Statement by Mrs Hannah Forster on behalf of Participants of the Forum of NGOs at the Official Opening of the 48th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR

Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 48th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 10th November 2010, Sheraton Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia

Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of The Gambia, Mr. Edward Anthony Gomez;

Your Excellency, Commissioner for Political Affairs, African Union Commission (DPA/AUC), Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner;

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

Honourable Vice Chairperson and Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR);

Honourable President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Gerard Niyungeko, and Member, Justice Modibo Tounty Guindo;

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

Mr. Musa Gassama, Special Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, East Africa Regional Office;

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

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;

Honourable Salamata Sawadogo, Minister for Human Rights of the Republic of Burkina Faso;

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 Ministers;

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

As a representative of the NGO Forum Steering Committee, it is a privilege for me to stand before this august gathering, charged with the responsibility to deliver a statement on behalf of my colleagues of the Forum on the Participation in the 48th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.  I would, therefore, on behalf of the NGO Forum Steering Committee and all 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

We would like to express our gratitude to the Government and people of The Gambia for their hospitality, in facilitating the activities of the 48th Ordinary Session and to reiterate the appreciation of the Forum of NGOs for the continued hospitality and warmth accorded 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 190 representatives from 32 African countries participated including 40 participants from Asia, Australia, 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 increasing trend of collaboration between state and non state actors for human rights in Africa was viewed as very positive.  It was also noted that the development of a human rights strategy for Africa as well as the launching of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 were indeed a step in the right direction.

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 48th Session.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

I would crave your indulgence, however, to present to you some 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. Full details are provided in the resolutions and recommendations emanating from the Forum.

The Forum reiterated the fact that many recommendations and resolutions sent to the African Commission are yet to receive attention.

In Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda, among others, there are reports of continuing increased intimidation, harassment and homophobic attacks directed at people of different sexual orientation and gender identities. Access to justice is minimal or non-existent, while Lesbian, Gay, Bi sexual, Transgender and Intersex Women HRDs face the brunt of the violence most.  Another concern is the rejection of observer status to a group engaged in facilitating the work of LGBTI’s by your august body.

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

Consequently, we would wish to reiterate our request to the African Commission 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

The Forum would like to urge the African Commission to investigate all situations of violations with a view to propose and implement concrete steps to ensure the resolution of these situations of conflicts.  Furthermore, we request the African Commission to urge States to respect their international, regional and national commitments.

It was observed that suppression of the freedom of expression, opinion, assembly and the press remained a cause for concern on our continent with formulation of draconian laws, harassment, intimidation, killings and arbitrary detention.  The Forum agreed that the lack of independence of the judiciary contributed greatly to the aggravation of the situation. We thereby request the African Commission to express solidarity with all journalists living under extreme persecution and to urge States to abolish repressive laws while ensuring a conducive environment for the protection of journalists in Africa. The Forum also request The African Commission to urge States to respect the separation of powers to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and to adopt and endorse the Declaration of Table Mountain to repeal insult and criminal defamation laws in African countries.

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 the preparation of resolutions on countries with such disturbing prevailing circumstances relating to HRDs and to urge States to implement the UN Resolution on HRDs.

The situation of Women Human Rights Defenders remains a preoccupation and more attention should be taken to integrate and mainstream this special group into the work of namely the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.

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. It was noted that illegal migration has indeed compounded the situation, not to mention the attendant criminalisation of migration.  The Forum sincerely hopes that States would speedily ratify and implement the African Union Convention on the Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons, 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, was also raised.  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 African Commission is urged to include and provide access to these special group of persons to their sessions.

The deplorable situation of indigenous populations, was noted. 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 to 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. It is unfortunate that the Republic of Kenya is yet to implement the Commission’s ruling on relating to the Endorois community.

The Forum noted that challenges exist in the maintenance of prisons and places of detention and the use of torture in some States and hereby 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 to the systematic monitoring of prisons and places of detention as well as the use of torture.  We urge the Committee on the Prohibition of Torture in Africa (CPTA) to explore the possibilities for closer cooperation with the Sub Committee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT).

Although it was learnt that the increase in drug and sex related crimes have motivated some States to reinstate the death penalty, there is need to review alternative forms of punishment.  States are urged to respect the sanctity of life, to condemn the death penalty and to commit themselves to its abolition.

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.

