Summary Report of the NGOs Forum preceding the 51th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 25th African Human Rights Book Fair: 14-16 April 2012 – Banjul, The Gambia

The Forum on NGO Participation in the Work of the 51st Ordinary Session on the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the 25th African Human Rights Book Fair, organised and facilitated by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the NGO Forum Steering Committee was held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, in Banjul, The Gambia from 14-16 April, 2012.

The Forum brought together over 200 participants and facilitators from over 26 countries in Africa and included participants from in Europe, and the United States. The participants and facilitators were generally from Non-Governmental Organisations with a few representatives from National Human Rights Institutions and government non-governmental organisations in the deliberations. Five Commissioners participated at one point or another. A number of Commissioners of the African Commissioners or steered the discussion in the Special Interest Working Groups relevant to their mandates. This participation was noted and welcomed by all participants, which was a source of motivation.

The three-day activity was declared open by Hon. Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa on behalf of the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); The keynote address presenting an overview of the situation of human rights and democracy in Africa was delivered by Madame Souhayr Belhassen, President of the FIDH (International Federation of Human rights Leagues). Various representatives including the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lamin Jobarteh, who welcomed participants; A Representative of the NGO Forum Steering Committee – Mrs. Paulette Oyane-Ondo; and the Executive Director of ACDHRS made statements at the opening ceremony.  The occasion was chaired by Mr. Mohammed Mabassa Fall, Executive Committee Member, Governing Council, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies.

The programme was guided by the provisional agenda for the 51st  Ordinary Session of the African Commission circulated prior to this meeting and prepared in consultation with participants and the Secretariat of the African Commission respectively, with the aim to review and formulate strategies and recommendations on the following themes:

