Resolution on Human Rights Defenders

We, the participants to the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 7th to 9th November, 2008,

Noting with concern the alarming number of obstacles and violations faced by human rights defenders in the States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights of 1986;

Recalling the provisions of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the 1999 Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action, the 2003 Kigali Declaration and all other legal instruments which guarantee the rights of human rights defenders;

Deeply concerned by the repression faced by those who defend civil and political rights in the continent;

More specifically, concerned by the numerous threats, acts of intimidation, acts of violence faced by those who fight against impunity, like in Algeria, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt;

Also concerned by the threat of ban, in Angola, faced by the Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy (AJPD), an ONG which has been documenting and denouncing human rights violations, educating the public and the police on human rights, and lobbying for improvements in the legal framework, following a legal action started by the Angolan authorities in 2003 but whose existence was only notified to AJPD on 4 September 2008;

Also concerned by the increase of threats to their life faced by human rights defenders who have been monitoring and reporting on human rights violations perpetrated by the military in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, in the context of the militarization of the Niger Delta during the last couple of year;

And concerned, in Mauritania, by the severe repression of peaceful demonstrations organised by trade unions to call for the return to constitutional order and democracy following the military coup of 6 August 2008;

Deeply concerned by the repression faced by those who defend economic, social and cultural rights in the continent – in particular LGBT human rights defenders who have been requesting the Government of Uganda the respect of the right to health;

Also deeply concerned by the severe wave of repression of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, including recently two women human rights defenders belonging to Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) after their demonstrated to denounce the alarming economic and social situation of the country;

And concerned, in Tunisia, by the police and judicial harassment that struck participants to the peaceful social protest movement born in the Gafsa basin in January 2008 and that led to the sentencing to prison terms of approximately 200 hundreds people, seemingly in an attempt to punish them for exercising their right to claim the respect of their economic and social rights.

Therefore the NGO Forum calls upon the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

Urge the States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to end all forms of repression against human rights defenders and hold perpetrators of violations against human rights defenders accountable;

Immediately take all measures to guarantee the respect of freedoms of association, expression and peaceful gathering;

Publically recognise the fundamental role played by human rights defenders in the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international and regional instruments, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, as well as the prevention of conflicts, the respect of the Rule of law and democracy;

Strengthen the tools and means made available to the ACHPR, and in particular the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in order to allow her to pursue her actions for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders in Africa;

Urge the States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to extend permanent invitations to mandate-holders of the ACHPR and United Nations.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Resolution on the Situation in Ivory Coast

We, Participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples ‘Rights,

Considering the announcement of the report of the presidential election initially scheduled for November 30, 2008;

Considering the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, in force since January 30 2007, particularly its Article 2.3 which recalls that one of States’ purpose must be to « promote the holding of regular free and fair elections to institutionalize legitimate authority of representative government as well as democratic change of governments»;

Considering the Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union which guarantees the respect of democratic principles, human rights, rule of law and good governance;

Recalling also that the provisions of the Ouagadougou agreement adopted on March 4, 2007 focuses notably on the disarmament of rebel forces, the disassembly of militias, the identification of the populations, the reenactment of electoral registers so as to organize the presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire;

Deploring the serious dysfunctionings and delays of the electoral process and of the implementation of the Ouagadougou Agreement’s provisions;

Condemning the persistence of the culture of impunity, the grave dysfunctionings of justice throughout the country, the lack of state and rule of law in some areas of the country, the restrictions to public and individual liberties, notably the freedom of movement;

The NGO Forum calls on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to adopt a resolution:

Calling for the return of constitutional order with the holding of pluralistic and transparent elections that guarantee the right of Ivoirians to be represented by the people they have freely elected,

Calling all the parties to respect the provisions of the Ouagadougou Agreement, notably to take all necessary measures to tackle the effective disarmament of rebel forces, the disassembly of militias, the identification of populations and the reenactment of electoral registers;

Requiring the end of the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations and their bringing to justice;

Calling on Côte d’Ivoire to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and to implement its provisions;

Requiring the strict respect of the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, notably regarding the non-discrimination principle, the rights to information, the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful demonstration;

Calling on the respect of the rights of Human Rights Defenders.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Resolution on Enforced Disappearances

We, the participants to the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 7th to 9th November, 2008,

Noting with concern the alarming number of enforced disappearances on the African continent;

Noting the extreme gravity of this crime which, in certain circumstances can constitute a crime against humanity;

