Statement by Mrs Hannah Forster on behalf of Participants of the Forum of NGOs at the Official Opening of the 47th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR

Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 12th May 2010, Laico Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia

Honourable Attorney General and Secretary of State for Justice of the Republic of The Gambia;

Your Excellency, Commissioner Julia Joiner, Department of Political Affairs, African Union Commission (DPA/AUC);

Your Excellency, The  Chairperson of The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Mrs.  Reine Alapini Gansou;

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

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

Your Excellency, Mr Mahamane Cisse Gouro, Special Representive of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;

Mr. Patrice Vahard, Senior Human Rights Advisor, United Nations Office in West Africa

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

The African Human Rights Community are once again gathered for yet another session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and I am privileged, as a representative of the NGO Forum Steering Committee, to stand before this august assembly with the responsibility to present a statement on behalf of my colleagues of the Forum on the participation of in the 47th 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 Chairperson of the African Commission for affording us this opportunity.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me, at the onset to also express our gratitude to the Government and people of The Gambia for their hospitality, in facilitating the activities of the 47th Ordinary Session and to reiterate the appreciation of the Forum of NGOs for the continued warmth afforded them since their arrival on Gambian soil.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In keeping with tradition, the NGO Forum was held for three days prior to the commencement of this Session of the Commission. As usual, the turnout was remarkable, the debate objective and professional leading to commendable outcomes.  Over 164 representatives from 30 African countries participated including 21 participants from Europe, The USA and Latin America.

The Forum acknowledged that although challenges in the human rights and democracy situation on the continent persists leading to violence, insecurity and conflict, some real and positive developments have been registered in a good number of African countries.

The spirit of goodwill and cooperation of the Government of Kenya in implementing the recommendations of the African Commission relating to the Endorois People; and the increasing trend of collaboration between state and non state actors for human rights in Africa, to name but a few.

The full report of the Forum together with the adopted resolutions and recommendations will be forwarded, for the kind consideration of your distinguished body, as our contribution to your deliberations at this 47th Session.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Please bear with me as I present to you the 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 Burundi, Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia, Guinea Conakry, Niger, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Full details are provided in the resolutions and recommendations emanating from the Forum.

The intention of naming is not to shame but a call to action in order to address potentially deteriorating observance of human rights.

In Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda, there are reports of increased intimidation, harassment and homophobic attacks directed at people of different sexual orientation. Access to justice is minimal or non-existent, while LGBTI Women HRDs face the brunt of the violence.

The Forum also received reports of extrajudicial and arbitrary killings as well as enforced disappearances in a number of countries including Kenya.

Consequently, we would wish to reiterate our request to 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 was becoming the norm rather than the exception and therefore continue to be a cause for concern 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 Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), Ethiopia, The Gambia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. We thereby request the African Commission to express solidarity with all journalists living under extreme persecution and to urge states to abolish repressive laws and to ensure a conducive environment for the protection of journalists in Africa.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although the situation of Human Rights Defenders on the continent continues to be precarious, we are heartened by steps taken the African Commission to address this challenge.

The Forum however, urges the African Commission to consider preparing resolutions on Cameron, DRC and Rwanda for the prevailing circumstances relating to HRDs and to urge states to implement the UN Resolution on HRDs.

The Forum wishes to express its satisfaction so far in working with the mechanisms of the African Commission and urge the African Union 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 African migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons are forced to leave their homes, leading to total disruption of their livelihoods as a result of insecurity and conflict. 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, which will hopefully help to mitigate 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.  It was proposed, however, that the working group established for the elderly and the disabled should be separated as these were fundamentally different conceptually and normatively.  While restating that disability does not mean inability, it was believed that this course of action will allow for more focused intervention on these two issues by the African Commission.

The deplorable situation of indigenous populations, also received the attention of the Forum. The increased exploitation of land owned by these populations as well as their vulnerability, it was agreed, needed more attention.

