Message of H.E. Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner, Commissioner for Political Affairs, on the occasion of Africa Human Rights Day 21 October 2006

    Twenty years ago, on 21st October 1986, our Continent witnessed the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which was adopted on 27th June 1981 by Member States of the Organization of African Unity as a solemn undertaking to promote and safeguard freedom, justice, equality and human dignity in Africa.

    This undertaking was in consonance with a commitment to carry forward the vision that was first articulated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as

    The advent of a world, in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech

    and belief and freedom from fear and want, ( ) proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people’ .

    The commemoration of Africa Human Rights Day, recommended by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its Fifth Ordinary Session in April 1989, in Benghazi, Libya, is an occasion for recommitment to the cause of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the Continent and to tackle the human rights problems that are affecting and continue to affect the lives of millions of men, women and children including the challenges of poverty, conflicts, HIV/AIDS, gender based discrimination, violence against women.

    At its 7th Ordinary Session in Banjul, The Gambia, in July 2006, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, in a Declaration adopted to mark the 25th Anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, rededicated itself to ensuring respect for human and peoples’ rights as a pre-requisite for the attainment of our common vision of a united and prosperous Africa and reaffirmed its confidence in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

    Indeed, the promotional work of the ACHPR and sustained endeavours in the execution of its protective mandate have contributed to the establishment of an African human rights jurisprudence and doctrine, which are being enriched with the adoption of supplementary instruments such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and Protocols to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

    At the swearing in of the Court’s first Judges on 2nd July 2006 in Banjul, The Gambia, I reiterated that the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights will complement the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the synergy and collaboration between the two mechanisms will no doubt enhance the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights and freedoms as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This development is also a manifestation of the African Union’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights on the Continent.

    The Commission of the African Union commends Member States that have already ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and calls upon those that have not yet done so, to urgently do so in order to make the Court a truly Pan-African Mechanism in the same way as they overwhelmingly ratified the African

    Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Needless to say, this new African Mechanism, if it is to be as effective as envisaged, needs the full support of all Member States.

    The Commission of the African Union also calls upon all Member States that have not yet done so, to urgently sign, ratify, domesticate and respect international and regional human rights instruments, including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

    The fulfillment of the African Union’s human rights agenda, which constitutes the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant instruments and indeed one of the cardinal principles and objectives of the African Union’s Constitutive Act, requires the active participation of all stakeholders, including inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, and individuals in and outside the Continent.

    On this Africa Human Rights Day, I wish therefore to solemnly call on everyone, to work together and redouble our efforts to make human rights a reality for present and future generations of our cherished Continent.

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