Statement by Mrs Hannah Forster on behalf of Participants of the Forum of NGOs at the Official Opening of the 39th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR

Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 39TH Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 11th May 2006, Kairaba Beach Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia

Honourable Attorney General and Secretary of State for Justice and National Assembly Affairs representing the Republic of The Gambia;

My Lord, Chief Justice of The Republic of The Gambia;

My Lord, Justices of the Republic of The Gambia;

Honourable Members of the National Assembly;

Honourable Secretaries of State

Ambassador Ojimba, Director, Office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission;

Your Excellencies, Madam Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Members of the African   Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR);

My Lord, Chief Prosecutor of the International Tribunal Court on Rwanda;

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;

Distinguished Executive Members of The Governing Council of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS);

African Team Coordinator, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;

Distinguished State Representatives;

Venerable Religious and Traditional Leaders;

Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions;

Representatives of National and International NGOs;

Representatives of the Press;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

All protocols respectfully observed

I feel honoured to stand before this distinguished and august gathering of the African human rights community, once again, with the responsibility to give a statement on behalf of my colleagues of the NGO Forum preceding the 39th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

On behalf of all the participants of the NGO Forum, and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to thank the Chairperson of the African Commission for affording us this opportunity.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Please allow me to also express our gratitude to the Government and people of The Gambia for their hospitality, in facilitating the activities of the 39th Ordinary Session and to reiterate the appreciation of the participants of the Forum of NGOs for the warmth afforded them since their arrival.

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In keeping with tradition, the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 39th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rightss, commonly referred to as the NGO Forum was held from the 6-8 May 2006, a few days before the commencement of this Session of the Commission.

This year is an important one for human rights in Africa, considering that the Banjul Charter would be 25 years old this year, while the Commission would be 20 years. The Forum noted that while Africa has seen significant and positive developments in the human rights and democracy situation on the continent, it is worthy to observe an improvement in the respect for human rights, good governance and the rule of law. In its wake, the African Charter has seen the formulation, adoption, ratification and implementation of numerous instruments; decisions and mechanisms to match this growing tide.

We have equally witnessed the African Union “take up multifaceted challenges that confront our continent and peoples in the light of the social, economic and political changes taking place in the world”; further strengthening the continental framework to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa.  Likewise, we have witnessed the pursuit of human rights become an integral responsibility of the African Union.  The increased involvement of civil society organisations in these processes are laudable and have gone a long way to enhance partnerships and promote ownership of the process by the African people.

While applauding these developments, the Forum asserted that Africa continues to face serious human rights challenges characterised by conflict, insecurity and violence.  Poverty, disease, internal political strife, resulting in the taking up of arms by rebel groups, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings continue to bring untold hardships to the majority of citizens of the affected countries, particularly to women and children. The Rwanda genocide remains a constant reminder on the extent to which unrestrained lawlessness and lack of commitment to early warning can lead to unwarranted loss of life, property and above all dignity.

The full report of the Forum together with the adopted resolutions and recommendations will be forwarded, for the kind consideration of your august body, as our contribution to your deliberations at the 39th Session. I, however, crave your indulgence to highlight and share with you some of the concerns and evolving issues raised during the Forum.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

While we celebrate the gradual return of peace and security to Liberia; the progress so far in the preparation for elections in DRC, Darfur continues to be a cause for concern despite the recent signing of peace agreements.

Instances of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in varying degrees were cited in Cote D’Ivoire; DRC, Djibouti; Cameroun; Central African Republic, Chad and The Gambia.

In Cote D’Ivoire, among others, the non observance and disregard of the Linas-Marcoussi Accord as well as the reluctance to respect and implement resolutions 1632 (2005); 1633 (2005); 1643 (2005) and 1657 (2006) have been identified as impediments to the peace process.

In recent times, human rights defenders in Djibouti have been subjected to massive arrests since the general strike of September 2005.

The Forum received reports of arbitrary arrests and illegal detention in Cameroun, Djibouti and The Gambia and hereby call on the relevant authorities to respect their constitutional provisions, not to mention their international obligations.

