NGO Statement by Mrs Hannah Forster at Official Opening of the 41st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR

Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Accra, Ghana, 16 May 2007

Honourable Joe Ghartey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Ghana; representing His Excellency John A. Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana;

Honourable Osei Prempeh, Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice;

My Lord Chief Justice and Justices of the Republic of Ghana;

Honourable Members of the National Assembly;

Honourable Ministers and State Representatives of Ghana;

Your Excellency, Madam Julia Joiner, Commissioner for Political Affairs, African Union Commission (AUC);

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

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;

Venerable Religious and Traditional Leaders;

Distinguished State Delegates;

Representatives of International Organisations;

Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions;

Representatives of National and International Non Governmental Organisations;

Representatives of the Press;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

All Protocols respectfully observed

I am privileged to stand before this distinguished gathering of the African human rights community, once again, with the responsibility to give a statement on behalf of my colleagues of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 41st 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 H.E. the Chairperson and Members 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 Ghana for their hospitality, in facilitating the activities of the 41st Ordinary Session and to reiterate the appreciation of the participants of the Forum of NGOs for the warmth afforded them since their arrival. We would also wish to congratulate this great nation as it continues to celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In keeping with tradition, the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 41st Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, commonly referred to as the NGO Forum was held here in Accra, Ghana from the 12-14 May 2007, a few days before the commencement of this Session of the Commission.

This year is yet another important one for human rights in Africa, considering that both the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) have continued to work diligently together in their quest to chart the way forward in consolidating the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them on the recent organization of the brainstorming in Maseru, Lesotho, one in a series organized by the AUC and fervently hope that it will add value to the work of Africa’s foremost human rights institution.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

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, the latest of which is on Democracy and Good Governance. For greater effectiveness, we are anxious to see more efforts expended by States on their domestication and implementation.

We have witnessed the African Union continue to “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 organizations in these processes are laudable and have gone a long way to enhance partnership and promote ownership of that process by the African people.

While applauding these developments, the Forum asserted that Africa continues to face serious human rights challenges characterised by violence, insecurity and conflict. Poverty, disease, internal political strife, resulting in the taking up of arms by rebel groups, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings continue to manifest the untold hardships to the majority of citizens of the affected countries, especially to women and children. The Rwanda genocide remains a constant reminder of 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. However, many a time we wonder how short our memories are.

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 41st 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 electoral process, Cote D’Ivoire 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 Ethiopia, DRC, Djibouti, Cameroun, Darfur, Chad, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

While human rights defenders in Ethiopia have been subjected to massive arrests and detention to the extent that some HRDs have gone into exile. The Forum continued to receive reports of arbitrary arrests and illegal detention in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Zimbabwe and hereby call on the relevant authorities to respect their constitutional provisions, not to mention their international obligations.

We welcome the adoption of the African Democracy Charter and hope it will be a useful tool in the promotion and protection of democracy on the continent. Hopefully, more attention will be paid to violence during electoral processes, especially human rights violations against HRDs.

Furthermore, there are reports of arrests and detention of opposition politicians and activists leading to unrest in Ethiopia.  The Forum wishes to urge Ethiopia to release all prisoners of conscience.

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, particularly 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 organization of free and fair elections, the international community is urged to support civil society participation in elections on the continent. It was observed that while electoral laws provided redress for candidates; there is still little or none for the electorates who have been disenfranchised by the process. We wish to urge States to consider the review and amendment of this provision in their laws.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The violations in some of these countries either bear the hallmarks or 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.

Likewise, reports of the deteriorating human rights situation in countries like Sudan (Darfur) and Zimbabwe have not ceased to perturb the participants at the Forum. The Forum hereby renews it plea to the African Commission to request the African Union to encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to implement the recommendations contained in the African Commission’s fact-finding report to Zimbabwe, 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 evections and demolitions among others to avoid the collapse of the State.

