the atrocities of the Holocaust. This brought about the founding of the United Nations and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

The first two articles of the Declaration of Human Rights state:

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

These rights and others are protected under our Constitution and underpin all three key strands of the St Helena Sustainable Development Plan:

  1. A vibrant economy providing opportunities to benefit from growth;

  2. Strong community and family life; and

  3. Efficient and effective government and law.

The material for this page comes primarily from the website of the Equality & Human Rights Commission.

Developing Human Rights on St Helena

The 2012 Human Rights Action Plan

The island’s new Constitution in 2009 enshrined a range of fundamental rights and freedoms for everyone on the island and most of the leading international human rights treaties were then extended to St Helena. Promoting and protecting human rights was set as a key element of the third goal of the St Helena Government’s Strategic Plan for 2012-2015. So a human rights plan was developed in 2012 which was designed to play an important part in achieving that goal. The plan identified what must be done over the subsequent three years to implement the rights in the Constitution and to make sure that everyone on St Helena knew what their rights were and how to claim them. The plan was the result of the extensive consultations with individuals, groups and organisations which took place in June and July 2011.

Towards the end of this plan, in February 2014, it was proposed that a ‘Human Rights & Equality Commission’ be set up in St Helena. This recommendation was accepted by Legislative Council in June 2014.

The Equality & Human Rights Commission

A bill to create the Equality & Human Rights Commission was put before Legislative Council on 8th July 2015 and passed unanimously. The Equality & Human Rights Commission is charged with encouraging and supporting the development of a society in which:

  1. an individual’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination;

  2. there is respect for and protection of each individual’s human rights;

  3. there is respect for the dignity and worth of each individual;

  4. each individual has an equal opportunity to participate in society; and

  5. there is mutual respect between groups based on understanding and valuing of diversity and on shared respect for equality and human rights.

It has various powers and obligations, which are detailed in the Ordinance, including the power to review and comment on potential Ordinances, conduct Inquiries and Investigations, issue ‘Unlawful act notices’ and submit matters for judicial review.

The first Equality & Human Rights Commissioners were appointed by Governor Mark Capes on 6th October 2015 and the Commission commenced work. The Equality & Human Rights Office was formally opened on 10th December 2015 - to coincide with World Human Rights Day. The Acting Governor, Commissioners, many Councillors and invited guests were present.

On 18th March 2021 the Commission became a member of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, the first British Overseas Territory to be admitted.

The move to Coles House in Napoleon Street on 1st April 2022 - an office not provided by the Government of St Helena - was an important step in becoming a fully United Nations Accredited Human Rights institution.

Contacting the Equality & Human Rights Commission

Please note that due to the volume of work you should not just ‘turn up’ at the office hoping to be seen. You should contact the office first to make an appointment. An appointment can be made in person but you will probably not be seen immediately.

The Equality & Human Rights Office is located in Coles House in Napoleon Street, lower Jamestown (map, right).

It can be reached by telephone on (+290) 22133 or (+290) 62053, or by email to admin@humanrightssthelena.org (full contact details are on the website).

The Equality & Human Rights Commission website is at sthelenaehrc.org.

Please Note The Equality & Human Rights Commission does not operate a 24/7 service. You can only contact the Commission, in person or by telephone, during normal office hours. Emails received out-of-hours will be processed the next working day.

Human Rights Observances

A number of annual days mark themes related to Human Rights, which are celebrated to varying degrees on St Helena:

Stop domestic violence
LGBTQ+ Pride flag
Non-binary symbol

In 2021 for the first time the LGBTQ+ Pride (rainbow) flag was flown over the Courthouse & Plantation House to mark Pride Month (and again in 2022).

For more annual events see our page This Year.

Free To Be Me

Free To Be Me is the Campaigning banner of the St Helena Equality & Human Rights Commission. Its aim is to start some conversations.

We will not tell you what to think, but hopefully develop an awareness and understanding of the views of others in our community. Quite simply, whatever our faith, sexuality, gender, age, race we can all respect each others rights to hold those views. You are free to be you, I am FREE TO BE ME.

See us on Facebook™:

Read More

Article: Human Rights - What does it Mean to You?

By Andrew Turner, 10th July 2015{2}

There were many interesting decisions made during the LegCo meeting on Wednesday. One that I have a particular interest in was of course the passing of the new Human Rights Legislation.

This legislation is a very important part of the lengthy struggle to bring proper Human Rights practices to St Helena.

The work began four years ago with the formation of the Human Rights Capacity Building Committee. They developed the National Human Rights Action plan after consulting with several hundred people across the island. This plan was agreed by elected members in December 2011 and was completed in March this year. Of the 94 agreed actions 48 have been completed, 20 are ongoing 8 have changed due to changing circumstances and 18 remain to be completed. This is a tremendous achievement on the part of all the people involved.

Some of those actions were related to the setting up of the Human Rights Office which initially opened 2 days per week in the Bahá’í Centre in Napoleon Street. They moved twice and are now permanently based in the PWD yard and the office is open five days per week. During that time they have seen the number of visitors to the office, seeking assistance with issues as diverse as child birth, employment, racism, domestic abuse, child abuse, police complaints, access to medical treatment and housing matters (to name but a few).

In these four years so much has been done. One of the main objectives was setting up the Equality & Human Rights Commission, the format of which was developed through the 2011 consultation.

Work has been going on for almost 2 years to draft the legislation to set up the Commission and on Wednesday it went before LegCo where it was given the go ahead. All that remains to do now is for the Governor to sign it into law and there is no good reason for him not to do so.

The Bill allows for a Commission’s whose aims will be to encourage and support the development of a society in which:

The Commission’s role is to promote the understanding of human rights, equality and diversity and create awareness and understanding of rights in St Helena. It will:

Human Rights Facilitator{3} Catherine Turner said Thinking of the thanks due, it is very long list but I would like to thank the Chair and members of the Social and Community Development Committee, members of the HRCBC past and present and everyone who has helped and supported us.


{a} United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1


{1} The anniversary of the publication of the article ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’ on 28th May 1961 by the lawyer Peter Benenson, which triggered the founding of Amnesty International. See also en.wikipedia.org/‌wiki/‌Amnesty‌_‌International.{2} @@RepDis@@{3} Now Chief Executive.


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