  • New Developments in the human rights and democracy situation in Africa:  The inaugural presentation by Madame Souhayr Belhassen highlighted the state of human rights and democracy in Africa as well as the rights of specific groups. She acknowledged the progress made by some states and noted the deterioration in others due to armed conflict, tribal wars, calamities and environmental degradation and failure in constitutional obligations. In the session that ensued, The Forum then concentrated much attention on the two countries whose country reports would be considered at the 51st Session, namely Sudan and Angola. Reports on Sudan, while praising an African Charter compliant country tolerant enough to allow a woman to run for the presidency, the voices remained equally critical of the continuing genocide and impunity in that country.  In a presentation supported by film footage, Angola was depicted as having made some positive strides especially developments in meeting the MDGs, the brutal suppression of the freedom of expression, freedom of association and the curtailment of freedom of information was a cause for concern as were severe violations of the rights of women.  Corruption and nepotism, it was pointed out, is a syndrome in both countries.  Diverse situations were raised, including legislations to muzzle freedom of the press and media and the hazardous situation of human rights defenders, among others.
  • Considering the conflicting array of news coming out of Mali, and the interest it has been stirring in Africa and beyond, The Forum was also briefed on the situation.  The worsening humanitarian crisis in that country torn in two with various rebel factions in the northern half struggling for independence while the other half is recovering from the rude shock of a coup d’état barely a month before elections which has tarnished the 20 years of democracy in that country. The need for humanitarian assistance was a matter of urgency as famine is creeping in that Sahelian landlocked country.
  • Guinea Bissau was also reviewed in the aftermath of its inconclusive elections. Other issues of concern and raised included the rising unrest of the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria; the increase in violent repression of non-violent demonstrations in many African countries including Tunisia;  the developments following the Arab Springs; forthcoming elections, especially Egypt; repressive laws and pending bills before parliaments against people of different sexual orientation and gender identities particularly in Cameroon, Liberia, Malawi and Uganda; the situation and growing impunity in some countries including DRC, Burundi and Somalia, among others
  • Thematic special interest groups reviewed the situation relating to Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons; Minorities and Indigenous Persons; Women and Children; the Death Penalty. Human Rights Defenders; the International Criminal Court; Torture; the African Court; the International Criminal Court; and Freedom of the Press; Torture; Prison conditions and many others as well as proposed strategies for effective networking and participation in the African Commission.
  • In reviewing the positive developments best practices were show cased.  Women and property rights were highlighted, with an emphasis on ownership rather than just possessory rights.  Beneficiaries of the project have made strides in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Tanzania and elsewhere in interventions providing legal aid as well as making the linkages between knowledge, ownership and HIV/AIDS.  It was noted however, that in spite of much success, sustainability after donor withdrawal remains a challenge faced by a number of the grantees.
  • Another best practice was the operationalisation of UN Resolution 1325 as an ideal mandate for the participation of women in the political process and the example of the ‘Situation Room’ as a tool that has trained women to take their place in the electoral processes was also shared reinforcing advocacy for greater involvement of women in the electoral process successfully implemented in Liberia and Senegal. However, the challenge of meeting the quota for women’s representation remained.
  • In continuing the celebration of 100 years of women’s rights advocacy, The Forum highlighted many other developments including discussion on reproductive health and rights centred around Article 14 (1) (e) and (d) of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.
  • Emphasis was also made on the need to further develop advocacy strategies for the universal ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa as well as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. 
  • The intersection between HIV/AIDS and human rights promoted the use of the Protocol as one of the main tools to address this endemic was reviewed bearing in mind the fact that women suffer much more than men under the scourges of this pandemic, especially under a climate of violence against women.
  • The disturbing situation of human rights defenders was brought to the fore with the viewing of a poignant film show on “The Chebeya Affair : A State Crime” a chronicle of an exceptional trial and fascinating political thriller about the work and death of Floribert , Chebeya, the late human rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • The Forum discussed in depth the issue of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information led by the African Platform on Access to Information campaign. Rooted in the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa and the Windhoek Declaration on Press Freedom. It was worthy to note that 18 AU member states provide constitutional guarantees to access to information. The Forum was urged to endorse the need for governments and relevant bodies to advance the right of access to information.
  • Furthermore, discussion on state broadcast systems taking into consideration the values entrenched in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa revealed that reform has been slow. The call was therefore raised for the urgent transformation of public broadcasters to unfettered systems free from political interference and governed by independent boards answerable to parliaments. Access, it was opined, is no longer a media or journalism matter but is about human rights.
  • The intersection between human rights violations and extractive industries in Africa was revisited in greater depth during this session. Presentations highlighted the environmental challenges, safety, security and the sometimes corrupt collusion with states and non state parties as well as customary law and the need to consider reparation for damage to land and society. It is evident that capitals where diamonds are mined have the poorest neighbourhoods and worst quality of lives. The Forum requests the African Commission to urge states and the international community to address the situation by developing and or harmonising legislation to reflect rights and environmental protection as well as other accountability and monitoring mechanisms in collaboration with human rights groups. In the same vein, it was also agreed that reparation should be given much attention.
  • In line with the objectives of the Networking for Human Rights in Africa session, which was geared towards the provision of more information between the three main partners i.e. the African Commission; States; and Civil Society, in the development and maintenance of an effective human rights community, the Forum was updated on some of the advocacy interventions by civil society at the UN Human Rights Council in three main areas of interest to the Forum, namely the case of Eriteria, Libya and LGBTIs.  A degree of success was registered in all three cases.
  • Opportunities for networking and collaboration continue to be at the core of Forum. It was therefore worthy to note that networking and collaboration continues to be one of the objectives of the Forum. Relationships among civil society and between civil society and other partners especially the African Commission were examined to consolidate on the strategies for effective collaboration between these groups with a common goal of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa. Civil Society access to support and collaborate with this network among others was revisited and shared among participants. Consultations were held to enhance the development of the Defending Civil Society toolkit developed by World Movement for Democracy seeking to address principles that enhance the observance and respect of human rights defenders in a bid to collect and share various tips and inputs for the sharing of information.