The situation in Darfur remains catastrophic.  We cannot continue to be mere spectators of the process otherwise history would judge us harshly.  We urge the government of Sudan to accept the deployment of the AU/UN hybrid keeping force in Darfur in order to protect the defenceless civilians in the region.  We also call on the government of Sudan to fully co-operate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and arrest and hand over all individuals against whom the ICC issued arrest warrants for their role in the commissioning of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

At this juncture, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to extend our plea to His Excellency, John Kufuor, President of The Republic of Ghana and Chairperson of the African Union to use his good offices to find a peaceful and lasting solution, particularly in Darfur and Zimbabwe.

It was also reported that journalists continue to work under fear from loss of life, death and harassment in countries like Eritrea, The Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe as the suppression of freedom of the press continues to be the order of the day on our continent with the formulation of draconian laws, intimidation, killings and arbitrary detention. The Forum calls on States to support the work of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression by respecting the Declaration of Freedom of Expression. Furthermore, the African Union Commission is encouraged to promote the work of journalists.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the situation of Human Rights Defenders on the continent continues to be very perilous some States like Angola and Zimbabwe are reported to have enacted new legislation hindering operations of HRDs.  We salute the work done so far by the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders in Africa and while calling on States to support this mechanism, urge the African Union, States and all partners of the African Commission to commit themselves to providing sufficient resources for the maintenance of this and all other mechanisms in order to ensure greater impact.

Similarly, we would wish to draw attention to the silent and almost forgotten statistics of African refugees and internally displaced persons who depend more or less on the hospitality and limited resources of host countries due to insecurities and conflict in their home countries. While the initiatives of settling refugees returning to Angola and Liberia continue to bring some hope, 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.

The Forum applauded the formulation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Refugees and IDPs which is geared towards the preparation of periodic reports and data on these groups.

The need to offer special protection to women and girl children who often find themselves open to abuse as a result of breakdown in security cannot be overemphasised. The Forum therefore, wishes to acknowledge the work done so far by the Special Rapporteur on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa.

The deplorable situation of indigenous persons also caused concern to civil society organizations at the Forum. Note was taken of the difficulty of including minorities in the mandate of the Working Group on Indigenous Communities and recommends the setting up of a separate group to address their concerns. The attention of the Forum was called to the need for the African Group to negotiate the text on the rights of indigenous people adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council and applaud the AU for placing it on the July 2007 Summit agenda.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

It was also revealed that the use of torture and the application of the death penalty continue to be practiced in some States. While the promotion of the Robben Island Guidelines is highly recommended to African States, the Forum hereby urges them to prohibit torture, to condemn the death penalty and to commit themselves to its abolition.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Lack of access to land is at the core of most conflicts in Africa, not the least, the continuing depletion of Africa’s resources and the deterioration of the environment. Privatisation of national natural resources attributes to loss of livelihood. The need for the African Commission, in unison with partners, to undertake research on exploitation, privatization of national natural resources vital in collaboration with the Pan African Parliament is key to the effective implementation of Article 21 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Forum also reiterated the importance of human rights education and underscored the necessity of popularizing and promoting the use of the various documents emanating from the African Union and its organs, and particularly the African Commission to ensure that the messages contained therein reach the African populace. Their incorporation in national school curricular cannot be overemphasized.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the participants, please allow me to reiterate the readiness and commitment of the human rights NGO community to work with the African Commission, and indeed the African Union, for the realization of their mandates for the benefit of the African people. As partners in the process, we further commit ourselves 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 development towards the operationalisation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which provides some hope, since it is viewed as the first step towards the tackling of impunity on our continent and the consolidation of the Commission’s decisions. While we appeal to States, which have not ratified the Protocol, to speedily do so, we equally urge them to give life to Article 34(6) of the Declaration granting NGOs direct access to the Court. To date only Burkina Faso has signed and deposited its instruments assenting to this Declaration.

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 Statute.

The Forum also urges the African Commission to consolidate terms of cooperation with the Committee on the Rights of the Child in accordance with Article 32 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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 20 countries that have ratified the Protocol but fervently hope that other States would ensue shortly, in order to provide the much needed momentum to put into action gender equality in our various countries. However, the Forum noted that despite the fact that much progress is being registered, the need to collaborate and synchronise at all levels is vital to its universal ratification, domestication and implementation as well as disengaging Africa from all gender biased discriminatory laws. 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 urge the Members of National Assembly of Ghana to ratify, domesticate and implement the Protocol to consolidate the foundation built for the protection of women and the girl child in Ghana. While we congratulate them on the adoption of the Domestic Violence Bill, we hope that Ghana will soon join those countries that are seriously engaged in the process of domestication and implementation of the African Women’s Protocol.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Forum applauded the gender parity policy adopted by the African Union, but observed that many a State are yet to replicate similar policies at the national level in conformity with the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.