Noting that the perpetrators of these crimes are rarely brought to justice;

Affirming the right of all victims to know the truth surrounding the circumstances of the disappearance and to know the fate of the disappeared person, as well as the right to collect, receive and disseminate information to this end;

Noting that 19 African states have to date signed the International Convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2006;

Recalling that the effective application of the International Convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances and therefore the effective prevention of this crime will depend on the promotion and publicity of this Convention;

The NGO Forum calls on the ACHPR to adopt a resolution:

Urging States to take all the necessary measures to eradicate enforced disappearances

Urging Member States of the African Union who have not yet signed the International Convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances, to:

1. Sign and Ratify the Convention without delay;

2. Refrain from entering reservations which are incompatible with its purpose and goal;

3. Recognise the jurisdiction of the new Committee on Enforced Disappearances which can deal with individual complaints; and

4. Ensure its effective implementation into national legislation;

5. Take all necessary measures to publicly support and promote the Convention;

Inviting the concerned States to provide fair and equitable compensation to victims and their families;

Urging the African Union Summit of Heads of States and Government to call on Member States to condemn and fight against impunity of perpetrators of enforced disappearances.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Resolution on the Situation on the Gambia

We, Participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples ‘Rights,

Considering the provisions of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the ICCPR and its optional protocol, as well as the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international human rights instruments to which Gambia is a state party; and that this position legally binds Gambia to fully and effectively implement the provisions of these instruments and respect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms set therein, without fail;

Condemning the climate of fear that has been created by the Gambian Government’s routine use of unlawful arrest and unlawful detention, torture while in detention, unfair trials, extrajudicial execution and enforced disappearance by targeting perceived enemies such as human rights defenders, journalists, and anyone suspected of trying to overthrow the government.

Recalling that since the March 2006 alleged coup plot in Gambia there has been a severe deterioration in the human rights situation in Gambia.  During and after the alleged coup, human rights defenders, opposition politicians, suspected coup plotters, journalists, and other perceived enemies have suffered from unlawful arrests, unlawful detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances. The attack on the freedom of expression has also been widespread and has lead to over 25 journalists leaving Gambia since 1994 and is depriving Gambians everywhere of their right to access objective and unbiased information.

Recalling that unlawful arrests and detention, torture while in detention, unfair trials, poor conditions of detention, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances  without access to a fair trial and in deplorable, life-threatening conditions and the denial of the freedom of the press and expression contravenes national, regional and international law.

Recalling the continued ill-treatment of non-Gambians, especially West Africans, in particular the case of the unsolved killings of fifty migrants, including 44 Ghanaians, who were allegedly killed and/or disappeared in the Gambia.

Hereby call on the African Commission Human and Peoples’ Rights to take all the necessary measures to ensure that Gambia complies with its obligations under the African Charter by undertaking the following:

1. Investigating and ensuring accountability for reported cases of human rights    violations in the Gambia. 

2. Immediate and unconditional release of all victims of enforced disappearances – including Chief Ebrima Manneh and Kanyi Kaniba who have been unlawfully detained for more than two years-, as well as other detainees  including prisoners of conscience who are confined in various prisons and unknown detention facilities across the country or offer them public and fair trial;

3. Realizing and implementing the constitution of the country especially with respect to Gambians right to liberty; freedom from torture, right to a fair trial, and freedom of the press and association.

4. Ceasing all acts of torture in detention, interference in the judiciary especially in cases of political trials, and all extrajudicial executions.

5. Providing the necessary support to all organizations, family and friends of detainees in order to ensure that they have access to the detainees and are able to assess the health and living conditions of the detainees;

6. Desisting with immediate effect from intimidation of media institutions, and respect freedom of expression and media;

7. Respecting the rights of journalists and bring an immediate end to the threats, torture,  and intimidation  to which journalists are being subjected;

8. Fully respecting all Gambians rights to a fair trial, right to life, and freedom of the press and expression as provided for by regional and international human rights instruments.

9. Fully cooperating with ongoing investigations into the case of  alleged killings of 50 migrants and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Resolution on urging the State to envisage a Moratorium on Death Penalty

We, the participants to the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 7th to 9th November, 2008,

Reaffirming the right of everyone to life and article 5(3) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child providing that the Death Sentence shall not be pronounced for victims committed by children;

Recalling ACHPR/Res. 42 (XXVI) Urging the State to envisage a Moratorium on Death penalty (adopted at the 26th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held from 1-15 November 1997 in Kigali, Rwanda).