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.  Furthermore, the African Commission is urged to take note of the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and to strengthen the mechanisms for the fight against impunity.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

The Forum reemphasised the necessity of popularising the various documents emanating particularly from the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Commission (ACHPR) to ensure that the messages contained therein reach the African populace.  The importance of human rights education in enhancing the work of the AUC and ACHPR cannot be overemphasised and was also underscored by representatives of the Forum.  Consequently, the participants have recommitted themselves to work individually and collectively towards the achievement of this goal.

The Forum continued 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 like to reiterate its call for the African Commission to look into the issue of citizenship and nationality as many groups in Africa are increasingly being classed as stateless.   It should be noted that 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 are affected the most.

The African Commission is urged to work with its partners 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 Her Excellency, the Chairperson, particularly on the occasion of the launching of the 30th Anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter, for the many missions and achievements registered, 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.

In the same vein, we extend our best wishes to Mrs. Lucy Asuagbor on her recent appointment as a Commissioner of this great institution.  We wish her well in her new capacity.

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.

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 African Peer Review Mechanism process has been proposed.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Participants to the Forum of NGOs reiterated their satisfaction for the continuing elaboration process 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 Department for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission to campaign for its speedy ratification and implementation.

The Forum applauds the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission in particular, for such an initiative. The participants while appreciating their involvement in the process, pledge their resolve to support the Department for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, as it leads this process and assure them of our readiness to play our part.

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.

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 28 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. The recent launch of the African Women’s Decade was also lauded considering that it also provided an opportunity to review and redouble efforts to further the women, peace and security agenda.

The Forum reviewed the linkages between HIV/AIDS and the provisions of the Charter and its mechanisms and wishes to acknowledge that Violence Against Women is adequately covered in the African Women’s Protocol and there was need to consider the establishment of 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 the women and girls.  Furthermore, we request that the African Commission urge states to operationalize United Nations Resolutions 1325 and 1820, particularly in the development of their national plans 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.  The development of the Case Law Analyser by HURIDOCS on ACHPR cases and decisions held by the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa is indeed a good example of the complementary role of information management for the benefit of human rights individuals and institutions.

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

I would like to conclude by extending a plea from the Forum to the African Commission to reconsider its decision regarding the rejection of observer status to an organisation working on LGBTI issues and to provide more information on this case.  The Forum reiterates 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 48th session of the African Commission, allow me to wish you, Your Excellency, and all the Commissioners a successful session.

 

Thank You

HJF /ACDHRS


Resolution on the SADC Tribunal

The SADC Summit decided at its 30th meeting to review the role, functions and terms of reference of the SADC Tribunal which is the principal judicial body in the SADC sub-region. There is nothing procedurally wrong with the review of the Tribunal as this has happened with other international and regional courts such as the European Court and the International Criminal Court.

Civil society organisations in the SADC region are concerned with the manner in which the decision was taken and the implications of that decision. The decision to review the role of the Tribunal was instigated by the Zimbabwean government’s refusal to comply with the progressive decisions it has handed down and not necessarily by a desire to strengthen its effectiveness. Coupled with the decision to review the Tribunal was the decision not to fill six vacancies on the seat of the court. The Summit’s decisions have serious implications on the independence of the Tribunal, right of access to justice and effective remedies.

In our view the decision of the SADC Summit is ultra vires the SADC Treaty and the SADC Tribunal Protocol. Whenever the terms of office of judges of the SADC Tribunal have expired the Summit shall appoint new judges or reappoint the same judges to ensure that the court has the requisite quorum to continue receiving cases. The SADC Summit’s decision is therefore not in accordance with the constitutive statutes of the Tribunal. The Tribunal is unable to receive new cases and may only deal with partly heard matters as a result of the Summit decision. We are further concerned that this decision is a violation of the independence of the SADC Tribunal as the SADC has arbitrarily and effectively suspended the operation of the SADC Tribunal.

The decision of the SADC Tribunal violates the rights of SADC citizens to access justice at the supra-national level. During the review period citizens will not be able to institute any cases before the SADC Tribunal. Further to that the rights of SADC citizens to an effective remedy is also violated given the unavailability of remedies and lack of independence of the domestic courts in the sub-region.

The NGO Forum urges the African Commission to request the SADC members States To:

Convene an extraordinary summit to reconsider its decision. In particular the SADC Tribunal should be requested to do the following:

Fill the six vacancies at the SADC Tribunal without any further delay in order to allow citizens access to court and seek redress.

