Statement by Mrs Hannah Forster on behalf of Participants of the Forum of NGOs at the Official Opening of the 46th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR

Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 46TH Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 11th November 2009, Sheraton Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia

Your Excellency, The Acting Chairperson of The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Mr. Tom Bahame Nyanduga

Madam Therese Sarr Toupan, representing the Honourable Attorney General and Secretary of State for Justice and National Assembly Affairs of the Republic of The Gambia, Mrs Marie Saine Firdaus;

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

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;

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

Distinguished Members of the NGO Forum Steering Committee;

Honourable Members of the National Assembly;

Honourable Secretaries of State;

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 am privileged, once again, to stand before this august gathering of the African human rights community with the responsibility to present a statement on behalf of my colleagues of the NGO Forum preceding the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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

I would wish to crave the indulgence of this assembly to observe a moment’s silence to remember all victims of human rights violations in Africa, particularly those innocent victims who have been killed and continue to be killed on this great continent, in particular those of the September 28th massacre in Guinea Conakry.

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 46th Ordinary Session and to reiterate the appreciation of the Forum of NGOs for the continued warmth afforded them since their arrival on Gambian soil.

We would equally like to take this opportunity to congratulate the newly elected Commissioners, namely from Egypt, Rwanda and Tunisia, on their appointment and wish them well in their new assignment.  To the outgoing Commissioners, we wish to extend our appreciation for your various contributions made and urge you to remain engaged in the remarkable work you have started at the Commission – of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It would please you to note that the NGO Forum was held three days prior to the commencement of this Session of the Commission, in keeping with tradition.  This session was particularly significant because it was held amidst rumours of a possible boycott of the Gambia as a venue by some NGOs.  Let me reassure all present that despite this initial hiccup, the turnout was remarkable, the debate was objective and profession leading to commendable outcomes, as is usual.  Over 110 representatives from all over Africa participated including 7 participants from Europe and The USA.

The Forum noted that while some real and positive developments have been registered in a number of African countries, challenges in the human rights and democracy situation on the Continent continue to be characterised by conflict, insecurity and violence, which undoubtedly ushers in untold hardships to the majority of citizens of the affected countries.

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 46th Session.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Please bear with me as I present you with highlights of the said deliberations.

The Forum would like to draw your attention to a number of incidents, which have occurred in recent months and have raised the concern of participants, particularly in Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Niger, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

In Guinea Conakry, reports have confirmed the loss of over 150 lives in the terrible incidents of September 28th, 2009.  Moreover, the violence and the torture perpetrated against the hundreds of women during the carnage by the junta is worthy of condemnation.

In The Gambia, allegations of misunderstanding between the Gambian authorities and human rights defenders was report, which had almost affected the holding of the 46th session of the ACHPR as well as other activities on its margins.

In Darfur, Sudan, attacks on United Nations personnel have also been reported leading to the withdrawal of some humanitarian aid agencies whose main aim is to prevent and alleviate the suffering of innocent victims. Furthermore, the banning of many non governmental organisations coupled with the harassment against defenders had signalled the going into exile of a good number of human rights defenders.

In Niger, the unconstitutional reforms which extended the term of office of the President is a fine example of the growth of constitutional coups in Africa and is very worrisome since it sets an unwelcome precedence.

Despite the hope brought on by the setting up of a government of national unity, participants have expressed concern over the situation in Zimbabwe. The Forum also deplored the expulsion of The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and urges the African Commission in collaboration with The African Union to closely monitor the situation and to urge the government to, among other things, implement the reform process as per the agreement.

Furthermore, in Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, there are reports of increased intimidation, harassment and homophobic attacks directed at people of different sexual orientation.

Consequently, we would wish to request the African Commission to consider conducting  fact finding missions to these countries to ascertain the veracity of these reports and to adopt a resolution publicly condemning all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by all parties in all conflicts in Africa and to work with the African Union in their resolution.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

There is no doubt, that the violations characterizing the above mentioned countries already show warning signs of deterioration in the system.  While urging the states to respect their international, regional and national commitments, we further urge the African Commission to investigate all the situations with a view to propose and implement concrete steps to ensure the resolution of these aforementioned conflicts.