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 organization of the various consultations with various stakeholders of the African Commission. It is hoped that the coincidence could be avoided in future, to ensure maximum participation of all partners.

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. Systematic inaction and absence of legislation to protect victims of human rights has made the human rights situation very volatile. The Forum urges States to use national, regional and sub-regional mechanisms at their disposal and to uphold and endorse the Responsibility to Protect as contained in the UN Millennium Summit document of 2005.

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are not justiciable if not incorporated in many Constitutions and or are not separately stated in a Declaration. Inadequate resources hinder the right of access to education, while evictions in the guise of beautifying the environment among others remain a cause for concern. Treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS does not meet the AU Declaration on Prevention and Medication. The formulation and implementation of national policies should definitely be considered at the national level.

Finally, the Forum drew attention to the adoption of a review of the World Conference on Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and other Related Intolerance (WCAR) in 2009. While urging States and the African Commission to be involved in these processes, we urge African Union to consider the re-establishment of the Group of Eminent Persons on Reparations and to provide support for its re-constitution.

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 States of Africa professed a “common vision of a united and strong Africa, energized 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 it organs, not the least, the African Commission. We hereby urge the African Union to support the work of the Forum and to collaborate with them in the realization of this laudable mandate. As civil society organizations, it is our profound wish to complement State efforts in this direction and we have resolved to do so with the highest sense of responsibility and professionalism.

In the same vein, participants reiterated their readiness, particularly NGOs with Observer Status, to work in collaboration with the African Commission, as the foremost body charged with the promotion, protection and defense, 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 at 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 re-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, Chairman and Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

 

Thank You.

 

Hannah Forster, ACDHRS


Resolution on Strengthening the Responsibility to Protect in Africa

We, the participants of the NGO Forum preceding the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 15th African Human Rights Book Fair, held at the Coconut Grove Hotel, Accra, from 12 – 14 May 2007,

Recall the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) of 2001 which set the foundation for governmental and civil society effort in achieving international consensus on the Responsibility to Protect,

Note the report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations – Civil Society Relations dated 7 July 2004 which among other things proposed increased civil society participation in the activities of the United Nations,

Mindful of the report of the High – Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes (A more secure world: our shared responsibility) dated 1 December 2004 with particular reference to pages 29 – 30 which called for Member States to endorse the Responsibility to Protect,

Further note the report of the United Nations Secretary General entitled ‘In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All’ particularly paragraph 18 and 19 which call for collective action in tackling human security challenges,

Re-affirm paragraph 138 and 139 of the United Nations Summit Declaration of September 2005, where the international community expressed its determination to its responsibility and readiness to act where national authorities fail to protect their population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,

Further Re-affirm the September 2005 United Nations Summit Declaration calling for the cooperation of relevant regional organisations to help protect populations from these grave threats and the common African position on the proposed reform of the United Nations otherwise known as the ‘Ezulwini Consensus’ where the African Union in its 7th Extraordinary Session of March 2005 in Addis Ababa adopted the Responsibility to Protect,

Deeply concerned at the slow response of the international community to past acts of genocide and crimes against humanity in Rwanda and the continued slow response to the allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur,

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

Re-affirm paragraph 138 and 139 of the September 2005 United Nations Summit Declaration, where governments endorsed their collective responsibility to protect population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity when individual states “manifestly fail” to protect their own populations from these grave threats,

Urge the African Union to accelerate the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights by ensuring good governance and take steps to progressively protect their citizens from avoidable conflicts and provide fair and equitable participation in resource allocation and distribution,

Call on African States to expedite action towards commitment to the people of Darfur by increasing financial and logistics support for the African Union Mission with clear and effective civilian protection mandate in Darfur.