Ensure the involvement of civil society and SADC citizens in the review process, the review process should be designed to strengthen the Tribunal and not to weaken its effectiveness.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2010

Recommendation on Children Rights in Africa

The Forum on the Participation of NGOs meeting on 7-9 November 2010 in Banjul, The Gambia,

Having observed the non existence of proper schools for children in many villages for children to enjoy the right to education;

Noting the deplorable state of many children as they continue to experience child abuse in various forms, including sexual violence, corporal punishment, forced and early marriage, child labour, to name but a few;

Concerned that birth registration is very low while child protection systems are not fully functional;

Concerned about the lack of specific legislation to protect children in the national legal systems thereby creating inadequate access to justice by children;

Concerned about discrimination among children relating to the rights to inherit parental property;

Deeply concerned about the lack of adequate facilities to provide protection for children, particularly for those children who were victims of war who continue to live in the street;

Hereby recommend to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to urge States to:

Explore ways to address poverty as a way of protecting children from exploitation and promoting their rights;

Formulate specific laws for children as part of national laws in countries where it does not exist;

Encourage and strengthen the African Child Rights Network to give visibility to Children’s issues;

Abolish Corporal Punishment as a form of disciplinary method for punishment for offences by children;

Establish children’s Ministry, department and or government agency to promote child rights and interest of children at state policy level;

Discourage discrimination between children by adopting legislation that recognizes the rights of all children to inherit parental property;

Provide safety nets for children by formulating laws to end the phenomenon of street children;

Further urge the Commission, as contained in previous recommendations from the Forum, to:

Reinforce its linkage and collaboration with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC);

Undertake joint mission with ACERWC to countries where there are serious violotions of children’s rights such as in D.R Congo and Algeria;

Implement the policy of providing free primary education for children to enhance the development and survival of children.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2010

Resolution on serious and systematic trade union rights violations in Africa

We, participants at the NGO Forum in preparation for the 48th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights,  from 7th – 9th Nov. 2010, in Banjul, The Gambia,

Considering that African workers have consistently been denied the right to form free trade unions and trade union leaders and activists have faced harsh treatment, including arbitrary arrest and detention;

Considering that independent and democratic trade unions in Africa have been facing severe persecution and crackdown;

Considering the indisputable and renowned role of the trade union movement in Africa in securing the independence of many African countries;

Knowing that trade union rights are human rights;

Urge the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

1.    Express strong support and solidarity for all the workers of Africa seeking the right to freedom of association and assembly.

2.    Condemn violations of human and trade union rights particularly the right to freedom of association and assembly, two of the basic pillars of human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

3.    Address the human and trade union rights situation in Africa by protecting the trade union rights and the lives of African workers as a matter of high priority in close cooperation with the African trade union movement.

4.    Call on member states of the African Union to respect their obligations under continental and international human rights standards, including all treaties to which they are party.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2010

Resolution on the African Court

The NGOs gathered at the NGO Forum appreciate the adoption adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights by the African Union. The court also appreciates the recognition of the court by Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi and Tanzania.

Further appreciative of the administrative and judicial operationalisation of the African Court, we are however concerned by the following challenges to the effectiveness of the African Court:

1.    The restrictive access provisions in respect of individuals and NGOs to enable them to take cases directly to the African Court.

2.    The fact that since the adoption of the Court Protocol only 25 African states have ratified this key human rights instrument and just 4 states have made the declaration in terms of article 34(6) recognising the competence of the Court to handle direct petitions from individuals and NGOs.

3.    The perceived lack of political will on the part of heads of states to have an accessible and effective regional human rights court.

4.    The proposal to increase the jurisdiction of the African Court to try crimes against humanity which in our view is inappropriate and not feasible given the lack of resources and political will to fight impunity on the continent.

The NGO Forum urges the African Commission to adopt a resolution to request the member states to:

  • Ensure the universal ratification of the Protocol establishing the African Court in the same way that we have the universal ratification of the African Charter that established the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  • Give due recognition to the African Court’s competence to receive directly petitions from individual and NGOs by making the special declaration in terms of article 34(6).
  • Respect the rule of law by ensuring compliance with recommendations of the African Commission and future decisions of the African Court.
  • Ensure gender balance in the composition of the African Court, which currently has two female judges out of a total complement of eleven judges.
  • Find an alternative solution for the establishment of a permanent court to deal with international criminal justice and not burden the African Court of Justice and Human Rights with further jurisdictional mandates.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2010

 

Recommendations for resolutions of the Disability Working Group

NGO Forum of the 48 ordinary Session (7-8 November 2010) of The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)

The disability working group recommends that:

1. We urge the Commission to respond to the Thematic Recommendations of the NGO Forum at the 47th Ordinary Session (8-10 May 2010):

Especially to the following:

  • Separates the working group on Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities since there are considerable normative and fundamental differences between the two issues.