In the Central African Republic, the resurgence of rebel movements and attacks in the vicinities of Kabo and Markounda in December 2005 and Paura in January 2006 have resulted in the death of many civilians.  The Forum urges the abovementioned States to ensure that perpetrators do not go unpunished.

The Forum recognised and applauded the African Union’s firm stance against undemocratic and unconstitutional change but draws attention to emerging moves referred to as the ‘new coup d’etats’ characterised by constitutional amendments to legalise extended terms of office by incumbents as is being witnessed in Uganda, Chad and Nigeria, among others.  We, therefore, welcome the work done so far by the African Union towards the development of the African Democracy Charter and hope it will be a useful tool in the promotion and protection of democracy on the continent.

Furthermore, there are reports of arrests and detention of opposition politicians and activists leading to unrest in Ethiopia.

Consequently, we would request the African Commission to adopt a resolution publicly condemning all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by all persons in all conflicts in Africa and to work with the African Union in their resolution.

Similarly, while calling on the relevant authorities to ensure the organisation of free and fair elections, the international community is urged to support civil society participation in the forthcoming DRC elections.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

There is no doubt, that the violations in some of these countries already indicate warning signs of deterioration in the system. We further urge the Commission to propose concrete steps to ensure the resolution of these aforementioned conflicts.

Similarly, the human rights situation in countries like Zimbabwe has not ceased to attract the attention of the Forum.  The Forum hereby renews it plea that the African Commission requests the African Union to encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to implement the recommendations contained in the African Commission’s fact-finding report to Zimbabwe as well as the recommendations of the United Nations Special Envoy on Human Settlement Issues pertaining to the provision of aid and protection to the victims of the forced evictions and demolitions.

The suppression of freedom of the press continues to be the order of the day on our continent with formulation of draconian laws, harassment, intimidation, killings and arbitrary detention.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although the situation of Human Rights Defenders on the continent continues to be very hazardous, we are heartened by the appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders in Africa to facilitate coordination and collaboration in this theme within the African Commission.  The Forum wishes to express its satisfaction so far in working with this mechanism and urge the African Commission to provide sufficient resources for the maintenance of this mechanism to ensure greater impact.  The Forum applauds the initiative of African Union in the establishment of the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Defenders Award and pledge our support to the process.

Similarly, we would wish to draw attention to the increasing numbers of persons who are forced to leave their homes and whose livelihoods are totally disrupted as a result of insecurity and conflict: people who become part of the silent and almost forgotten statistics of African refugees and internally displaced persons and depend more or less on the hospitality and limited resources of host countries.

The settling situations of refugees returning to Sierra Leone, Angola, and Liberia continue to bring some hope, however, we remain gravely concerned by some involuntary movements of refugees and internally displaced persons especially in countries where there have been long periods of displacement. It is believed that in such situations, there is need to offer special protection particularly to women and girl children who often find themselves open to abuse as a result of break down in security.  The Forum therefore, wishes to acknowledge the work done so far by the Special Rapporteur on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa.

Not the least, the NGOs believe that the deplorable situation of minorities and indigenous persons should not cease to occupy us.  In particular, the Forum would wish to see the mandate of the Working Group on Indigenous Communities extended to include minorities.

Moreover, it has been revealed that the use of torture and the application of the death penalty continue to be practiced in some states.  We would wish to urge African Commission to prohibit torture and to condemn death penalty and to urge states to commit themselves to its abolition.  The promotion and use of the Robben Island Guidelines was highly recommended to States.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

The Forum continued to review the continuing depletion of Africa’s resources and the deterioration of the environment as a result of the lack of transparency in investments and corporate policy was also a preoccupation and the Forum has developed further strategies to address this theme.  The need to revisit agreements between African countries and multi-laterals to ensure a fair and equitable sharing of profits realised from Africa’s resources cannot be emphasised.