 

Done in Accra, May 14th, 2007

Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Expression

We, the participants of the NGO Forum preceding the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 15th African Human Rights Book Fair, held at the Coconut Grove Hotel, Accra, from 12 – 14 May 2007,

Noting that Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 9 of the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights guarantees the right to receive and impart information within the law;

Reaffirming the fundamental importance of freedom of expression as the cornerstone of democracy and as a means of ensuring respect for all human rights and freedoms;

Desirous of promoting the free flow of information and ideas and greater respect for the right to freedom of expression in Africa;

Consistent with the provision in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights agreed to in 2002;

WE, the members of the Special Interest Group on the Right to Freedom of Expression in Africa do hereby declare as follows:

1) That the situation of journalists and freedom of expression activists in Africa especially in Zimbabwe, Eritrea, the Gambia, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Somalia remain dire and call upon these and various other African states to respect provisions in the African Charter, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa and their various constitutions on the right to freedom of expressions,

2) We express our deepest concern and condemn in no uncertain terms the killings of journalists in a number of African countries including Zimbabwe (where Edward Chikomba a freelance cameraperson was abducted and murdered), the Gambia, Sierra Leone (where Harry Yonseneh, editor of the “For Di People” newspaper was beaten to death in July 2004 by several people acting under instructions of madam Fatmatie Hassen, a member of Parliament), Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan and demand that the responsible authorities in these countries should bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to book,

3) We are worried about the persistent arrest and torture of journalists during the course of their duties and call upon African governments to allow journalists to do their work unhindered,

4) We are further worried and shocked by the fact that the government of Eritrea has imprisoned 18 journalists since 2001, we therefore call upon this NGO forum to request the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights to intercede on behalf of these journalists, they should either be charged or released,

5) That the continuous harassment of journalists particularly in the Gambia and Zimbabwe has to be stopped,

6) That the trend of use or misuse of legislation to hinder enjoyment of the right to  freedom of expression is also worrying and has to be stopped,

7) We are further worried about the banning of newspapers in a number of African countries including Zimbabwe and the Gambia,

8) We note with concern the fact that discretionary accreditation of journalists is becoming a problem across Africa. The African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights has already ruled that discretionary accreditation of journalists is contrary to the spirit of the African Charter.

9) Whilst we have noted an increase of diversity of media, newspapers and radio stations in a number of African States, we are worried that in Niger and a few other African States, community radio stations are prevented from broadcasting debates or having discussions on political issues.

10) We are concerned that during elections, public broadcasters are often abused by ruling parties for propaganda purposes whilst private media is often denied access to government/ruling party activities.

WE recommend
To the NGO Forum:

I. that this forum raises these issues on behalf of the NGOs at the 41st session of the ACHPR.

II. (ii) that during the intercession, freedom of expression organizations should come together and strategise on ways of approaching especially the African Union at the next heads of states summit in Accra,

III. (iii) joint NGO presentation to the African Union Heads of States summit.

IV. (iv) urge members of this NGO forum to join the Media Foundation for West Africa and the Network for Freedom of Expression Organisations in a number of activities lined up during the African Union Heads of State Summit.

V. (v) holding simultaneous activities and press conferences on topical issues at least once a month.

VI. (vi) that NGOs make use of the regional courts being set up to bring cases of violation of Freedom of expression

VII. (vii) we appeal to the African and regional bar associations to make themselves available in the fight and legal defence for human rights in Africa.

VIII. (viii) To support the Nigerian Freedom of Information Bill.

To the AU Member States:

I. We call upon all States to respect the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights agreed to in 2002.

II. Call upon the states not to pass legislation which hinders the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression,

III. Call upon the government of Zimbabwe to;

IV. investigate thoroughly all outstanding issues including the bombings of the Daily News printing press and Offices of Voice of the People Trust as well as the abduction and murder of Edward Chikomba,

V. to desist from the arrest, harassment and torture of journalists,

VI. to repeal laws which hinder the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression,

VII. to open up the airwaves and allow community and commercial broadcasters.

VIII. Call upon the government of Eritrea to immediately release the 18 journalists who have been languishing in prison for a very long time,

IX. Call upon the government of the Gambia to;

X. Charge or release Chief Money, a journalist who has been missing since last year,

XI. To open closed media, i.e., a newspaper and two radio stations.

XII. To repeal all laws imminical to press freedom.

XIII. Call upon the government of Sierra Leone to offer full protection to journalists and freedom of expession activists.