Consequently, The Forum would like to request the African Commission carry out systematic regional consultations through its Working Group on Indigenous Populations and to consider establishing a mechanism by appointing a Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Populations.

The Forum congratulates the African Commission for changing the name of the Working Group on the Robben Island Guidelines to ‘The Committee on the Prevention of Torture in Africa’, in line with similar regional and international mandates.  While noting that challenges exist in the maintenance of prisons and places of detention and the use of torture in some states, we request the African Commission to urge states to ratify and implement the Convention Against Torture and it Optional Protocol to prohibit torture and to accelerate the establishment of the National Preventive Mechanisms and therefore contribute the systematic monitoring of prisons and places of detention as well as the use of torture.

The need for states to condemn the death penalty and to commit themselves to its abolition was also reiterated.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

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 was also a subject of review.  While the African Commission was commended for setting up a working group on this theme, it was necessary to consider the formulation of mechanisms to protect Africa from exploitation in its various forms.

The human rights dimensions of climate change was given prominence during this session. It was disheartening to realise that the communities and groups that are least responsible for the phenomenon continue to be the most affected.   We congratulate the African Commission for setting up a working group on this issue but urge them to press for the recognition of the linkage between human rights and climate change.

Considering that a multi faceted approach is imperative, the obligation of states that have resources to meet their obligation of contributing towards the mitigation of climate change cannot be overemphasised.

Forced evictions is a violation of human rights which denies victims access to their basic rights.   Participants drew attention the desperate situation of evictees from Nigeria and reiterated the importance of reinforcing socio-economic and cultural rights as well as ensuring that victims are provided with adequate security and compensation.

In a bid to support the strengthening of international justice, The Forum fully endorses the principles of the state’s Responsibility to Protect and continue to request 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.

The Forum would like to encourage more collaboration and joint actions between the Institutions of the African Union especially the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. While urging the African Commission to make a clear statement that violence against children is a violation of human right, the need to increase investment in education and to prioritise the right to education was flagged as being very crucial to the development of children.

The Forum would wish to draw the attention of the African Commission to the issue of citizenship and nationality has indeed been raised relating to the fact that many groups in Africa are increasingly being classed as stateless.  This phenomenon affects migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons not to mention the large groups of women and children that are trafficked within our porous borders.  The African Commission is hereby requested to carry out a fact finding mission on this subject in a bid to develop a mitigation strategy.

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 Chairperson for the many missions and achievements registered during the last inter session, 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, Madam Chairperson, to express our profound gratitude to the African Commission for your 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, and particularly to the Secretary and the Legal Officers, for the interest and continued support enjoyed by the NGO community, particularly those with observer status.  We will continue to urge as many of our participants in the wider community to apply for observer status and thereby play their role and to benefit from the access provided by this great institution.

The Forum congratulates the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) particularly the East Africa Office for having initially facilitated the development of a human rights strategy for Africa in the past NGO Forums.  Although the process is now under the leadership, of the DPA/AUC, the Forum pledges its support and is committed to the collaboration.

Furthermore, participants noted, with satisfaction, the initiative of the DPA/AUC and the OHCHR to operationalise the implementation of the 10 year capacity building project.  The Forum appreciates the organisation of the recently concluded Conference on ‘Enhancing cooperation between regional and international human rights systems and mechanisms’.  In a spirit of true partnership, NGOs are pleased to have been involved in the process and hereby urge all partners to consolidate the efforts towards the building and sustaining of linkages for human rights in Africa.

Within this framework of collaboration, the Forum wishes to request the African Commission to urges states to cooperate in the operationalisation of their commitment to the UPR process. The need to draw inspiration from the APRM process has proposed.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Participants to the Forum of NGOs note with satisfaction the elaboration of the African Governance Architecture and the insightful decision to dedicate the forthcoming January 2011 AU Summit to the theme of “Shared Values”.  This process encompasses the formulation and eventual adoption of a human rights strategy for Africa as well as the ratification and entry into force of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG). Lack of independence of the electoral systems has made elections in Africa a growing source of conflict and spurred by the substance of the ACDEG, participants have committed themselves to actively support the call of the DPA/AUC to campaign for its speedy ratification and implementation.