Furthermore, it was observed that suppression of the freedom of expression, opinion, assembly and the press has increased on our continent with formulation of draconian laws, harassment, intimidation, killings and arbitrary detention. In this regard, the Forum requests the African Commission to pay particular attention to the situation in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although the situation of Human Rights Defenders on the continent continues to be precarious, we are heartened by the developments made so far by the special mechanism of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders in Africa.

The Forum wishes to express its satisfaction so far in working with the mechanisms of the African Commission and urge this institution to provide sufficient resources for the maintenance of all its mechanisms to ensure greater impact.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Similarly, we would wish to reiterate the fact that increasing numbers of persons are forced to leave their homes, which movement have totally disrupted their livelihoods as a result of insecurity and conflict.  We refer 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. While we applaud the adoption of the African Union Convention on the protection of refugees and displaced persons held in Entebbe, Uganda from 22-23 October, 2009, The Forum sincerely hopes that states would speedily ratify and implement this convention to allieviate the suffering of millions of refugees and IDPs in Africa.

The need to offer special protection to the elderly, the disabled and particularly to women and girl children who often find themselves open to abuse as a result of break down in security, in all circumstances, cannot be overemphasised.

Not the least, the NGOs believe that the deplorable situation of indigenous persons should not cease to occupy us and consequently request the African Commission to reinforce the capacity of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples.

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 request the African Commission to urge states to prohibit torture, to condemn death penalty and to commit themselves to its abolition.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

The Forum noted the continuing depletion of Africa’s natural resources as well as the deterioration of the environment as a result of the lack of transparency in investments and corporate policy.

The need to review the human rights dimensions of climate change is eminent and will be given prominence in the future and urges the African Commission to carry out a study to that effect in order to set its agenda on this relevant but often neglected area of economic, social and cultural rights.

Considering the rise of forced evictions in Africa, it was noted that it was a violation of human rights denying victims access to these basic rights.  The latter is equally true in the field of mining of natural resources.  Participants reiterated the importance of reinforcing socio-economic and cultural rights as well as ensuring that victims are provided with adequate security and compensation.

While emphasising the need to strengthen international justice, The Forum welcome the report of the UN Secretary General on implementing the Responsibility to Protect, particularly the General Assembly debate and reference to the transition from non-interference to non-indifference.  Consequently, we would wish request that the African Commission to urge member states to fully collaborate with the International Criminal Court in order to prevent and atrocities in Africa.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

The Forum also reemphasised 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 the African populace.  The importance of human rights education was also underscored and representatives of the Forum re committed themselves to work towards the achievement of this goal.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of all the participants, I would wish to again congratulate the Commission and indeed His Excellency, the Acting Chairperson for the tremendous missions and achievements registered during the last inter session, particularly the harmonisation of the rules of procedure and would wish to reiterate the readiness of the NGO community to work with the Commission and its mechanisms in the realization of their mandates.

Permit me, Mr Chairperson, to express our profound gratitude to the African Commission for their collaboration and support in the organisation and facilitation of the NGO Forum.  We would equally like to extend our appreciation, through you, to the Secretariat of the African Commission, to the Secretary and the Legal Officers, in particular, for the interest and support enjoyed by the NGO community, particularly those with observer status.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Participants to the Forum of NGOs note with satisfaction the ratification and entry into force of many African and International instruments.  However, there is need to harmonise and implement these treaties at the national level in order to maximise their impact. This brings to mind The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance’ The Protocol to the Establishment of an African Court; among others.  Consequently, we would wish to appeal to states, which have not ratified these pertinent treaties, to speedily ratify them and therefore enable their inevitable implementation.

In the same vein, we wish to urge states to ratify and expedite action on the domestication and effective implementation of the Rome Statutes.  The Forum while welcoming the Mbeki report, urges the AU to effectively disseminate the report and to encourage the involvement of NGOs in the process.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter relating to the Rights of Women in Africa continues to be the light at the end of the tunnel for the promotion and protection of the rights of women in Africa and is indeed 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 27 countries that have ratified the Protocol and fervently hope that universal ratifications by other states would follow shortly, to provide that much needed momentum to put into action gender equality in our various countries. As we celebrate 30 years of CEDAW, NGOs are keen to see a lot of progress made in this area and have proceeded to appreciate the forthcoming organisation of the Beijing +15 review which would review developments made so far in the implementation and would wish to congratulate UNECA and UNIFEM for their support of this initiative.  The Forum wishes to acknowledge the important role of the Special Rapporteur in all these activities.