To the African Commission:

I. To publicise the mandate of the special rapportuer on freedom of expression in Africa.

II. To publicise the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights agreed to in 2002.

III. To make use of the mandate of the special rapporteur of freedom of expression in African,

IV. We recommend collaboration between the special rapportuer on freedom of expression and the network for freedom of expression institutes in Africa.

Done in Accra, May 14th, 2007

Resolution on Migrations

We, the participants at the NGO Forum meeting in the 41st Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Considering that the African countries are experiencing major and massive displacements, whatever the form of migrations observed: workers, refugees, or internally displaced persons. In effect, the African migrations are quite massive, quantitatively speaking, both in terms of ratio in relation to the population of the Continent and in gross statistics in comparison to the global scale. Out of about 200 million migrants estimated in 2006 at the international level, about a third of these are from Africa. Besides, Africa on its own represents one third of the refugees and half of the internally displaced persons on the Planet;

Underscoring the fact that in Africa almost every one migrant out of two (47%) is a woman; the women and children also constitute 70% of refugees and internally displaced persons on the Continent;

Considering the magnitude of the violations of the rights of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights related to the various phenomena of migration, notably the violations of the right to life, of the right to the free movement of persons, of the obligation to protect civilian populations, discrimination etc…;

Recalling the nomination by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2003 of a Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons;

Recalling the holding of a meeting of Experts organized under the aegis of the AU on Migration and Development from 3rd to 5th April 2006 in Algiers. Recalling also the decision by the Executive Council of the AU of January 2007 calling for the convening of a special Summit in 2008 on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons;

Recommend to the State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

1. to effectively recognize the primacy of the human rights of all the migrants and refugees in any policy on migration, namely that the policies on migration should be based on the respect for universal human rights standards and Conventions on the rights of migrants – be they « regular» or « irregular »- and of refugees;

2. to ratify and harmonize with domestic law the principal international and regional instruments relating to migrants and refugees, namely the Geneva Convention on Refugees and the United Nations Convention on the protection of migrant workers and members of their family, and the Convention governing the aspects relating to the problems of refugees in Africa;

3. to ratify and implement the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women as well as the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and its optional Protocol allowing individual appeals, for the purpose of improving the condition of migrant women;

4. more importantly concerning the right to asylum, to strictly respect the principle of the international customary law of non refoulement, to relax the legal requirements for entry into a territory so as to take into account the needs for asylum, to relax the responsibilization of transporters, to revoke the notion of « safe third countries », to increase the institutional means of management and the individualized processing of requests for asylum, to respect the right of appeal on a decision to refuse asylum, as well as increasing the humanitarian facilities for the hosting of refugee populations;

5. to recognize sexually related war crimes, traditional abuse and domestic violence against women as motives justifying the granting of asylum.

Recommend to the AU Authorities:

1. to present a Protocol to the African Charter on refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons during the special Summit of AU on ‘‘migration and human rights’’ scheduled for 2008;

2. to involve the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the representatives of Civil Society in the drafting of the said Protocol;

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

1. To guarantee to the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights the resources necessary for the successful accomplishment of his mandate, notably in terms of receiving information, carrying out studies and investigations, engaging in dialogue with the States and sensitizing them about the implementation of the relevant UN and AU Conventions;

2. to ensure that the subject of migrations and human rights is a permanent item for consideration during the examination of the Periodic Reports presented by the State Parties to the Commission.