While applauding the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission in particular, for such an initiative, participants appreciate their involvement in the process and pledge their resolve to support the DPA/AUC, as it leads this process and assure them of our readiness to play our part, as is usual.  The AUC is further urged to collaborate with other organs and institutions in the implementation of this mandate.

The Forum also noted that many African and International instruments have been ratified by states, which is commendable.  However, the challenge remains that there is need to harmonise and implement these treaties at the national level in order to maximise their impact. 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.  We similarly, urge those who have ratified to ensure that harmonisation does take place to speed up their implementation and thereby give life to their provisions.

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

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter relating to the Rights of Women in Africa continues to be a beacon of hope for the promotion and protection of human rights 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 usher in that much needed momentum to put into action gender equality in our various countries. As we look forward to the launching of the African Women’s Decade, we are keen to see much progress made in this important area of human rights.

The Forum reviewed the linkages between HIV/AIDS and the Protocol and wishes to acknowledge that Violence Against Women is adequately covered in the Protocol and there was need to consider the establishing a mechanism on the Right to Health, which is very important to women in these trying times of violence and conflict, which has grave consequences for women.  Furthermore, we request that the African Commission urge states to operationalize Resolutions 1325 and 1820.

Participants at the Forum recognised the lack of impetus in the implementation of the World Conference against Racism (WCAR) Declaration and Programme of Action urged the OHCHR to renew and revitalise its strategy in accompanying the implementation process of the Programme of Action.

The importance of management of human rights information and documentation was also a subject of discussion, considering that quality of our work depends to a large extent to the efficient organisation of information.  The Forum commits itself to building capacity in this area and calls on the African Commission to take the advantage of opportunity provided by the expertise within civil society.

Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by reiterating the readiness of your partners, particularly NGOs with Observer Status to work in collaboration with the African Commission to further complement your efforts in your work to promote and protect human rights, good governance and the rule of law in Africa.

Madam  Chairperson

On behalf of the participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the work of the 47th 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


Resolution on Freedom of Expression

We, the participants to the NGO Forum in preparation of the 47th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Deeply concerned about the state of freedom of expression and freedom of information is considerably deteriorating in Africa;

Worried about the grave reality that Somalia is the most dangerous place in Africa today for journalists and other media workers, and that since January 2009 ten journalists have been killed in targeted attacks;

Concerned about the incessant emasculation of media and journalists rights and to the freedom of expression in Uganda where the government authorities have continued to violate the rights of journalists and the media in the past two years;

Deeply disheartened and disturbed by the situation of freedom of expression and the journalists rights in Eritrea that take the pride in jailing and detaining journalists incommunicado since 2001;

Very depressed about increasingly repressive situation of journalists in Cameroon and Zimbabwe that threatens enjoyment of fundamental human rights of freedom of expression which led grave violations of free press in Zimbabwe and Cameroon;

Concerned about the suppression of freedom of expression and press freedom in Tunisia despite the highly elaborate legislative and institutional architecture in the country;

Further deeply concerned about repression of the freedom to express, choose, impart and share on religious believes;

We urge the commission to:

1. Express its solidarity with the hapless Somali journalists and to condemn, in no uncertain terms, the continued and perilous violence against journalists and other media workers in Somalia.

2. Call upon the government of Uganda to demonstrate its stated commitment to freedom of expression, democracy and to immediately end attacks on the right to freedom of expression and of the press including the ban on media houses and live radio debate programmes.

3. Put pressure on the Gambian government to produce journalist Chief Ibrahim Manneh and to investigate the killing of Deyda Hydara

4. Demand member States to abolish all draconian laws that curtail the right to freedom of expression and of the press as stipulated in the African charter, to encourage member States to immediately enact laws of freedom of information and to decriminalise all media offenses.

5. Play the leader’s role by taking appropriate actions that would lead to the unconditional and immediate release of the journalists from prisons in Eritrea.