The Forum also emphasised the necessity of popularising the various documents emanating particularly from the African Union and the African Commission to ensure that the messages contained therein reach our constituents – the African populace.  The importance of human rights education was also underscored.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the participants, please allow me to reiterate the readiness of the NGO community to work with these mechanisms in the realization of their mandates.   As partners in the process, we are committed to putting all our expertise and resources at the disposal of the African Commission in the realization of the various objectives.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Participants to the Forum of NGOs noted with satisfaction the entering into force of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which provided the first step towards the tackling of impunity on our Continent and the consolidation of the Commission’s decisions.  We would wish to appeal to States, which have not ratified the Protocol, to speedily ratify and therefore enable the inevitable implementation of the Protocol to the Court.   The Forum applauds the decision of the African Union to proceed with the nomination of judges and the progress made to establish and operationalize the Court in a bid to further consolidate the work of the African Commission.

In the same vein, we wish to urge all African states to ratify and to expedite action on the domestication and effective implementation of the Rome Statutes.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter relating to the Rights of Women in Africa indeed marked a major step in the promotion and protection of the rights of women in Africa and a tangible demonstration of successful collaborative work between the AU, the African Commission and human rights NGOs in Africa.  We, therefore, wish to congratulate all the 18 countries that have ratified the Protocol but fervently hope that universal ratifications by other states would ensue shortly, in order to provide the much needed momentum to put into action gender equality in our various countries. Consequently, NGOs are keen to see a lot of progress made in this area and have proceeded to formulate advocacy strategies for the ratification, domestication and implementation.  The Forum while acknowledging the important role of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa in all these activities are poised to collaborate and support work in this area.

Allow me, at this juncture, to congratulate the National Assembly Members of The Republic of The Gambia for lifting the reservations to the Protocol.  The women of Africa are very proud of those countries that are seriously engaged in the process of domestication and implementation of its provisions.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

While applauding the gender parity policy adopted by the African Union, which continues to make history and is a clear testimony of its dream for the women of Africa, the Forum urges States to replicate similar policies at the national level in conformity with the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.  As we welcome the dawn of the 1st Female President in Africa, we congratulate the setting up of the African Union Women’s Committee and look forward to directing input through this body.

The Forum congratulates the African Union for remaining engaged in the process of promoting and protecting the human rights in Africa and notes, with satisfaction, the organisation of the various consultations with various stakeholders of the African Commission.  The Forum appreciates the invitation extended to its representatives at the just concluded meeting of the 9 and10 May 2006.

Mr. Chairperson,

Your Excellencies, Madam Chairperson and Members of the African Commission

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We cannot conclude this statement without making mention of the wave of impunity that remains very poignant on the continent.  While congratulating the international community on the arrest and extradition of Charles Taylor to face the Special Court of Sierra Leone for the alleged crimes committed, the Forum would wish to urge the Republic Senegal to respond favourably to the extradition request of Belgium regarding Hiassen Habre.  In the same vein, the Forum wishes to call on the Government of Kenya to extradite Mr. Felices Kabuga to the Rwanda Tribunal for alleged crimes committed.

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Commissioners,

Honoured Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the true spirit of the African Union’s Constitutive Act in which the Heads of State of Africa professed a ‘common vision of a united and strong Africa, energised by partnership between governments and all segments of civil society’, representatives at this Forum reaffirmed their commitment to the reinforcement of this partnership with the African Union and all its organs, not the least, the African Commission.

In the same vein, participants reiterated their readiness, particularly NGOs with Observer Status, to work in collaboration with the African Commission, and of course, the African Union, in the furtherance of human rights, good governance and the rule of law in Africa. It is heartening to observe the seriousness and commitment of participants in the preparations leading to their participation of this Session.  Our passion is to witness much more change in the landscape and we are confident that with the unflinching support of the African Union all should be well.

The Forum, however, expressed concern over the constraints faced by The African Commission in the implementation of its mandate and would like to take this opportunity to launch an appeal to the international community to support the strengthening of this institution, the foremost human rights mechanism in Africa.

Mr. Chairman,

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the participants of the NGO Forum, allow me to wish Her Excellency, Madame Salamata Sawadogo, and all the members of the Commission a fruitful deliberation and a successful session.

 

Thank You.