Done in Accra, May 14th, 2007

Recommendation on Situation of the Rights of Women in Africa

We, the participants of the NGO Forum preceding the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights  and the 15th African Human Rights Book Fair, held  from 12 -14  May ,2007 at the Coconut Grove Hotel in Accra, Ghana,

Considering the continued violations of the rights of women in Africa through the existence of harmful traditional practices and discriminatory laws;

Recalling the commitments of the Heads of States and Governments under international and regional instruments including the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, the Beijing platform for Action, the CEDAW;

Concerned that the Heads of States and Governments continue in their failure to respect these obligations;

Recommend to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to:

1. Facilitate the intervention of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women on the situation of women refugees in Chad from Darfur;

2. Urge member states to sign, ratify and implement the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa;

3. Further urge the member states to effectively address the issue of impunity in so far as it relates to the rights of women in Africa especially the situation of slave women in Mauritania;

4. Call upon member states to make affirmative action a practical reality and to ensure respect for the quotas set to ensure enhance political participation of women;

5. Further call upon the member states to take immediate steps to effectively address the inequalities that impede on women’s rights in Africa;

6. Impress upon the member states to take appropriate measures to ensure the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation and other harmful traditional practices that are undermining the development of girls and women in Africa;

7. Renew the call to the member states to respect their commitments to the women of Africa including those made under the Beijing Platform for Action, the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality In Africa and the CEDAW.

 

Done in Accra, May 14th, 2007

Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in the Central African Republic

We, the participants meeting at the NGO Forum preceding the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at the Coconut Groove Hotel in Accra, Ghana on 12 -14 May 2007, state as follows:

Recalling the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law perpetrated against the civilian populations by the loyalist forces and the rebels during the attempted coup d’état by General Bozizé in October 2002 and of his take over of power in March 2003;

Recalling the seizure by the Central African State of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on the situation in the Central African Republic since the 1st July 2002;

Considering the extremely precarious security situation in the entire country and more particularly in the North West, notably in the Prefectures of Ouham and Ouham-Pende, the civilian population is confronted with a real humanitarian crisis. The almost daily attacks between the armed rebel elements and the troops of the Central African Armed Forces “CAAF” are perpetrated in violation of international humanitarian law. Testimonies refer to summary executions, sexual abuse and systematic looting. Several villages have been burnt out. Testimonies place the responsibility of these crimes on both the elements of the rebel groups and the members of the Central African Armed Forces “CAAF” and more particularly on the elements of the presidential guard;

Considering that the North East region of the Central African Republic has also been the scene of violent clashes, notably in November 2006 and March 2007 between the rebel forces and the Central African Army supported by the French military. The battles have been carried out in violation of international humanitarian law, giving rise to the death of several civilians. Present in Birao on the 21st March 2007, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the CAR declared: « never before has the UN seen a town of the Central African Republic with 70% of its houses burnt down and deserted by 95% of the population»;

Taking into account the address delivered to the Security Council on the 4th April 2007 by John Homes, Deputy Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Assistance Coordinator: “in one of the poorest countries of the world, where one million inhabitants depend already on humanitarian assistance, the recent fighting between the rebel groups and the army has brought about the displacement of 212,000 extra persons this year, besides the 70,000 persons who have taken refuge in Chad and in Cameroon”.

Considering that numerous persons carry the stigmata of war in this country sunken into violence: women, children and elderly persons raped, children born from rape, individuals affected by the Aids virus, amputees, orphans, child loss, members of the family assassinated, under-nourishment, etc… Affected in their physical and moral integrity, the victims suffer doubly from their stigmatization within the Central African society and from the general indifference towards their situation of extreme physical, social and economic distress;

Noting the fact that the Human Rights Defenders who try to spread the news of this dramatic situation are subjected to death threats and harassment;

Taking into account finally that the majority of the actors in the current conflict in the CAR are the same as those who are presumed to be the ones most responsible for the crimes committed against the civilian population during General Bozizé’s attempted coup d’état in 2002 and during his takeover of power in March 2003, a convincing manifestation of the havoc caused by impunity. In effect, in April 2006, the Appeals Court had declared the Central African Courts “incompetent” to carry out investigations and to institute legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed on Central African territory during the attempted coup d’état and had referred the matter to the International Criminal Court which had already been seized of this situation by the Central African State in December 2004;

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

1- Condemning the serious violations of international humanitarian law and of international human rights law committed by the warring parties against the civilian population in the Central African Republic;