6. Demand Cameroonian authorities to immediately end attacks on the media and provide an independent and reliable report on the death of Bibi Ngota who died in pre-trail detention.

7. Implement the recommendations on Zimbabwe that was adopted by the commission during the 46th session requesting the special rapportuer on freedom of expression to conduct a fact-finding and investigative mission to Zimbabwe and to repeal article 79 and 80 of Access to information and protection of privacy act (AIPPA).

8. Convene a high-level panel on the protection of journalists in Africa in the 48th session of the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights.

9. Conduct a fact finding mission to Tunisia for an objective and documented assessment of the situation of a pluralistic and independent media, freedom of association, the independence of the judiciary and the detention of prisoners of opinion.

10. Put pressure on all governments and armed groups to adhere and respect their international obligations to bring to an end the culture of impunity, to foster lasting peace and the rule of law, and to bring to an end the fear of journalists to be killed, tortured, injured, kidnapped and being held hostage, especially in conflict areas.

 

Done at Banjul, May 10th, 2010

Resolution of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa

We, the participants to the NGO Forum in preparation of the 47th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Recalling “the inherent dignity of and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” and that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that all human rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible, and interrelated;

Affirming that “human beings of all sexual orientation and gender identity are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights” as established in the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity;

Further recalling Article 2 and 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Resolution 69[XXXV]04 on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Africa;

Noting the failure by states to ensure the enjoyment of the right to the highest attainable standard of health by everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity, which has impacted to the scourge of HIV in communities of men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with women (WSW) despite the proven impact of the pandemic in these communities and the population at large;

Notwithstanding that human rights protection for all women are guaranteed in various international instruments including the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security which deals with the impact of conflict situations on women and girls especially as victims of sexual violence, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Resolution on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Women and Girls Victims of Sexual Violence, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, Article 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, states continue to fail in their obligation to protect the rights of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women;

Noting that Article 60 of the African Charter requires the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to draw inspiration from the content of other international treaties and laws, and further noting that articles 2(1) and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which all African states are party, establish the principle of non discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, as elaborated by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and that U.N. treaty bodies and Special Procedures, including the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture and other inhuman, degrading and cruel punishments and treatments, the UN Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, have consistently held that all U.N. treaties include protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity;

Further noting the continuing and increasing human rights violations against individuals and communities on the basis of their sexual orientation and  gender identity, which include arbitrary arrests, detentions, extra-judicial killings and executions, forced disappearances, extortion and blackmail, hate speech, violent attacks, including rape and other sexual assault, physical assaults, torture and murder, as well as the failure of protecting the rights to safety and security of the person, freedom of movement and association, freedom of expression;

Recognizing that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are not a homogenous group and that certain identities including race, ethnic and social origin, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as legal, economic, social and cultural situations disproportionately impact on their experiences and access to the full enjoyment of all rights and freedoms;

Particularly alarmed for the situation of hatred and persecution against individuals on grounds of their perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity by state and non-state actors, especially in Malawi, Kenya, and Uganda, that led the Ugandan Parliament to consider a piece of legislation, the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, whose draconian measures would lead to extreme persecution of individuals because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as of anybody who would be suspected of supporting human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals in or outside the country, and to violations of human rights of privacy, non-discrimination, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and ultimately to a disruption of the democratic order.

Call for urgent and sustained action by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to ensure the realization of the full range of human rights for all people living on the African continent, in particular people whose sexual orientation and gender identity render them more vulnerable.