Recalling the UN General Assembly Resolution 62/149 adopted in 2007 which calls upon all states that still maintain the death penalty to, inter alia, establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

Recalling resolution 2005/59, adopted on 20 April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights called upon all states that still maintain the death penalty “to abolish the death penalty completely  and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions“;

Recalling UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights` resolution 1999/4 which calls upon all states that retain the death penalty and do not apply the moratorium on executions, in order to mark the millennium, to commute the sentences of those under sentence death on 31 December 1999 at least to sentences of life imprisonment and to commit themselves to a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty throughout the year 2000;

Noting that six States parties to African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights have ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at abolition of the death penalty;

Noting further that at least 27 States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples` rights have de facto or de jure abolished the death penalty;

Considering the exclusion of capital punishment from the penalties that the International Criminal Court, the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Special Panels for serious crimes in Timor-Leste, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda are authorised to impose;

Concerned that some States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples` rights impose the death penalty under conditions not in conformity with the rights pertaining to affair trial guaranteed in the African  Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights and other relevant international standards;

1. Urges all States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that still maintain the death penalty to comply fully with their obligations under the treaty and to ensure that persons accused of crimes for which the death penalty is a competent sentence are afforded all the fair trial guarantees in the African Charter; and other relevant regional and international treaties and standards.

2. Calls upon all States parties that still maintain the death penalty to:

a. Establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 62/149

b. If they have not yet done so, ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death Penalty;

c. Support the work of the Working Group on the Death Penalty of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

d. Urge African Union member States to report periodically to the UN Secretary General on the steps they are taking to implement the UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 in their territories ‘adopt guidelines to ensure that states parties to the African Commission on Human and Peoples` Rights discuss in their periodic reports the steps they are taking to move towards the abolition of the death penalty in their countries.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Recommendation on the Protection of the Environment in Africa

We, the participants to the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 7th to 9th November, 2008,

Taking into consideration the fact that most African states are presently lagging behind in taking concerted efforts to develop measures to address the challenge of climate
change,

Call on the Commission to:

  • Convene a continental platform, in collaboration with stakeholders, to allow for
    effective deliberations on the effects of climate change and human rights in the
    context of Africa;
  • Urge member states with extractive resources to institute stringent measures to combat dangerous practices that contribute to global warming and climate
    change;
  • In Collaboration with the AU, to urge and work with member states to put in
    place mechanisms that checks the activities of the private sector, particularly in
    relation to environmental protection.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Recommendation on Torture and Prisons in Africa

We, the participants to the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 7th to 9th November, 2008,

Concerned by the instances of torture perpetrated and overlooked by the governments
of certain African states, and the slow pace of prison reform,

Recommend to the ACHPR to:

1. Urge States to domesticate regional and international human rights instruments
with a view to the criminalisation of torture.
2. Encourage training of judges, prosecutors, police, lawyers, prison officers, health
professionals and other relevant agents on the prohibition of torture and the
implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines and other international and
regional human rights instruments.
3. Urges State parties to ensure funding and support for the rehabilitation of torture
victims, their families and communities and to provide victims’ access to justice
and reparations.
4. Urge the Follow-up Committee on the implementation of the Robben Island
Guidelines to provide a training manual on the prevention and prohibition of
torture for agencies such as police, prisons, military, judiciary and other law
enforcement agencies.
5. Urge the Follow-up Committee on the implementation of the Robben Island
Guidelines to facilitate the development of curricula for primary, secondary and
tertiary schools, which should include human rights education and issues of
torture prohibition, prevention, redress and rehabilitation of torture victims.
6. Urge State parties to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the UN
Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) as well as opening all places of detention to
independent monitoring bodies.
7. Urge State parties to develop alternatives to imprisonment and to implement
other measurements aimed at reducing overcrowding and torture, cruel,
inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in prisons and other places of
detention.
8. Urge State parties to develop and adopt comprehensive strategic plans for
criminal justice reform, with clear priorities for implementation and resourcing,
bearing in mind that it is only in such a comprehensive framework that torture
can be effectively eradicated. In developing such a plan, to involve civil society
experts and refer to the many guidelines and manuals produced or endorsed by
the African Commission, UN and other agencies.
9. Urge state parties who have not abolished the death penalty to ensure that
prisoners held on death row are held in conditions that respect regional and
international standards
10.Urge State parties to close all secret detention centres and to eradicate forced
disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings within their respective
jurisdictions.
11.Encourage the African Commission to develop procedure(s) to coordinate the
work of its special mechanisms on cross-cutting issues especially on Torture,
Prison Conditions, Death Penalty, Children, Women, etc.
12.Encourage the African Commission’s Special Mechanisms on Torture and Prisons
to participate actively in the regional and International meetings, workshops and
conferences aimed at prohibition and prevention of torture and improvement of
conditions of detention; and conduct relevant follow-up activities.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Resolution on the Situation in Ethiopia

We, Participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples ‘Rights,

Considering the provisions of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the Charter of the United Nations, as well as those of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international human rights instruments to which Ethiopia is a state party;

Recalling the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1998 Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders), the 1999 Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action, the 2003 Kigali Declaration and all the legal instruments which guarantee the right of defenders of human rights;

Further considering Ethiopia’s Constitution which guarantees amongst other rights, freedom of assembly, association and expression  and recalling its obligations under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;

Deeply concerned by the instances of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and prosecution of human rights defenders that have occurred on a frequent basis ever since the contested elections of 2005;

Deeply concerned by the government’s recent presentation to Parliament of the highly restrictive Draft Proclamation on Charities and Societies, a bill which would greatly hamper future human rights activities in the country and the effective functioning of human rights organisations in the country;

Deploring the restrictions, both legislative and administrative, imposed on the private media by the Ethiopian authorities and the increasing cases of prosecution of independent journalists;

Noting that harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, including journalists, obscures the actual and deteriorating human rights situation, notably in the Ogaden region, and thereby undermines efforts to bring these violations to the attention of the international community;

NGO Forum calls upon the ACHPR to take all necessary measures to pass a resolution:

1. Encouraging the Ethiopian authorities to reconsider several of the restrictive provisions of the Charities and Societies Draft Proclamation ensuring an enabling environment for NGOs and that the policy formulation process should be one that allows for the active participation of the civil society community and other stakeholders;

2. Calling on the Ethiopian authorities  to end all practices which threaten freedom of expression and prevent human rights defenders and particularly journalists from pursuing their legitimate work;

3. Calling on the Ethiopian authorities to carry out  prompt, impartial, effective and independent investigations into all cases of human rights violations, both past and present, particularly those affecting human rights defenders and most notably the human rights abuses which took place in the aftermath of the general elections 2005;

4. Encouraging the Ethiopian authorities to allow for independent and unimpeded access by national and international human rights groups and the media to regions of particular concern;

5. Calling on African Union member States to support initiatives by HRDs in Ethiopia aimed at strengthening their position, notably through join initiatives and networks;

6. Recommending to AU member States to ensure that all HRDs in particular journalists that have been forced into exile can pursue their vital work by providing them with assistance and protection;

7. Recommending to AU member States that all forthcoming assistance to the Ethiopian government from the African Union, notably given its key position, should demand human rights accountability.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008

Resolution on the Adoption of an Additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Freedom of Expression

We, the participants to the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 44th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 7th to 9th November, 2008,

Considering that article 66 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides for the adoption of protocols and special agreements where necessary to supplement the provisions of the Charter;

Considering that articles 60 and 61 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognize the regional and international human rights instruments and African practices in accordance with international human and peoples’ rights standards as important reference principles for the enforcement and interpretation of the African Charter;

Considering that article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights guarantees the freedom of expression;

Considering the Declaration of Principles on the freedom of expression in Africa which proclaims that freedom of expression is ‘a fundamental right’ and includes ‘the right to receive information and express one’s opinions’;

Considering the importance of the freedom of expression and its direct relation to other fundamental freedoms;

Considering the numerous violations of the freedom of expression in Africa;

In the face of the increasing impunity enjoyed by the authors of violations of the freedom of expression in Africa;

Considering the restrictive interpretation by States of article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

Convinced that only a binding legal instrument can guarantee greater respect of the freedom of expression;

The Forum is asking the ACHPR to adopt a resolution:

1. Asking States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to ratify and domesticate the main international and regional instruments on the freedom of expression;

2. Asking the authorities of the African Union to present an additional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the freedom of expression in Africa at the next Summit of Heads of States of the African Union;

3. To involve civil society organisations, particularly those involved in protecting the freedom of expression in Africa, in the drafting of the protocol by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

 

Done in Abuja, November 9th, 2008