2.  The ACHPR’s process in developing a Disability Protocol that addresses the human rights of PWD must actively include the participation of persons with disabilities (PWD), their organizations and their partners.

3. Given the diversity of disability, broad consultations must take place and underrepresented groups must be facilitated and encouraged to participate in the Protocol drafting.

4. Too Little information exists as to the status and rights of PWD disabilities in Africa, therefore research needs to be initiated and data gathered by the Commission.

5. Accessible information, in alternative formats, for example Braille and sign language etc. must be provided in order that persons with disabilities can meaningfully participate and be extensively included.

6. All Commissioners, Special Rapporteurs, focal points of the Commission working groups of the Commission mainstream disability rights in their areas of work.

Importantly we also call the NGO forum:

7. To Facilitate a panel on the promotion and protection of disability rights at the 49th Ordinary Session of the NGO Forum.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2010

Resolution on the absolute prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and degrading Treatment and the conditions of Detention and Prisons in Africa

We the Participants to the NGO Forum in preparation of the 48th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR),

Concerned by the conditions of places of detention, in particular overcrowding, the lack of access to health, to water and food, the absence of separation between women and men, juveniles and adults, the lack of adequate prisons and facilities for prisoners with disability, women and their children in clear violation of Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Rights (“African Charter”);

Alarmed by the lack of prompt access of detainees, especially while in police custody, to lawyers, doctors, health facilities and family members and the insufficient recording of arrested persons kept in police custody; as well as the inability of detainees to challenge conditions of detention and denial of access to their families and lawyers especially in Algeria;

Concerned by the continuous detention of mentally challenged persons in places of detention in some members states and the lack of care taken by state officials to ensure that mentally challenged persons receive adequate treatment in medical and psychological facilities;

Preoccupied by the conditions of detention of death row inmates; and the indefinite detention of death row inmates as a form of torture;

Concerned by the long delays in providing detainees with access to justice in violation of Articles 6 and 7 of the African Charter;

Concerned by the continuous existence of illegal places of detention in several Member States, and the rendition of detainees to other jurisdictions where they are subjected to torture and ill-treatment;

Concerned by the continuous practice of enforced disappearance in certain Member States, a practice which facilitates torture and ill-treatment and amount to torture in itself;

Alarmed by the widespread and continuous use of torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty by law enforcement officials and state security agents in violation of Articles 4 and 5 of the African Charter;

Condemning the fact that violation of Article 5 of the African Charter are committed in several Member States with complete impunity.

Call on the African Commission on Human and peoples’ Rights to adopt a resolution at its 48th ordinary session, urging States to:

Improve the conditions of places of detention in line with international human rights standards, in particular the Robben Island Guidelines and the articles 4 and 5 of the African Charter;

Ratify and effectively implement the Convention against Torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, particularly those States that are yet to do so;

Domesticate and harmonise the provisions of the Convention against torture into national legislation and to ensure that national legislation provides for prompt and adequate investigations into allegations of torture and to provide victims of torture with effective remedies;

Set up National Preventive Mechanisms to ensure full compliance with the Optional Protocol and to ensure that national Human Rights Organisations have full access to all persons held at all places of detention;

Ratify and fully implement the international Convention for the protection of all person from enforced disappearances;

Abolish the death penalty, particularly to prisoners on the death row; and

Implement the recommendations issued by the Commission in relation to torture and conditions of detention.

Further call on the African Commission to:

Urge the CPTA to develop a comprehensive strategic plan of action to adequately address the issue of torture and to create dynamic initiatives which will enhance existing preventive mechanisms of torture and ill-treatment in Africa.