And further calls on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to adopt a resolution to:

1. Acknowledge the continuing and increasing incidence of human rights violations, including murder, rape, assault, persecution and imprisonment based on perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity on the continent as a problem requiring urgent action;

2. Condemn these acts of human rights violations;

3. Condemn discrimination and exclusion of individuals and communities from the enjoyment of rights and the full realization of their potential because of their sexual orientation and gender identity;

4. Specifically condemn the situation of hatred and systematic attacks by state and non-state actors against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals and, more in general, against any human rights defenders who is operating for the protection of LGBTI human rights in Malawi, Kenya and Uganda, with a particular attention for the draconian legislation under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament;

5. Mandate the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women and the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression to coordinate a Special Committee to investigate, document and report on these violations in order to develop appropriate responses and interventions;

6. Create a mechanism to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity;

7. Ensure that states put in place mechanisms for access to HIV prevention treatment and care  services for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation  and gender identity.

8. Strongly urge states to:

a. Comply with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other binding international treaties, by repealing laws which criminalise non-heteronormative sexualities and gender identities, such as laws criminalizing sexual conducts between consenting adults of the same sex, or laws banning cross-dressing, and by amending other laws that are implemented with the purpose of persecuting individuals and communities based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, such as laws against indecency, impersonation, and debauchery, among others.

b. End impunity for acts of violation and abuse, whether committed by state or non-state actors, by enacting appropriate laws, ensuring proper investigation, arrests and punishment of the perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures favorable to the victims.

c. Protect the right of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, to freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom to participate in civil society and key decision-making organs of government.

 

Done in Banjul, May 1oth, 2010

Resolution on the Situation in Ethiopia

We, participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia,

Considering the provisions of the Constitutive Act of the African Union 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 United Nations (UN) 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 ongoing harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and prosecution of human rights defenders ever since the contested elections of 2005;

Deeply concerned by the highly restrictive Charities and Societies Proclamation, which was passed by the Ethiopian Parliament in January 2009 which undermines the activities of human rights defenders in the country and thwart 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 an increase in the cases of harassment of private media journalists and censorship in governmental media;

Expressing concern for the recently passed Anti-Terrorism Proclamation notably its broad definition of terrorism, terrorist acts and the sweeping powers it gives to the police and the lack of judicial oversight mechanisms that risk to criminalise peaceful political protests as well as further restrict freedom of expression;

Deeply concerned that the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism legislation are imposing a chilling effect on human rights activities and are silencing human rights defenders;

Noting that harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders undermines efforts to bring ongoing human rights violations, notably in the run up to the general elections on 23 May 2010, to the attention of the international community and risks to undermine the fairness and freeness of the elections;

Hereby call on the ACHPR to take all necessary measures to pass a resolution:

1. Encouraging the Ethiopian authorities to repeal the Charities and Societies Proclamation or to significantly amend it, notably provisions under article 2 defining Ethiopian Charities and Resident Charities, and Article 14 that excludes organisations receiving more than 10% of their funding from foreign sources from working in areas including human rights in order to ensure an enabling environment for human rights organisations;

2. Calling on the Ethiopian authorities to amend the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to ensure that it complies with the country’s national, regional and international human rights responsibilities;

3. 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;

4. Calling on the Ethiopian government to recognize the importance of the participation of civil society organisations in particular human rights defenders in all state party reporting processes to international and regional human rights bodies;

5. 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;

6. Calling on the Ethiopian government to recognise and officially accredit local independent civil society organisations to observe the general elections on 23 May 2010;

7. 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;

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

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

 

Done in Banjul, May 10th, 2010

Resolution on the Situation in Somalia

We, participants of Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR),

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 ratified and domesticated by the former Democratic Republic of Somalia;

Welcoming the appointment of a government of unity through the UN-brokered Djibouti Peace Process, between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) as a key step to a wider peace process that will include all parties involved in the conflict;

Deeply concerned by the continued violations of international humanitarian law notably the indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian areas and objects, use of human shields, arbitrary and targeted killings of civilians, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and denial of access to medical treatment and food in internally displaced camps;

Deeply disturbed by the high levels of sexual and gender-based violence being carried out by all actors involved in the conflict;

Deploring the recent and continuing targeting and kidnapping of aid workers rendering it particularly difficult for these groups to carry out their vital work;