As is usual, the sessions were well attended and characterised by a dynamic and interactive participation coupled with a sense of purpose as well as constructive exchanges of information, experiences and expertise. Participants approached their work with much determination, energy and objectivity. We recognized and applaud the progress made by the African Commission and its mechanisms to ensure the effective promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.

The Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the Work of the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was declared closed by the Chargée d’Affaires of the European Union Mission in the Gambia, Madame Agnés Guillaud. The Representative of the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Dr. Salah Hammad gave an update on the development of the Human Rights Strategy for Africa, the Africa Governance Architecture; the Africa Governance Platform and the Year of Shared Values. Other speakers included H.E. Mrs. Catherine Dupe Atoki, Chairperson of the African Commission and Mr. Mohammed Mabassa Fall on behalf of the Chairperson of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies; Mr. Abdoul Gadiry Diallo, a member of the NGO Forum Steering Committee. The vote of thanks was made by Sister Gertrude.

On behalf of the Forum, Resolutions and Recommendations have been formulated and will be forwarded, to the African Commission for their kind consideration. The Forum took the liberty of reviewing some of these resolutions and recommendations from the previous Forum. They will also be shared with all interested partners.

It is worthy to note that all the recommendations and resolutions below were adopted unanimously by consensus except for the one on Refugees and Migrants which was put to the vote:

1. Thematic Resolutions

TRES/001/4/12 – Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

TRES/002/4/12 – Access to Information in Africa

TRES/003/4/12 – Freedom of Expression and Protection of Journalists in Africa

TRES/004/4/12 – Freedom of Expression in Somalia

TRES/005/4/12 – HIV/AIDS

TRES/006/4/12 – Human Rights Defenders (only in french)

TRES/007/4/12 – Older Persons and People with Disabilities

TRES/08/4/12 – Police and Human Rights

TRES/009/4/12 – Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons

TRES/0010/4/12 – Reproductive Health Rights of Women

TRES/0011/4/12 – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

2. Thematic Recommendations

TREC/001/4/12 – Death Penalty in Africa

TREC/002/4/12 – Freedom of Expression and Protection of Journalists in The Gambia

TREC/003/4/12 –  Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa

TREC/004/4/12 – Torture

3.  Country Resolutions

CRES/001/4/12 – Angola

CRES/002/4/12 – Malawi

CRES/003/4/12 – Mali (only in french)

CRES/004/4/12 – Somalia

CRES/005/4/12 –  Sudan

4. Declaration:

Natural Resources Management

5. Letters

Letter regarding the human rights situation in Eritrea

Letter regarding the recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya

ACDHRS, April 2012 – Banjul, The Gambia

Letter regarding the human rights situation in Eritrea

Dear Honourable Minister,

The participants of the above-mentioned Forum present their compliments to your respective offices.

We, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, participating at the NGO Forum and the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, are writing to call to your attention the ongoing widespread and systematic human rights violations in Eritrea and to call on African Union Member States to take urgent action to respond to this appalling situation.

In September 2001, eleven prominent government officials who demanded implementation of the Constitution and ten independent journalists were arbitrarily arrested and detained. Over ten years later, their fate is unconfirmed: while some are reported to have died in detention, the others remain in harsh detention centres without due legal process. Thousands of their fellow citizens face a similar fate. An Eritrean can be arrested and imprisoned without charge or trial for years upon end merely for being critical of the government, belonging to what the government defines as a ‘wrong’ religious group, or refusing to comply with the indefinite national service imposed on all Eritreans over the age of 18 years.

Torture, arrests, killings and forced labour are common. No independent civil society organizations have permission to operate inside Eritrea, and since 2001 there has been no independent domestic media.

The humanitarian situation in Eritrea is critical. Food is rationed and distributed by the government and severe hunger is widespread. The health infrastructure, such as it exists, cannot cope with the burden of widespread infectious diseases.