2- Demanding the parties to the conflict:

– to observe strict respect for the international provisions on the protection of human rights and of international humanitarian law;
– to observe an immediate and general cease fire across the entire national territory;
– to facilitate the circulation and the activities of the humanitarian organizations in the North of the country;

3- Requesting the National Authorities

– to do everything possible to ensure that the perpetrators of the most serious crimes are brought to justice and judged in conformity with the international provisions on the protection of human rights;
– to respect the physical and moral integrity of the human rights defenders, and more generally to respect the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted in 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly;
– to accept the visits by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on summary, extra-judiciary and arbitrary executions, on torture, on arbitrary detentions and on human rights defenders;

4- Requesting the United Nations Agencies present in the CAR to provide support to the victims of the conflict, notably to the members of the Organization for the Compassion and Development of Families in Distress « OCODEFAD », by providing assistance to the activities notably by providing food and medicines and giving financial support for medical and psychological follow-up;

5- Calling for the creation in Bangui of a branch Office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights having the mandate of promoting the rule of law through technical cooperation; of preparing reports on the human rights situation in the country; and of coordinating with the OUNCA and any other Agency of the Security Council based in the CAR the protection of the civilian population, notably that of human rights defenders and the victims of international crimes;

6- Calling for the dispatch of a peace keeping force to the borders of the Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad, as proposed by the United Nations Secretary General in a report made public on the 23rd February to guarantee the protection of the civilian populations;

7- Urging the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court seized by the Central African Government in December 2004 to open an inquiry on the situation in the Central African Republic without delay;

8- Requesting the Authorities concerned to investigate the serious human rights and international humanitarian law violations perpetrated by both the Government Forces and rebel movements in 2003, 2006 and 2007 in the North of the country and to institute legal proceedings against the perpetrators and have them judged in the national courts.

Done in Accra, May 14th, 2007

Resolution on the fight against impunity and on the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court in Africa

We, the Participants at the Forum for the Participation of NGOs at the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Having noted the grave consequences of impunity in its diverse forms and its proliferation in Africa;

Recalling the various mechanisms for the fight against impunity existing at the national, sub-regional and international levels;

Noting the diverse initiatives taken by the international community in the fight against impunity and the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court in Africa;

Further keeping in mind the various resolutions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the ratification of the Statute of Rome of the International Criminal Court;

Taking note of the investigations opened by the Prosecutor in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Sudan and in Uganda;

Recalling the seizure of the ICC by the Central African Republic and the recognition of the competence of the Court by Cote d’Ivoire;

Particularly concerned by the fact that the African Union has not yet signed the Cooperation Agreement with the International Criminal Court;

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

I – On Impunity:

– At the national level

  • To remind the States of their obligation to apply the national laws and to institute legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the crimes;
  • To encourage the States to reinforce their judicial apparatus and to put in place national structures such as national human rights commissions in the countries where they do not exist, in conformity with the Paris Principles governing the national institutions of protection and promotion of human rights;
  • To encourage the application of international legal instruments;

– At the sub-regional level

  • To remind all concerned that the sub-regional mechanisms should play their full role in the fight against impunity;
  • To encourage the implementation of the resolutions made at the sub-regional level for the promotion of the fight against impunity;
  • To urge the regional and sub-regional bodies to be actively involved in the process of settlement of conflicts with a view to putting an end to impunity;

– At the regional level

  • To cooperate more closely with the Peace and Security Council of the African Union;
  • To encourage the States to ratify the African Charter for the attainment of democracy, good governance and free, democratic and transparent elections;
  • To designate a Special Rapporteur to be in charge of the fight against impunity and the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court in Africa;
  • To accord special attention to the subject of the fight against impunity during its examination of the Periodic Reports and to examine the possibility of drafting guidelines relative to the fight against impunity in Africa;

II – On the International Criminal Court:

  • To urge the African States which have not yet ratified the Rome Statute to do so;
  • To call on the State Parties to the Statute of Rome which have not already done so to enact laws allowing the domestication of the said Statutes in their national laws;
  • To urge the States to cooperate fully with the ICC, notably for the purpose of executing the arrest warrants issued against the presumed perpetrators of international crimes, in Darfur in particular;
  • To request the Prosecutor of the ICC to open investigations on the situations in the Central African Republic and in Cote d’Ivoire;
  • To call on the African Union to sign an agreement of Cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

Done in Accra, May 14th , 2007

Resolution on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

We, the participants of the NGO Forum preceding the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 15th African Human Rights Book Fair, held at the Coconut Grove Hotel, Accra, from 12 – 14 May 2007,

We call on the African Commission to:

I. Impress upon states parties that have not made a declaration under Article 34(6) of the protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to do so;

II. Be proactive in creating an institutional framework for the co-operation between the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

III. Take steps at the speedy recruitment of legal staff at the Secretariat in preparation for taking cases to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and

IV. Consider the inclusion of the interpretation of the Protocol under the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa in its jurisdiction.

We call upon African states to:

I. Commit funds to the Human Rights Fund;

II. Commit themselves to direct access by NGOs and individuals to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the new court;

III. Take measures to ensure enforcement of decisions of the African Commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and

IV. Respect the independence of the African Commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Done at Accra, 14 May, 2007

Recommendation on the Rights of Refugees in Africa

We, the participants meeting at the Forum preceding the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in Accra, Ghana on 12 – May 2007, state as follows:

Urges the African Commission to organise a fact finding mission in Darfur among other countries in need of urgent action and response,

To strengthen the AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur for its own and the security of the local IDPs. So far 45 peacekeepers and 6 UN humanitarian officials (1 local and 5 foreigners) have been abducted and killed,

Further urge the states to fast track the formulation of the regional convention on IDPs, this is expected to mainstream the UN Guiding Principles on IDPs,

To call upon the AU to harmonise the sub regional (ECOWAS and Great lakes Pact) protocols on IDPs in the above – mentioned convention to avoid duplication of efforts and confusion during ratification and enforcement,

To develop guidelines for presentation of periodical country reports to include a component of progress and compliance on IDPs and refugee issues at all levels,

The Special Rapporteur on IDPs and refugees should continue the process of mediation between Senegal, Mali and Mauritania Government to facilitate the repatriation of Mauritania refugees living in Senegal and Mali since 1989,

To further organise the return of Mauritanian refugees with the support of the Office the UN High Commission on Refugees.

 

Done in Accra, May 14th, 2007

Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Somalia

We, the participants meeting at the NGO Forum preceding the 41st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at the Coconut Groove Hotel in Accra, Ghana on 12 -14 May 2007,

Considering that Somalia is party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, has adopted all the international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights and humanitarian law which were ratified and domesticated by the Democratic Republic of Somalia.

Further considering Somalia’s obligations under the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders), particularly to ensure the rights of human rights defenders to assemble, associate, express themselves and participate in the government of the country and the conduct of public affairs;

Concerned by the recent events in which human rights defenders including journalists have been subjected to extra-judicial executions;

Deeply concerned by the continued human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by the invention of Ethiopian troops into Somalia without the authorization of UN and AU Peace and Security Council.

Noting that harassment and intimidation of Human Rights Defenders including the journalists and effects on the free flow of information from Somalia and complete silencing of the voices of the frontline human rights defenders thereto.

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

1. Condemning the increasing violence and human rights violations perpetrated against human rights defenders in Somali by the Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian Occupying Forces;
2. Calling upon the Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian Occupying Forces to desist from harassing, intimidating, assaulting, arresting, detaining and killing human rights defenders and members of Journalists groups who protect and promote the rights of human rights defenders;
3. Further calling the Transitional Federal Government to create a conducive environment for human rights defenders and journalists to conduct their work in Somalia.
4. Urging the Transitional Federal Government of Somali and Ethiopian Occupying Forces to comply with their obligations as contained in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other international rights instruments.
5. Further urging the immediate withdrawal of the Ethiopian Occupying Forces from Somalia and the deployment of the remaining African Union Peace Keepers to avoid a security vacuum;
6. Reminding the African Union to encourage the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to implement the recommendations of the African Commission.

Done in Accra, 14 May, 2007