Condemning the involvement and responsibility of all actors involved in the conflict, notably the TFG and ARS forces, and the insurgents, especially Al-Shabab, in the deteriorating human rights situation;

Deeply concerned by the lack of accountability for past and present violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, clearly exacerbating the conflict;

Concerned by the alleged implications of the AMISON peacekeeping troops in indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas;

Further considering Somalia’s obligations under the United Nations (UN) 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;

Deeply disturbed by the widespread violations of freedom of expression and the systematic and ongoing attacks being committed against human rights defenders, particularly journalists;

Deeply concerned by the situation of women human rights defenders in Somalia or defenders involved in women’s rights and issues, that are perceived as culturally sensitive, and who as a result face additional gender-specific risks and violations in the course of their human rights work;

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

Hereby Call on the ACHPR to take all necessary measures to pass a resolution:

  • Calling on the new Government of Unity to allow for the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry in order to ensure prompt, impartial, effective and independent investigations into all cases of human rights violations, both past and present, particularly those affecting human rights defenders;
  • Encouraging the new Government of Unity to establish accountability mechanisms which conform with international standards of independence and impartiality in order to bring an end to impunity and ensure that all actors responsible for current and past abuses are held accountable for their actions;
  • Calling on the TFG and the ARS to ensure the observance of the provisions of the Djibouti Peace Accords and to extend the national dialogue to include the remaining armed groups within the Accords;
  • Calling on all actors involved in the conflict to immediately end  attacks on humanitarian workers and to allow for humanitarian access;
  • Calling on the TFG, ARS and insurgents to bring an immediate end to arbitrary arrests, harassments, systematic attacks and targeted killings of all human rights defenders, and more particularly journalists;
  • Encouraging new Government of Unity to ensure the protection of defenders and to create an enabling environment for them to pursue their legitimate work;
  • Calling on the African Union, in collaboration with the United Nations Security Council, and other relevant UN bodies, to support the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate the human rights and humanitarian law violations committed
  • Encouraging all member States of the African Union to provide support – logistical, political and financial – to entities and bodies that can monitor and report on past and current human rights abuses and can help to establish impartial and independent accountability mechanisms ;
  • Calling on the African Union to ensure that mechanisms are established which will ensure that the members of the TFG forces and AMISON responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian laws are held to account.

 

Done in Banjul, May 10th, 2010

Resolution on Extra judiciary Killings in Kenya

We, participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Considering that Kenya 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 ratified and domesticated by Republic of Kenya;

Deeply concerned by the Human Rights Violations perpetrated by the State security agents consisting of the Kenya Army, Kenya Police and provincial administrators on the residents of Mt. Elgon district under the guise of “operation Okoa Maisha” (operation save lives) to quell an insurgency by the Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) an armed militia formed in 2005 to resist governments efforts to evict squatters from the Chebyuk area of Mt. Elgon district.

Deploring the Kenyan Government continued denial of the allegations of torture perpetrated by its state security agents in the Mt. Elgon region.

Condemning the failure of the government to conduct prompt and impartial investigations as required under Article 12 of the Convention against Torture.

Deeply concerned by the lack of accountability for past and present violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, clearly exacerbating the conflict;

Hereby call on the ACHPR to take all necessary measures to pass a resolution:

  • Calling on the Government to allow for the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry in order to ensure prompt, impartial, effective and independent investigations into all cases of human rights violations, both past and present.
  • Encouraging the Government to establish accountability mechanisms which conform with international standards of independence and impartiality in order to bring an end to impunity and ensure that all actors responsible for current and past abuses are held accountable for their actions;
  • Calling on The Kenyan parliament to come up with a legal framework that eliminates secrecy and lack of accountability in future initiatives by joint security agencies while preserving law and order.
  • Encouraging all member States of the African Union to provide support – logistical, political and financial – to entities and bodies that can monitor and report on past and current human rights abuses and can help to establish impartial and independent accountability mechanisms;
  • Calling on the African Union to ensure that mechanisms are established which will ensure that the members of the Kenyan State Security Agencies responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian laws are held to account.