While lauding the gender parity policy adopted by the African Union, the Forum renews its call for States to replicate similar policies at the national level in conformity with the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.

The Forum congratulates the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) particularly the East Africa Office for leading the discussion on the development of a human rights strategy for Africa.  While thanking OHCHR for involving NGOs in the process, the Forum pledges its support and is committed to the collaboration already spelt out in the strategy.

Participants at the Forum in recognising the efforts of the OHCHR in reviving the implementation of the World Conference against Racism (WCAR) Declaration and Programme of Action equally commit themselves to collaborate with OHCHR in the implementation of the Programme of Action, while looking forward to more in depth discussion on the subject.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Commissioners, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by reiterating the readiness of your partners, particularly NGOs with Observer Status to work in collaboration with the Commission for the furtherance of human rights, good governance and the rule of law in Africa.

Mr. Chairman

On behalf of the participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the work of the 46th session of the African Commission, allow me to wish you, Your Excellency, and all the Commissioners a fruitful deliberation and a successful session.

Thank You.

HJF / ACDHRS

Recommendation on Prevention and Prohibition of Torture and other Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and Prison and Penal Reform in Africa

The Working Group focused on two thematic areas namely:

1. Prevention and Prohibition of torture;

2. Prisons and Penal Reforms in Africa.

The group assessed the situation relating to these issues and the status of compliance to these rights in various countries in Africa. It also noted best practices and obstacles faced in realisation of these rights as well as identified strategies to promote effective networking amongst the Working Group and contributing to the work of the Commission. Key recommendations were made by the Working Group to the Commission towards enhancing the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa with respect to prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, and promotion of Prison and Penal Reform.

On Torture

The Working Group welcomes the resolutions with respect to Prevention and Prohibition of Torture adopted by the NGO Forum at the 45th Session and further:

1. Urges the Commission to reaffirm the importance of in – country visits and to carry out steps to incorporate and effectively implement activities aimed at prevention of torture within the mandate of the Follow-Up Committee on the Implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines;

2. Urges the Commission to condemn the action of the Government of Zimbabwe on the deportation of the UN SR On Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Professor Manfred Nowak from Zimbabwe on 28 October 2009 during his visit to carryout his mandate;

3. Calls upon the Commission in particular the Chairperson on the Working group on RIG to carry out a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe on the issue of Torture;

4. Requests the Commission to urge all member states to cooperate with the African Commission and the United Nations mechanisms for promotion and protection of human rights including provision of access for the execution of in-country visits;

5. Urges the Commission to establish an effective mechanism for awareness creation, sensitisation, training and capacity building of Governments and CSOs on torture prevention, documentation and provision of rehabilitation and redress for victims; and

6. Urges the Commission to request member states yet to sign and ratify CAT, OPCAT and all other related Conventions and protocols to do so.

On Prisons:

The Working Group commends the Resolution of the Forum on Prisons and Penal Reform in Africa at its 45th Ordinary Session and further:

1. Urges on the Commission especially its Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Condition of Detention in Africa to work closely with Heads of Prisons and Correctional Services in Africa and the newly formed African Correctional Services Association (ACSA) as well as NGOs working on the field to develop sustainable mechanisms to address the problems faced by prisoners, ex- prisoners and prison services in African countries;

2. Urges the Commission to request member states to support the establishment of effective and sustainable prison reforms, including increase in budgetary allocations, establishment of parliamentary and other oversight and support mechanisms towards promoting reforms in the justice and prison sector in their respective countries;

3. Urges the Commission especially the Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Condition of Detention in Africa to collaborate with member state and NGOs to set up mechanisms towards the compilation of compendium on the state of prisons and conditions of detention as well as good prison practice, in Africa.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2009

 

Resolution on the situation in Zimbabwe

We, the Participants to the Forum on the participation of NGOs  in the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s rights,

Observing the many outstanding issues from the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by the representatives of the three main political parties in Zimbabwe on the 15th September 2008 and the SADC Summit Communiqué of 29 January 2009;

Concerned that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe remains fragile despite the formation of the Inclusive Government;

Alarmed by a fresh wave of attacks on civil society representatives and MDC-T political officials and the general citizenry in the form of arbitrary arrests and detention and malicious prosecutions, unjustified persecution, physical attacks and harassment;