HJF

ACDHRS


Resolution on Free and Fair Elections

The Forum on the participation of NGOs at the 39th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Considering the OAU Declaration on the principles guiding democratic elections in Africa, adopted in July 2002, in Durban (South Africa) which states the responsibility of Member States and the rights and obligations to be adhered to in the organisation of democratic elections, in accordance with the Constitutive Act of the African Union;

Considering the importance of holding free and fair elections periodically, to guarantee accountability of representatives vis-à-vis citizens;

Considering that citizens should be entitled to form their opinion independently without being subjected to persecution, or threats of persecution, pressure, offers of gratification or any form of manipulation;

Considering that all citizens are entitled to enjoy these rights irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, political opinion, and any other opinion, national and social background, fortune, birth or any other circumstances;

Considering the conclusions of the African Union meeting on elections, democracy, and Governance from 15th to 18th May, 2004.

Hereby urges the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to adopt a resolution inviting Member States to:

  • Comply with the provisions of article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  • To establish, for each election, an independent, transparent, pluralistic elections authority to supervise the elections and to ensure that they are held in a equitable and impartial manner be it during:
    – the run-up to the elections
    – the campaign period
    – the actual elections
    – the official announcement of the results
  • to respect the freedom of expression, assembly and movement of members of civil society and of political parties;
  • allow contesting parties equal and free access to the media;
  • guarantee the safety of all members of civil society and of political parties during elections;
  • guarantee, for each election, the presence of national and international observers mandated to guarantee the credibility and transparency of the process;
  • to refrain from making amendments to the constitution liable to change the rules of the game fundamentally before or during elections;
  • to take into account the Draft African Union Charter on Democracy, good governance and elections in Africa;
  • report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’ on the rules governing the right to vote and to explain how these rules were applied during this reporting period.

 

Done in Banjul, May 8th , 2006

Resolution on the Death Penalty

We the representatives of non-governmental organizations attending the NGOs forum preceding the 39th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Recalling that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a resolution on the establishment and operationalisation of a working group on the Death Penalty at its 38th Ordinary Session, held in Banjul, The Gambia;

Recalling that the death penalty remains a pressing concern, whether in relation to the risk of being sentenced to capital punishment present in most African states, or the resumption of executions in other states;

Stressing that the death penalty is often imposed following unfair trials, and that minorities and foreigners are sentenced to capital punishment in disproportionate numbers;

Recalling that international law encourages the abolition of the death penalty and that several regional and international instruments provide for the abolition of the death penalty;

Recalling the resolution by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights of 15 November 1999 42(XXVI) 99, that calls upon states to establish a moratorium on executions and encouraging them to abolish the death penalty;

Call upon the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

1. Condemn the death penalty as a violation of fundamental human rights: the life to life and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment;
2. Endorse the document “The Question of the Death Penalty in Africa” prepared by the Working Group on the Death Penalty;
3. Call upon all states to ratify the Second Optional Protocol on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at the abolition of the death penalty;
4. Call upon states that have ratified the Second Optional Protocol on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to submit their reports on civil and political rights, taking into account, the abolition of the death penalty
5. Call upon states having de jure to ensure that the death penalty has been abolished de facto;
6. Call upon states having de jure abolished the death penalty to raise awareness with other states about the necessity of abolishing the death penalty;
7. Call upon states having de facto abolished the death penalty to move from a moratorium to an abolition in domestic law;
8. Call upon states that still maintain the death penalty to:
a. Commit to abolishing the death penalty, and in the interim, to adopt a moratorium on executions;
b. Ensure that any individual accused of a crime punishable by the death penalty benefits from the right to a fair trial as provided by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments, including the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.
c. Ban the death penalty for all persons below 18 years of age at the time the crime was committed; exclude the death penalty for pregnant women, mothers with dependent infants, and persons suffering from mental disorders;
d. Limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes;

Done in Banjul, 8 May, 2006

Resolution on Strengthening Cooperation between the African Union and the International Criminal Court

We, the participants attending the NGO forum on the 39th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Recalling the United Nations Plenipotentiary Conference of 1998 in Rome that led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court,

Noting the various initiatives by the international community in supporting the establishment of an independent international judicial institution,