Members of Eritrean civil society in exile and their supporters have sought redress at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In two separate decisions, the African Commission has found the government to be in violation of fundamental rights contained in the Charter and requested the release of the government officials held incommunicado since September 2001 (250/02 Liesbeth Zegveld and Mussie Ephrem vs. Eritrea; November 2003) and for at least 18 journalists also held incommunicado to be given access to their lawyers (275/03 Article 19 vs. Eritrea; May 2007). To date, Eritrea has ignored both these decisions.

Concern for the situation in Eritrea has also been expressed at the United Nations. In a resolution tabled by Nigeria and Gabon in December 2011, the UN Security Council decided to extend sanctions on Eritrea. A number of UN special procedures have sent communications and requested country visits, which the government has so far ignored. Most recently in March 2012, 44 countries from all regions supported a statement at the Human Rights Council requesting the High Commissioner on Human Rights to report on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

We believe that the dire human rights situation in Eritrea merits a more sustained and serious engagement on the part of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The undersigned organisations therefore recommend:

  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to take all necessary measures for the effective implementation of their decisions and to seek support from all stakeholders, including member states of the African Union;
  • the member states of the African Union to ensure the effective implementation of the ACHPR decisions on Eritrea;
  • the members states of the African Union, especially those who are members of the UN Human Rights Council, to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur who would report to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Eritrea;
  • the Government of Eritrea to permit special mechanisms of the ACHPR and the UN special procedures unhindered access to visit the country.

While thanking you for your kind consideration, please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.

Yours Faithfully,

Hannah Forster (Mrs)

Executive Director

Chairperson, NGO Forum Steering Committee

On behalf of the participants of the NGOs Forum

achpr51-ngo forum-letter-eritrea-2012-eng (letter, PDF)

TRES/011/4/12: Resolution on the Human Rights on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Africa

We, participants at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 25th African Human Rights Book Fair held in Banjul, The Gambia from 14-16 April 2012

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 and as recently highlighted by the UN Secretary General;

Gravely concerned that instances of harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murder on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity are increasing across Africa;

Condemning the increasing clampdown on freedom of association and assembly of people on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity throughout the continent, with recent government closures of human rights workshops in Uganda, Sudan and Cameroon;

Alarmed by the increased instances of police targeting and arresting of people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, including in Cameroon, Burundi, Ethiopia and The Gambia;

Concerned that 36 African countries criminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults;

Deeply concerned that an increasing number of countries have recently introduced bills to criminalize, further criminalize and worsen the penalties for, homosexuality, including Nigeria, Liberia and Uganda;

Recalling that laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults violate the right to non-discrimination, the right to equality before the law, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to liberty and security of the person under international human rights law;

Gravely concerned at police impunity in countries where hate violence, including rape and murder, motivated by homophobia, against people on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is at an all-time high, such as in South Africa;

Noting that laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults impede access to HIV prevention, treatment and care, thereby increasing the incidences of new infections of and negative impact of HIV/AIDS throughout the continent, and thereby violating the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Acknowledging the first ever UN panel on sexual orientation and gender identity which took place in March 2012, at which the UN Human Rights Commissioner presented her report on discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which confirmed that the rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are firmly grounded in international human rights law;

Acknowledging the efforts of South Africa, Rwanda and Mauritius in working towards the protection of human rights for all, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;

Recalling that the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) affirms the right to non-discrimination under Article 2; the right to equal protection of the law under Article 3; the right to life and integrity of the person under Article 4; the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention under Article 6; the right to freedom of association under Article 10; the right to the highest attainable standard of health under Article 16; and refers throughout to the rights of ‘every individual’;

Recalling the mandate of the African Commission to protect and promote the human rights of all persons, and acknowledging that it is uniquely placed to be able to reverse the trend of criminalization and persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa through showing regional leadership, and asserting that no matter what people’s religious, cultural or personal opinions are about homosexuality, African governments have a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all persons.

Hereby call on the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights to pass a resolution:

  • Condemning persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by governments across Africa.
  • Calling on States to end impunity of state and non-state actors on violence against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Unequivocally stating that laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults violate the non-discrimination and equality provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
  • Asserting that cultural and religious rights can peacefully coexist with the rights to non-discrimination and equality.