Recalling the commitment of the parties to the inclusive government to stop all human rights violations and to further “attend to all outstanding issues arising from the implementation of the GPA and the SADC Summit Communiqué of January 2009,” as reaffirmed in the Troika delegation’s statement released on 31 October 2009;

Taken aback by the recent deportation of the UN Special Rapportteur on Torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Professor Manfred Nowak, by the Zimbabwean authorities on 28 October 2009;

Concerned by the parties’ failure to fully and effectively implement the Inter – party Political Agreement to its letter and spirit;

Hereby Call upon the African Commission to:

1. Re-affirm the primacy and pre-eminence of principles of good governance and free and fair elections as the hallmark to democracy;

2. Call upon the Inclusive government to re-affirm its commitment to uphold and respect human rights as envisaged by the African Charter;

3. Urge the government  to re-affirm its commitment to respect international and regional human rights institutions and or mechanisms established by treaty bodies to which it is a party;

4. Urge the inclusive government to immediately implement measures to ensure the security of persons, in particular Human rights Defenders;

5. Urge the Inclusive Government to ensure that the Constitutional Reform Process is carried through without further delays as it is the gateway towards restoration of democracy and good governance;

6. Call upon SADC and the AU as the guarantors of the GPA to increase visibility by closely monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2009

Recommendation on LGBTI

Recalling that in order to be granted observer status before the African Commission, an applying NGOs must, in terms of the Resolution for the Granting of and for Maintaining Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1999), have objectives and activities ‘in consonance with’ the fundamental principles and objectives in the African Union Constitutive Act and the African Charter;

Recalling that the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with the African Charter and other relevant human rights instruments is one of the objectives of the AU (art 3(h)) and that the promotion of gender equality, respect for human rights and the promotion of social justice are among the principles of the AU (arts 4 (l), (m) and (n));

Further recalling the African Commission’s long-standing practice of granting observer status to NGOs in order to support its mandate to protect and promote human rights in Africa, including to NGOs whose activities and objectives extend to the protection and promotion of the rights of sexual minorities;

Taking note that the NGO Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) has submitted a request to be granted observer status with the African Commission;

Noting that the objectives and activities of CAL are directed towards the promotion and protection of human rights and the promotion of gender equality;

Concerned that the African Commission discussed this issue but postponed its final decision on this matter during its 45th ordinary session;

Accepting as point of departure that the human rights of all Africans, irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity, are protected under the African Charter (art 2 of the Charter);

The NGO Forum

Strongly urges the African Commission to grant observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) at its 46th ordinary session.

 

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2009

Recommendation on “Freedom of Expression”

We, participants at the 46th session of the NGO Forum call upon the commission

1. to act on the resolution made during the previous session on Zimbabwe and send the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression as a matter of urgency on a fact-finding and investigative mission to Zimbabwe regarding violations of the right to freedom of expression and to especially to pursue the following:

  • The arrests and prosecution of journalists and human rights defenders for exercising the right to freedom of expression.
  • Delay in freeing media space for a diverse and pluralistic media.
  • The repressive laws and institutions hindering the exercise and enjoyment of this right in Zimbabwe.

2. We call upon the Commission to pursue and act upon the disappearance of the Gambian journalist Chief Ibrahim Manneh who has been missing since 2006.

3. We also call upon the African Commission to urge the coalition government of Zimbabwe to implement the Commission’s 4 June 2009 ruling that it should repeal article 79 and 80 of Access to information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which remains inconsistent with the provisions of the African Charter, as well as urge them to comply with the outcome of the commission’s 2002 fact-finding mission.

4. The Commission is also urged to put pressure on all countries to repeal all laws that criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression as in Zimbabwe, Gambia, Sierra-Leone and Tanzania and also urge them to put in place legislation that enhance the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression such as freedom of Information laws, Sierra-Leone being an example.