Mindful of the various advancements on the ratification of the Rome Statute by African governments,

Further noting* that some African governments that have ratified the Rome Statute have not taken steps to domesticate it nationally,

Recalling the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights resolution on the Ratification of the Treaty on the International Criminal Court, 31st October 1998, Resolution on the Ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court by OAU member States, Pretoria, 16 May 2002, and Resolution on the Domestication and Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Banjul, the Gambia, 5th December 2005,

Further noting that 27 African states have ratified the Rome Statute and the efforts made by some of the in giving legal effect to the enforcement of the Rome Statute nationally,

Deeply concerned that the African Union has not taken the necessary steps to sign the relationship agreement with the International Criminal Court,

Considering the fact that the first three situations before the International Criminal Court are from the African continent,

Call on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

Urge the African Union to sign the Relationship Agreement with the International Criminal Court,

Further Urge African governments that have ratified the Rome Statute to adopt a national action plan for effective implementation of the Rome Statute,

Call on African States to ratify the agreements on privileges and immunity for the personnel of the International Criminal Court,

Encourage support for the capacity building of Non-Governmental Organisations Community Based Organisations for a more effective monitoring and reporting capacity on human rights violations in Africa,

Done in Banjul, 8th May, 2006

Resolution on the Prohibition of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

We the representatives of non-governmental organizations attending the NGO forum of the 39th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Reaffirming that all forms of exploitation and degradation of the person, particularly, slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited, as defined in article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

Recalling that freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is a non-derogable right and must be protected under all circumstances, including in times of international and internal armed conflict or internal disturbance, and that the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is affirmed in relevant international and regional instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Robben Island Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Convention against Torture,

Recalling also that a number of international, regional and domestic courts have recognised that the prohibition of torture is a peremptory norm of international law,

Noting that under the Geneva Conventions, of 12 August 1949, torture is a grave breach and that under the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court acts of torture constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes,

Emphasizing the importance of African Governments taking persistent action to prevent and combat torture,

Commending the persistent efforts by civil society, in particular non governmental organisations, to combat torture and to alleviate the suffering of victims of torture,

We call upon the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

1. Condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever and can thus never be justified, and calls upon all African Governments to implement fully the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

2. Condemn in particular any action or attempt by African States or public officials to legalise, authorise or acquiesce in torture under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security or through judicial decisions;

3. Stress in particular that all allegations of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment must be promptly and impartially examined by the competent national authority, that those who encourage, order, tolerate or perpetrate acts of torture must be held responsible and severely punished, including the officials in charge of the place of detention where the prohibited act is found to have been committed, and takes note in this respect of the Robben Island Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa as a useful tool in efforts to combat torture;

4. Urge African States to ensure that any statement that is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

5. Also urge African States not to expel, return (refouler), extradite or in any other way transfer a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, as defined in articles 5 and 12(3) of the African Charter;

6. Stress that national legal systems should ensure that victims of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment obtain redress, are awarded fair and adequate compensation and receive appropriate socio-medical rehabilitation, and in this regard encourages the development of rehabilitation centres for victims of torture;

7. Remind African Governments that corporal punishment, including of children, amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or even to torture;

8. Also remind African Governments that, as described in article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture, intimidation and coercion, including serious and credible threats, as well as death threats, to the physical integrity of the victim or of a third person can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or to torture;

9. Remind all African States that prolonged incommunicado detention or detention in secret places may facilitate the perpetration of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and can in itself constitute a form of such treatment, and urges all States to respect the safeguards concerning the liberty, security and the dignity of the person;

10. Stress that all acts of torture must be made offences under domestic criminal law, and emphasizes that acts of torture are serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law and can constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, and that the perpetrators are liable to prosecution and punishment;

11. Also stress that African States must not punish personnel for not obeying orders to commit acts amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

12. Urge African Governments to protect medical and other personnel for their role in documenting torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and in treating victims of such acts;

13. Emphasize that African States must ensure education and training for personnel who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment;

14. Underline the importance of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture;

15. Call upon all African Governments to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of her task, and to supply all necessary information requested by her;