 

  • Emphasizing that governments across Africa have a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all persons, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

  • Calling on states to cease arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

  • Calling on states to repeal laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults, and amend 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, cross-dressing, impersonation, and debauchery, among others.

 

  • Calling on states with anti-homosexuality bills pending to withdraw such bills with immediate effect.

 

  • Committing the African Commission to develop principles and standards on the prevention of persecution, discrimination and violence against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by state and non-state actors alike.  Such principles and standards should be based on the African Charter, the African Commission’s jurisprudence, and the standards elaborated by the UN human rights bodies and experts.

 

  • Committing the African Commission to developing a rigorous and effective investigation, documentation and reporting mechanism for human rights abuses on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  This should include mandating the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women and the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression, and the Working Group for the Protection of the Rights of People Living With HIV, and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV to coordinate a Special Committee to investigate, document and report on these violations in order to develop appropriate responses and interventions.

 

Done in Banjul – 16th April, 2012

TRES/010/4/12: Resolution on the Reproductive Health Rights of Women in Africa

We, participants at the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 14-16 April 2012.

Recalling that women’s reproductive rights are protected by the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which is further affirmed by the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Recalling that the African Union declared 2010 to 2020 as the Africa Women’s Decade therefore prioritising the advancement of women’s rights.

Recalling that the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa specifically recognises women’s health and reproductive rights in Article 14.

Noting that African States have committed to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals particularly MDG5 to improve maternal health by reduction of the maternal mortality ratio and improving access to reproductive health.

Alarmed that women in Africa are far from fully realising their reproductive health rights despite all the aforementioned protections due to State Parties lack of fulfilment and commitment to the same.

Deeply concerned at the lack of access to health facilities and services that has resulted in the deaths of women in Africa, as evidenced by the high maternal mortality rate in Africa.

Condemning the continued negligence of African states in actualising the reproductive health rights of women in Africa.

Therefore urge the African Commission to consider and pass this resolution and to call upon African States to prioritise the promotion, protection and advancement of the reproductive health rights of women in Africa and to take immediate steps to:

  • Enact legislation, formulate policies and other measures to fulfil their obligations under the African Charter and the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa;
  • Take positive steps to ensure the implementation of existing legislation and policies that provide for the protection and promotion of women’s reproductive health rights;
  • Reform and repeal those laws and policies that restrict access to safe abortion services and put women’s lives at risk on a daily basis;
  • Lift reservations placed on the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which defeat the realisation and promotion of women’s rights as intended by the Protocol, in particular reservations entered against Article 14, which guarantees women’s reproductive health rights;
  • Take immediate steps to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality in Africa, by ensuring provision of reproductive health care, including access to safe abortion services, as stipulated by the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa;
  • Promote the reduction of unplanned pregnancies by ensuring women have regular access to family planning education and services;
  • Allocate sufficient resources towards health and reproductive health care programmes and adhering to the Abuja Declaration to scale up government funding for health to at least 15%.

Done in Banjul 16 April, 2012

TRES/009/4/12: Resolution on the Rights of Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Displaced Persons

We, participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Banjul from 14-16 April, 2012;

Recalling the resolution on the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and displaced persons adopted by the African NGO Forum in Banjul October 21, 2011 and submitted to the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples;

Deeply concerned by the recent mass arrests targeting hundreds of sub-Saharan  nationals, including women and children in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou by Mauritanian security forces, their detention and their collective deportation towards the borders with Mali and Senegal;

Deeply concerned by the increase, since last fall, of violent roundups, robbery leading in some cases to killings of sub-Saharan nationals, including refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and pregnant women in major cities of Morocco and the region of Nador and Oujda and mass-expulsion towards the Algerian border;

Deeply concerned by the situation of 200 000 Malians who fled their country, in particular the lack of assistance to states where these refugees are located;

Deeply concerned by the proliferation of detention centers for migrants in many African countries;