5. We urge the commission to condemn the continuing attacks and persecution of the media in Tanzania which saw the shutting down of the Mwanahalisi news paper following the acid attack on two of its journalists. This is more so as it approaches its 2010 elections.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2009

Resolution on Strengthening International Justice in Africa

We, the participants of the NGO Forum on the participation of NGOs in the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, held at the Kairaba hotel in Banjul, Gambia on 7-9 November 2009,

Recalling the Resolution on the Ratification of the Treaty on the International Criminal Court by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Banjul (1998), the Declaration and Plan of Action of Grand Bay, Mauritius (1999), the Resolution on the Ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by OAU/AU Member States, Pretoria (2002) and the Resolution on ending impunity in Africa and on the domestication and implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2005),

Further Recalling the adoption in 2005 of World Summit document where member states of the United Nations expressed their commitment to the protection of civilians from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing,

Noting with concern the numerous human rights abuses in parts of the African continent, most notably that  women and children have suffered the heaviest brunt of acts of  genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes recognized under international human rights and international humanitarian law,

Recalling that the establishment of the ICC represents an important development in the struggle against impunity for the most serious crimes as crimes of war, crimes against humanity and genocide, and that there is no peace without justice,

Noting that by attempting to punish those responsible for these crimes, the ICC is a crucial court of last resort in defending African victims and attempting to prevent the future occurrence of such atrocities,

Committed to the development of national capacity to address international crimes, and noting that under the complimentarily principle, the ICC has jurisdiction only when national states are unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute international crimes,

Recalling further that three African states (Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic) voluntarily refereed situations on their territories to the ICC and that the UN Security Council referred Darfur to the ICC, given the gravity of crimes there,

Welcome the report of the African Union High Level Panel on Darfur otherwise known as the ‘Mbeki Report’ and the consultations with civil society organizations that contributed to it,

Noting that 30 African states have ratified the Rome statute,

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

Urge the member states of the African Union that have not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute and to ensure its effective implementation at the national level,

Urge the member states of the African Union (AU) to support victims by promoting judicial and other efforts to end impunity as well as promoting accountability for serious crimes under international law including through strengthening support and collaboration with the ICC,

Encourage the AU to include members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in any discussions relating to impunity, including the ICC, in light of its role in the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa,

Further Urge the AU to take steps in effectively disseminating the report of the AU high level panel on Darfur otherwise known as the ‘Mbeki Report’ and encourage the participation of both local and international NGOs in the implementation of the report,

Encourage the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU to urge its member states, including those under investigation by the ICC, to fully cooperate with the Court in its efforts to bring to justice suspected perpetrators of international crimes,

Ensure that the worst crimes under international law are adopted as crimes under national law and investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice in their domestic  courts in accordance with internationally recognized fair trial standards,

Appoint a Special Rapporteur on fighting Impunity in Africa, to carry out activities aimed at ensuring that those responsible for the worst crimes under international law are brought to justice; and strengthening international rule of law.

 

Done in Banjul, November 9th, 2009

Resolution on the human rights situation in The Gambia

We, participants at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights,

Considering of the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in particular Article 9(1)(2) on freedom of expression and opinion;

Emphasizing provisions of Articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights on the right to associate freely and to demonstrate in peace;

Condemning the ongoing grave human rights violations human rights defenders are exposed to since the 2006 Coup d’état;

Recalling the recent statements made by government’s officials against human rights defenders and their activities in The Gambia;

Recalling that such declarations are contrary to the agreements between the African Union and the Republic of the Gambia on the establishment of the Secretariat of the African Commission in Banjul;

Bearing in mind that the constitution of the second republic of The Gambia outlines freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of the press;

Bearing in mind the African Commission Resolution….on The Gambia,

The Forum calls on the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

1. Conduct a fact finding mission in order to investigate human rights abuse committed in Gambia,

2. Ensure that all prisoners of conscience in Gambia are freed without conditions, and that those detained incommunicado or in illegal and secret prisons are also freed if they are not charged immediately with a recognizably criminal offence and that those charged benefit from a fair trial.

3. Ensure that The Gambia’s constitution reflects its African Charter obligations and that these are respected, especially with regards to the prohibition against torture, the right to a fair trial as well as freedom of expression, of the press and of association.

4. Ensure that the Government of The Gambia upholds its obligations under the African Charter by ending coercions against the media and making sure freedom of expression is guaranteed.

5. Take appropriate measures to ensure that human rights defenders undertake their activities in The Gambia freely and are protected by national laws as provided the Grand Bay 1998 and Kigali 2003 Declarations, as well as Article 12 subsections (2) and (3) of the 1998 United Nations Human Rights Defenders Declaration.