16. Also call upon all African Governments to give serious consideration to responding favourably to the Special Rapporteur’s requests to visit their countries;

17. Invite the Special Rapporteur to submit a report to the African Commission at its next session on the overall trends and developments with regard to her mandate;

18. Urge all African States to become parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a matter of priority;

19. Urge all African States parties to comply strictly with their obligations in accordance with article 19 of the Convention, including their reporting obligations, and, in particular, those States parties whose reports are long overdue to submit their reports forthwith, and invites States parties to incorporate a gender perspective and information concerning children and juveniles when submitting reports to the Committee against Torture;

20. Call upon African States parties to give early consideration to signing and ratifying the 2002 Optional Protocol to the Convention, providing further measures for use in the fight against and prevention of torture;

21. Urge the African States to implement the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa, as well as the Robben Island Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa, which were endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in 2003, and which contain due process standards for the prevention of torture and the protection of victims of such practice.

Done in Banjul, 8 May, 2006

Resolution on Minority and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

We, participants at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs at the 39th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Considering that a “Resolution on the rights of Minorities and Indigenous Groups” providing for the establishment of an Experts Working Group on Minority and Indigenous Peoples was adopted at the 28th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, held in Cotonou (Benin), in October 2000;

Noting with satisfaction the establishment of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations and the work accomplished by the latter, especially the drafting of a detailed report on Indigenous People;

Considering the report of the Experts Working Group of the African Commission on indigenous people published in 2005 which gives the genesis of the situation of indigenous peoples.

Noting with concern the upsurge in grave violations of the rights of the Indigenous People of Africa, especially in Niger, DRC, Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia and Nigeria ,

Considering the negative impact of the exploitation of natural resources and forests on the health and living conditions of the Indigenous Peoples,

Concerned at the failure to implement the right of indigenous people to education and health recognised by international legal instruments,

Noting with concern the absence of clear references to indigenous people in the Constitutions and National laws of most African countries with indigenous populations,

Concerned at the indigenous peoples’ lack of access to the political decision making bodies,

Considering that in most States indigenous people are not entitled to own land and are reduced to slavery by different producers (farmers, fishermen, hunters, and companies).

We request the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

1. augment the human resources, means and mandate of the Working Group of the Commission on Indigenous Peoples to enable the latter implement resolutions on Indigenous people already adopted by the Commission,

2. urge Member States to create an environment conducive to the realisation of the rights of indigenous people by enacting national laws and legislation which take into account their rights, and domesticate international instruments for the protection of indigenous people.

3. urge Member States which have not yet done so to ratify ILO Convention 169 and all the other international legal instruments for the protection of indigenous people.

4. urge Member States to develop policies which cater for the participation of indigenous women in all socio-economic development programmes.

Done in Banjul, 8th May, 2006

Resolution on the Status of Women in Africa and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

The Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 39th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights,

Recalling that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a resolution on the Status of Women’s rights in Africa (NGO/Res/0013-1105) during its 38th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia,

Recognizing that the women of Africa continue to be subject to retrogressive and discriminatory laws and practices;

Noting the difficult situations within which the defenders of the rights of women carry on their work;

Recalling the commitments of the Heads of States and Governments in the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa;

Acknowledging the historical context within which this NGO Forum is taking place, and the imminent entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa;

Further acknowledging the countries that have ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; Benin, Cape Verde, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Republic of South Africa, Senegal and Togo;

Reiterating our commitment to continue working towards the promotion of the rights of women in Africa;

Hereby call upon the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to adopt a Resolution:

1. Urging the 36 member states of the African Union that have not done so, to urgently ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa without reservations and to remove the reservations where these have been placed;
2. Congratulating the 17 member States that have ratified, and
3. Encouraging sensitization of women at the grassroots level on the Protocol. This should include providing translation of the Protocol into local languages.
4. Encouraging and Supporting the participation of women’s group representatives in future NGOs fora.