 

Done at Banjul,  November 9th, 2010

Resolution on the violations of the rights of Human Rights Defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The NGO Forum held in Banjul, the Gambia, from November 7 to 9, 2010, on the occasion of the 48th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR),

Noting the harassment and persistent attacks against defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in violation of the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

Finding that such acts are mostly committed by members of the law enforcement agencies, by the army and the security forces and members of rebel groups, and that they occur in a context marked by the campaign waged by the authorities to denigrate the role and the work of defenders,

Noting that such acts usually remain unpunished,

Deeply shocked by the assassination of Floribert Chebeya, Executive director of Voix des Sans Voix, and by the disappearance of Fidèle Bazana, a member of the same organisation, on June 1, 2010 in the DRC,

Recalling Resolutions ACHPR/Res.69(XXXV)04, ACHPR(XXXXI)06 and ACHPR/Res.119 (XXXXII)07 on the protection and the situation of human rights defenders in Africa,

Recalling Resolution ACHPR/Res.139(XXXXIIII)08 on the Human Rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,

Recalling the Declaration adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998 on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

The NGO Forum held in Banjul, the Gambia, from November 7 to 9, 2010, on the occasion of the 48th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) calls on the ACHPR to:

1.    Request the Congolese authorities to re-open the investigation on the murder of Mr. Chebeya and the disappearance of Mr. Bazana through an independent and reliable commission of investigation and only to hold a trial respectful of the right to a fair trial as laid down in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights conducive to the punishment of all those responsible for the assassination of Mr. Chebeya and the disappearance of Mr. Bazana;

2.    Recall the primordial role of human rights defenders in the implementation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other Human Rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and in the prevention of conflicts and the advent of the Rule of Law and Democracy;

3.    Organise a debate on the situation of human rights defenders in the DRC during its next session;

4.    Adopt a Resolution:

a. Denouncing the recurrent and serious violations of the rights of human rights defenders in violation of the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;

b. Exhorting the Congolese authorities to initiate prompt, transparent and independent enquiries into all cases of violations of the rights of human rights defenders, to prosecute and bring to trial the authors before independent courts, and to punish them according to the law;

c. Calling on the Congolese authorities to create an environment favourable to the defence of human rights at the national level by taking all steps, including legislative measures, in consultation with civil society, to guarantee the rights of defenders;

d. Calling on the Congolese authorities to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of defenders in Africa by acting on his communications, and to invite the Special Rapporteur on the situation of defenders in Africa to carry out an urgent mission in the DRC;

e. Calling on the Congolese authorities to cooperate fully with the ACHPR by fully implementing its recommendations resulting from the review of the DRC periodic report during its 34th session and the its resolutions on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa and on the situation of human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

Done in Banjul, November 9th , 2010

 

Resolution on LGBTI

We participants at the NGO Forum meeting in preparation for the 48th session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples Rights  held from the 7th to the 9th November 2010 in Banjul, The Gambia,

Considering the Human Rights situation in Africa generally and, inter alia, the situation of human rights of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender persons  facing human rights violations due to their sexual orientation and gender identity in several countries particularly in Uganda, South Africa, Cameroon, Senegal and Malawi;

Considering the provisions of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Charter of the United Nations and other regional and international human rights and international humanitarian law instruments to which Member States are party;

Recalling that in order to be granted observer status before the Africa 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 the objectives of the AU under Articles 3(h) and that the promotion of gender equality, respect for human rights and the promotion of social justices are among the principles of the AU under Articles 4(1), (m) and (n);

Further recalling the Africa 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 and people;

Noting that decision of the Commission to decline the granting of observer status to a qualifying African NGO is a negation of the protective mandate of the Africa Commission and a point of departure that the human rights of all African, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity, are protected under the African Charter under Article 2.

Calls on the NGO Forum to:

  • Urge all NGOs with Observer Status to address the rejection of CAL by the Africa Commission, as a cause of concern, in their individual statements;
  • Ask all civil society groups to document and report human rights violations and state-sanctioned violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity to be able to increase the number of submissions made to the SR to facilitate their response and fact finding.

The NGO forum calls on the African Commission to:

  • Give the Coalition of African Lesbian reasons for its decision;
  • Condemn all state sanctioned violence against African people due to their sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Call on AU Member States to respect their obligation to protect  the rights of all persons within their borders against violations by non-state actors;
  • Address religiously based violence that target people due to their sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Urge all member states to repeal all legislations and policies based on discrimination against African people due to their sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Address negative cultural practices perpetuated against African people due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

Done at Banjul, November 9th, 2010