Deeply concerned by increasingly restrictive asylum policies resulting in unreasonable length of asylum request processing time and the very low number of refugee status given in particularly in Senegal and South Africa;

Deeply concerned by the lack of access to justice and legal assistance;

Condemn the numerous violations of human rights protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ committed in the course of these events, including the principle of non-discrimination (Article 2), the right to respect for life and physical and moral integrity of the person (Article 4); the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 5); the prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 6); the right to a fair trial and the right to seize the competent national authorities (Article 7); the right to free movement (Article 12.1); asylum (Article. 13), the principle of due process in deportation proceedings (Article 12.4); the prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens (Article 12.5);

And finally we reiterate our request to see the resolution on the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and displaced persons of above 21 October 2001 adopted by the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples.

Done in Banjul – 16 April 2012

TRES/08/4/12: Resolution on Policing and Human Rights

We participants of the Forum on the Participants of NGOs preceding the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 25th African Human Rights Book Fair held in Banjul from 14-16 April, 2012 hereby

  • reiterate the importance of the police sector in the  promotion and protection of human rights and resolved to pursue its efforts to facilitate domestic, regional and continental discussions on this topic;
  • urge the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to encourage and collaborate with the partners of these initiatives, which will culminate in a continental conference on Policing and Human Rights in 2013, and
  • further urge the African Commission to identify mechanisms to facilitate the ongoing dialogue with the Working Group.

Done in Banjul – 16th April, 2012

TRES/007/4/12: Resolution from Special Interest Group on Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities

We, the participants of the NGO Forum preceding the 51th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and 25th African Human Rights Book Fair held from 14 – 16 April 2012 in Banjul, The Gambia

Acknowledging the inclusion of experts on Disability in the Working Group on Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities and the commencement of the development of the Protocol on Older Persons; hereby the African Commission to:

  • Conclude the process of drafting the African Protocol on Older Persons.
  • Consult widely with Persons with Disabilities across regions in the drafting of the African Disability Protocol.
  • Promote, protect and defend the rights of Persons with Disability,
  • Call upon all other African governments that have not signed or ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially The Gambia, Swaziland, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire, to speedily do so in order to enable them enjoy the rights enjoin African States that have signed and ratified the United Nation enshrined in the Convention.

Done in Banjul – 16th April, 2012

 

TRES/005/4/12: Resolution on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV

We, the participants of the NGO Forum preceding the 51th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and 25th African Human Rights Book Fair held from 14 – 16 April 2012 in Banjul, The Gambia

Recalling the mandate of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to promote and protect the human rights of all people, including people living with HIV, and those at risk of, vulnerable to, and affected by HIV

Recognising that the HIV and AIDS pandemics in Africa are accompanied by high levels of HIV-related stigma and discrimination and other violations of rights

Recognising further that people living with HIV and those at risk of, vulnerable to, and affected by HIV are currently subjected to gross human rights violations in Africa

Recalling commitments by African member states to promote and protect human rights, and especially women’s human rights, in the context of HIV; to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on the continent; and to fulfil the commitments made in the Abuja Declaration and the African Common Position on Universal Access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010

Recalling the special resolution on the Establishment of a Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV [ACHPR/Res163(XLVII)2010] and its mandate

Noting that of all people living with HIV globally, 68% live in Sub-Saharan Africa; and 76% of all women living with HIV are situated in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2010; and that the experience of violence increases the risk of HIV transmission by them

Noting further that people living with HIV, especially women and other key populations at higher risk of HIV, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, lesbian women, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, continue to have their human rights compromised, threatened and violated in the context of, and in the response to, HIV, despite the commitment to promote and protect human rights, and especially women’s rights and the rights of people living with HIV and those at risk of, vulnerable to and affected by HIV

Particularly alarmed by legislative trends in Africa to criminalise HIV transmission and exposure, as well as the non-disclosure of HIV; and its adverse impact on women’s and other key populations’ HIV risks, the protection of human rights in the context of HIV, and the effectiveness of national and regional responses to the HIV in Africa