Done in Banjul, 8th May, 2006

Resolution on the Support of the African Union to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights

The NGO Forum,

Recalling the decisions taken after the consideration of the 18th and 19th annual activity reports of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights by the African Union which refer to the latter’s unwavering support for the initiatives taken by the Commission to carry out its mandate of promotion and protection of the rights enshrined in the Charter;

Recalling the African Union’s continued expression of its support for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its commitment to the effectiveness of Human rights in Africa;

Considering that to achieve its objectives and to live up to its obligations, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights need resources, especially financial, human and logistic wherewithal;

Taking note that the lack of resources is hindering the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in the attainment of its objectives and of the need to include in its agenda new fundamental questions pertaining to human rights emerging on the continent;

Invites the African Union to establish a system of channeling contributions in a systematic manner to the African Commission on Human and peoples’ rights to buttress its operations;

Urges Member States that are yet to settle their financial obligations to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to do so as to ensure the smooth operations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples rights;

Invites the international organisations and Africa’s international partners to support the efforts of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

The NGO Forum further requests the African Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies in its capacity as Coordinator of the Forum to:

• Convey the present resolution as an attachment to a letter to the African Union expressing the concerns of the entire NGO body participating at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs at the 39th Session of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights.

• Report on the reaction of the African Union to the above to the NGO Forum at the next session of the NGO Forum.

Done in Banjul, 8 May, 2006

Resolution for the Respect of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in Times of Armed Conflict

Noting the persistence of armed conflict in Africa, in particular internal armed conflicts and the human suffering that they cause;

Conscious that injustice, discrimination, exclusion, corruption, elections and poverty constitute the sources of armed conflict in Africa;

Convinced that the respect for international humanitarian law and human rights makes it possible to avert the escalation of violence and to facilitate the settlement of conflicts;

Concerned about the fact that the civilian populations have become the principal victims of the acts of violence perpetrated during armed conflicts;

Concerned by the wide spread usage of the illicit means and methods of combat, notably the attacks against individuals who are not participating in or are no longer participating in the hostilities;

Concerned by the illicit circulation of light arms, the recruitment of mercenaries and the use of children in hostilities;

Taking note of the fact that the Statutes of the ICC, which entered into force on the 1st July 2002, cover the most serious crimes of international significance from the point of view of international humanitarian law;

Worried by the persistence of the culture of impunity which is manifested by the adoption of laws of general or special amnesty;

Recognizing the universality of international humanitarian law and the fundamental principles of human rights and their complementarity in situations of armed conflict;

Request the Commission to adopt a Resolution requesting:

1. The Members States of the African Union:

To ratify the instruments of humanitarian and human rights law to which they have not yet acceded, in particular the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child;

To respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law under any circumstances, as stipulated by Article 1 common to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 on the protection of the victims of armed conflicts, and to guarantee the effectiveness of human rights;

To take all the legislative, regulatory and adequate practice measures to implement their obligations stemming from international humanitarian law, including the imposing of criminal sanctions, and human rights instruments;

To ensure that genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of humanitarian law are duly pursued and punished by national Courts or, if need be, by the International Criminal Court;

To ensure wide dissemination of the instruments of international humanitarian and human rights law among the civilian population and the integration of these instruments into the programmes of military education and school curricula;

2. To the Parties to the Conflict:

To ensure that the hostilities are conducted in a manner conforming to the laws and customs of war, notably in making, at all times, the distinction between civilians and combatants and between civilian property and military objectives;

To guarantee the respect for international humanitarian law as a means of avoiding population displacements, both within the territory where the conflict is taking place and towards neighboring States;

To ensure that individuals of less than 18 years do not take part in the hostilities and to take adequate measures to this effect;

To respect and protect victims of conflicts without distinction as to the side to which they belong and, in particular, to ensure that detained persons are not subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and that they benefit from procedural and judicial guarantees as stipulated by international humanitarian and human rights law;

To ensure that humanitarian workers are respected and protected;

To guarantee the access to victims of armed conflict and of all other forms of violence and to facilitate the coordination of emergency humanitarian activities for the humanitarian organizations responsible for providing assistance and protection to the victims;

Done in Banjul, The Gambia, 8 May, 2006