 

Done at Banjul, May 10th, 2010

Recommendation on the Holding of a Regional Forum on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on the Role of Women in Peace and Security in Africa

Considering the central role that women continue to play in conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa;

Considering that women continue to pay the greatest price in time of armed conflicts in Africa as recently illustrated to the tragedy of 28 September 2009 at the Conakry Stadium in Guinea;

Taking note of the commemoration by the United Nations of the 10th anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325 in October 2010 and,

Reaffirming the relevance and centrality of this resolution and subsequent ones to the respect, promotion, protection and realization of women’s rights in Africa,

The Forum on the Participation of NGO to the 47th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

Urges the African Commission to organize with the support of the AU Commission, UNOWA, OHCHR and UNIFEM, in collaboration with the NGO Forum, a regional forum on the implementation of UN/SCR/1325 in Africa.

The NGO Forum further commit its members to fully contribute to the success of the above-mentioned Africa Forum on 1325, and to strengthen their effort toward an effective popularization on Resolution 1325 with an emphasis on rural women using appropriate medium of communication.

 

Done at Banjul, May 10th, 2010

Recommendation on observer status for LGBTI NGOs

Recalling that in order to be granted observer status before the African Commission, an applying NGO 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 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 the NGOs whose activities and objectives extend to the protection and the promotion of 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 the 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 46th 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 NGOs in accordance with article 2 of the African Charter.

 

Done in Banjul, May 10th, 2010

Recommendation on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

We participants at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the work of the 47th Session of the African Commission on Human Rights,

Recognising that Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) world over, and Africa in particular are amongst the poorest of the poor, living lives characterized by countless disadvantages, oppression, deprivation and with almost all their rights being violated every day.

Considering that over 600 million people, or approximately 10% of the world’s population, have a disability of one form or another, while eighty per cent (80%) of PWDs live in developing countries (SADPD1, PWDs updates, 2008) where most African states lie. 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school (UNICEF, Disabled Children in mainstream schools, 2003).

Considering that the link between disability and poverty and social exclusion is direct and strong throughout the African continent; many people are disabled by malnutrition, hunger and diseases, environmental hazards, natural disasters, traffic and industrial accidents, civil conflict and war.

Considering that the legal frameworks in the African states to protect the rights of PWDs are still limited, while laws and policies formulated do to include implicitly of issues affecting PWDs, thereby leading to the designing of programs and activities that take little or no consideration to address the poverty situation of PWDs in Africa states.

Considering that many person with disability, especially children are kept at home and restricted from participating in family life, contributing to the exclusion and segregation of persons with disabilities and infringes on their freedoms which is a denial of their most basic rights.

Considering that persons with disabilities are excluded from education and employment in most cases because there are institutional, environmental and attitudinal barriers that limit PWDs from equal access to services and independent living; Considering that the legal and policy frameworks protecting the rights of the PWD are not well known and in many cases not implemented at both the national and international levels;

Hereby recommend that the African Commission:

  • Adopts a policy position on sign language and Braille communications to make their work accessible to the deaf and visually impaired;
  • Separates the working group on Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities since there are considerable normative and fundamental differences between the two issues;
  • Urges African Union member states to ratify, domesticate and implement all international legal and policy human rights instruments, particularly those aimed at alleviating the lives of persons living with disability;
  • Put in place a disability friendly African Commission that is accessible to PWDs in terms of sign language, Braille version communication, audio materials, accessible offices and office toilets, among other considerations;
  • Consults and involves the DPOs and PWDs in its work, particularly in addressing disability rights;

Further recommend that the Forum on the Participation of NGOs:

  • Facilitate the participation of and create access to PWD by also adopting a policy position on sign language and Braille communications;
  • Facilitate a panel on PWDs rights in the next NGO Forum, to ensure that information on, rights of, and indeed structural and environmental concerns of PWD are given visibility and thereby create better understanding of the situation.

 

 

Done at Banjul, May 10th, 2010