Particularly alarmed by the extent to which the denial of freedom of expression and association for women and other key populations at higher risk of HIV, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, lesbian women, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, and people who inject drugs not only perpetuates prevailing levels of HIV-related stigma, discrimination and other violations of rights, but also maintains limited access to and benefit from available HIV prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services

Greatly alarmed by the impact of the continuing denial of property and inheritance rights for women, leading to many women losing their homes, inheritance, possessions, livelihoods and event their children if their positive HIV status becomes known and/or if their partner dies

Deeply concerned by the impact of laws and policies that limit the access to services for people living with and at higher risk of HIV, including women and girls, young people, people in prisons, sex workers, lesbian women, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and people who inject drugs in Africa on both the risks of HIV and related rights violations and abuses

Deeply alarmed by the lack of adequate availability of and access to treatment for people living with HIV who are in need of and eligible to receive treatment and medicines

Deeply concerned further by the high levels of violence and abuse, including sexual abuse and rape, as both the cause and consequence of HIV transmission and related rights abuses

Deeply alarmed by gross human rights violations experienced especially by women, such as forced HIV testing and disclosure as part of accessing antenatal care; sterilisation without consent and forced abortions among women living with HIV; the rape and denial of access to justice for Lesbian women; harassment and violence by law enforcement agents against sex workers; and high levels of stigma, discrimination and denial of adequate access to available HIV prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services for most at risk populations, including men who have sex with men

Deeply concerned also about the lack of adequate access to timely and just legal and other redress mechanisms as and when violation of rights in the context of HIV occur for people living with HIV, those at risk of, vulnerable to and affected by, HIV

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

  • Recognise both the occurrence and impact of rights violations based on and in the context of HIV, and the response to HIV, in Africa
  • Reaffirm its commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of people living with HIV and those at risk, vulnerable to and affected by HIV, including women, girls, youth, people with disabilities, people in prison, and other key populations at higher risk of HIV, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, lesbian women, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
  • Engage all parties to repeal laws that facilitate gross human rights violation in the context of HIV and AIDS, such as the sterilisation without consent of positive women and the denial of quality and reproductive health services to women living with HIV
  • Recommend the removal of punitive laws and discriminatory legislative and policy provisions that promote human rights abuses in the context of HIV at a national and regional level
  • Criminalisation of HIV exposure and transmission, and non-disclosure of HIV
  • Mandatory and/or forced HIV testing
  • Restrictions of access to HIV information and services, due to age, sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity and/or HIV status
  • Take necessary measures to guarantee the right to freedom of expression and association by means of de-criminalisation and thus, promoting and protecting the rights and well-being of sex workers, lesbian women, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and other key populations at higher risks so as to ensure adequate access to and benefit from available HIV prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services; and thus the effectiveness of national and regional responses to HIV
  • Take necessary measures to guarantee women’s rights to property and inheritance, and to ensure that women are not forcibly evicted and/or lose their possessions and livelihoods as a result of a HIV positive status
  • Engage all state parties to take necessary measures to increase and ensure equitable access to treatment for everyone in need of and eligible to treatment in medicines
  • Ensure the provision of quality integrated services so as to facilitate that women, especially women living with HIV, and other key populations at higher risk of HIV, are treated with dignity and respect, and are free of violence, coercion, stigma and discrimination, whilst ensuring access to services based on fundamental human rights of informed consent, counselling and confidentiality
  • Recommend to member states to recommit and ensure adequate financing for healthcare so as to achieve the highest attainable standard of HIV prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services, as noted in the Abuja Declaration of 2001

Done in Banjul – 16 April 2012

TRES/004/4/12: Resolution on Freedom of Expression in Somalia

We, the participants at the NGO Forum preceding the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 25th African Human Rights Book Fair held from 14th – 16th April, 2012 in Banjul, The Gambia;

Recognizing that the effective exercise of the right to freedom of expression is an important indicator of the level of protection of other human rights and freedoms, bearing in mind that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated;