6. Calls on the Gambian government to take steps to rehabilitate victims of all human rights violations and rectify the situation;

7. Evaluate the possibility of removing the Headquarters of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights from Banjul to a country where human rights environment is conducive for the protection and promotion of peoples’ rights.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2009

Resolution on Follow-up of the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

We, the participants at the Forum on the participation of NGOs in the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Banjul (7th – 9th November 2009),

Considering the provision of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which were adopted at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance as well as the Durban Review Conference Outcome Document;

Deeply concerned that despite the lank-mark achievements in the global efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the racist phenomena persist and are affecting the lives of millions of victims all over the world including Africa;

We, therefore resolve to:

1. Further examine the Durban Review Conference Outcome Document and fully participate in the follow-up of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in close collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, African governments and national human rights institutions and other partners at the regional and international levels.

2. Call on NGOs to design specific strategies for national mobilization and to participate in all regional and sub-regional efforts to give effects to the Durban Review Conference Outcome Document including the upcoming Conference to be held in Lomé (Togo) from 8 to 10 December 2009.

3. Cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in its efforts to coordinate global action to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

4. Devote adequate space and time to examine issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at the Forum on the participation of NGOs at the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

5. Create an African NGO Special Interest Group on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2009

Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in Darfur

We, the participants at the Forum on the participation of NGOs in the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Banjul (7th – 9th November 2009),

Considering the provisions of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the Charter of the United Nations Organisation as well as those of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international human rights instruments to which the Sudan is a state party and that as a state party the Sudan is legally bound to fully and effectively implement the provisions of these instruments and respect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms set therein without discrimination on any ground;

Welcoming the report of the AU High-Level Panel on Darfur led by former South-African President  Thabo Mbeki as adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council at the Level of Heads of State and Government in Abuja on 29th October 2009; and that the report was an authentic African effort which emphasized that issues of inequality in the distribution of economic wealth and political power as well as discrimination against, marginalisation and exclusion of the people of Darfur from participation in the political and economic life in the country as the root causes of the armed conflict in the region and affirmed that justice, accountability, healing and reconciliation as the imperatives for peace in Darfur;

Welcoming regional and international efforts to combat impunity, to uphold fundamental justice to the victims and to maintain durable peace in Darfur including the decision of the International Criminal Court to hold accountable individuals accused of planning, executing, condoning or encouraging the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur;

Highly appreciating efforts of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to address the situation in Darfur including its October-November 2009 visit to Sudan and recalling in this regard previous resolutions on Darfur adopted by the Commission since its 35th Ordinary Session;

Deeply concerned at the continuing grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur as documented in numerous reports including the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur of 25th January 2005, which concluded that the crimes committed in Darfur are “… no less serious and heinous than genocide…” and that despite the deployment of an AU/UN hybrid peacekeeping force to protect civilians in Darfur the humanitarian situation in the region continues to deteriorate;

Abhorring the decision of the government of Sudan to expel 13 international relief organisations from Sudan thus putting the lives of more than three million internally displaced persons and war-affected civilians in Darfur, especially women and children, at high risk;

We hereby call on the African Commission to ensure that the government of Sudan complies with its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the AU Constitutive Act, the UN Charter and all other regional and international human rights treaties to which Sudan is a state party, and in particular comply with the following:

1. Stop, with immediate effect, all military activities and attacks against civilians in Darfur and end the grave violations of human and peoples’ rights in particular the forced de-population of entire areas in the region, and to cease all support, including the protection of and provision of weapon and other military supplies to the Janjaweed militiamen.

2. Allow immediate and unconditional return of the expelled international relief organisations to Darfur and provide the necessary support to all international agencies and relief organisations in order to ensure immediate, full, safe and unhindered access to the war-affected population in Darfur and facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in need thereof.

3. Fully and unconditionally cooperate with the International Criminal Court in its efforts to bring to justice all persons suspected of perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur and arrest and hand over such individuals.

4. Accelerate the process of legal reform in the country in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and repeal or amend all laws and regulations incompatible with the Bill of Rights enshrined in Sudan’s Interim National Constitution especially those laws and regulations that perpetrate impunity for human rights violations, contravene with the due process of the rule of law and justice or curtail freedom of expression, assembly and association.

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

1. Examine the report of the AU High-Level Panel on Darfur and persuade the AU members states to follow-up scrupulously the implementation of the recommendations contained on that report especially those recommendations which have direct implication on the enjoyment of human and peoples’ rights in Darfur.

2. Urge all state members of the AU and the UN to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court by arresting and handing over all persons suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2009