Emphasizing that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right guaranteed on the one hand by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and on the other hand, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in particular, in its Article 19), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in particular, in its Article 19) and other treaties, resolutions, international instruments and national constitutions;

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

Welcoming regional and international efforts to restore peace, and stability in Somalia, and to combat impunity, to uphold fundamental human rights and to hold accountable individuals accused of planning, executing, condoning or encouraging the commission of human rights abuses;

Concerned that the Somali people are denied their fundamental human rights and dignity as enshrined in African Charter of Human and People’s Rights and other international human rights mechanisms;

Noting that violence in Somalia remains a powerful influence that enforces a culture of silence and impunity as the violence and fear of violence affects the work of journalists and the enjoyment of freedom of expression and fundamental human rights;

Deeply concerned that violations of the right to freedom of expression continue to occur, including increased attacks directed against, and killings of, journalists, and stressing the need to ensure greater protection for all journalists;

Apprehensive of the grave reality that Somalia is the most dangerous place in Africa today for journalists and other media workers, and that since January 2012 four journalists have been killed in targeted attacks;

We call upon the African commission to do the following:

  • To urge the Somali authorities and international community to establish and     support an independent commission of enquiry or alternative independent      mechanism to conduct thorough and independent investigations into all instances of violence and threats of violence against Somali journalists, including soaring cases of murder, and bring those responsible to justice;
  • To condemn criminal acts against journalists and the right of freedom of     expression, and take appropriate actions to end the hostility to independent media    and to hold the violators of journalists rights accountable.

Done in Banjul – 16th April, 2012

 

TRES/003/04/12: Resolution on Freedom of Expression and Protection of Journalists in Africa

We participants to the NGO Forum in the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 25th African Human Rights Book Fair held from 14th-16 April, 2012 in Banjul, The Gambia

Conscious that Freedom of Expression plays a vital role in the effective enjoyment of all other human rights and conscious that the assuring safety and security of journalists forms an integral part of the protection of the rights to information

Horrified by the killing of four journalists in Somalia these last five months

Denouncing the increasing of physical attacks of journalists/media houses by both state agents and non-state agents in African state like Tunisia, Guinea Conakry, Angola, Sudan, Senegal, Mali, Guinea Bissau

Noting that these physical attacks are systematic in critical periods or situations such as of electoral campaigns, demonstrations, coups, etc.

Concerned by the persistence of lawsuits against journalists affiliated and human rights activists in most African countries as it is the case in Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, in Zimbabwe

Noting that these lawsuits are favoured by the existence in these countries of inadequate legal frameworks touching to freedom of expression and access to information

Further concerned by the prevalence of illegal arrests and detentions of journalists on the continent, namely in The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire and in Eritrea where 32 journalists are still in jail with some of them reported dead

Noting that journalists continue to be seriously threaten, discredited, humiliated or impoverished in relation to their work by the state machinery using comprehensive systems to weaken or suppress independent journalism as it is the case in Ethiopia and Burundi where terrorism charges are used against journalists; in Sudan with the government security agents systematically raided private media houses after publication and confiscated large publication forcing these media houses to lose lot of revenue while at the same time prosecuting journalists . In the same vein the government is also buying out some of the private media, with a mission to entirely change the editorial line and focus. Journalists are specifically targeted and attacked with impunity while covering demonstrations.

Recalling the 2002 Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and previous resolutions, particularly the 2011 resolution on freedom of expression, access to information and protection of journalists

We recommend the African Commission to:

  • To follow up on the effective application of the Declaration and resolutions by facilitating country visits of the Special Rapporteur on FoE/AI in the countries mentioned
  • To urge African states to stop killings, physical attacks, malicious and illegal lawsuits against journalists as well as the any other machinery geared towards the suppression of freedom of expression
  • To urge African Union member States to engage in transforming state broadcasters into independent public media that are free from any type of interference
  • To urge African states to adopt access to information laws

Done in Banjul- 16th April, 2012