At the request of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), a human rights promotion mission was conducted in the Gabonese Republic from 13 to 18 January 2014.
The mission was conducted as part of the Commission’s promotion mandate under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). It was an opportunity for the Commission and Gabonese authorities to continue the constructive dialogue that began during the 54th Ordinary Session of the Commission held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 22 October to 5 November 2013 and at which Gabon presented its initial and combined periodic report for the period 1986-2012.
The Commission delegation was led by Honourable Commissioner Kayitesi Zainabo Sylvie, Chairperson of the Commission and Commissioner responsible for human rights promotion in Gabon. She was accompanied by Honourable Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa and Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa. They were assisted by Mrs Anita Bagona and Mr Fred Tamakloe, staff members of the Secretariat of the Commission.
The delegation held fruitful discussions with several members of ministries responsible for human rights promotion and protection, including the Prime Minister Mr Raymond NDONG SIMA. The delegation also met with Members of Parliament, members of the Supreme Court of Appeal, representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Judicial Police, the Bar Association, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Refugees, international organisations, media professionals, civil society organisations and women’s organisations.
The delegation visited the Libreville Central Prison, the Sylvia Bongo Odimba Foundation and the Centre of the NGO Agir pour le Genre. The delegation held discussions with the officials of these institutions on their plans and challenges faced.
During the various meetings and working sessions with government officials and other human rights stakeholders, the delegation discussed about the general human rights situation in Gabon, laying emphasis on the level of protection of the rights of some vulnerable groups of people such as women, children, older persons, people with disabilities, prisoners and indigenous communities. The objective was to identify best practices, affirmative action measures and where necessary, factors restricting citizens from effectively enjoying their rights.
The delegation wishes to commend the Government of Gabon for its political will and its efforts in promoting and protecting the human rights of the people of Gabon. The Government has demonstrated its political will by adopting several legislative and institutional measures and by conducting judicial reforms, as well as implementing relevant policies, plans and programmes with a positive impact on the rights guaranteed by the African Charter and other national, regional and international human rights instruments.
The delegation commends the dynamism and commitment of Gabonese civil society organisations which contribute significantly to promoting and protecting human rights despite the challenges faced in mobilising financial, material and technical resources for the success and sustainability of their programmes.
The delegation welcomes the activities implemented by the Foundation of the First Lady, Mrs Sylvia Bongo Odimba, and commends the latter in particular for her activities aimed at protecting widows and orphans in Gabon.
However, the delegation notes that there are several challenges, including the inadequate budget allocated to the Ministry of Justice, Keeper of the Seals, Human Rights and Relations with Constitutional Institutions and the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs; the lack and ineffectiveness of judicial assistance; issues of pre-trial detention, including unduly prolonged detention periods; prison overcrowding; inadequate budget allocation for health protection in prisons and the lack of social reintegration programmes for prisoners, including women and minors; the inadequate operating budget allocated to the National Human Rights Commission; the persistence of ritual crimes, child trafficking and exploitation; abuse and sexual violence against women and children; women’s limited participation in the management of political affairs; harmful traditional rites and practices affecting women’s rights; unemployment of the youth and people with disabilities; inadequate infrastructures for people with disabilities; and the lack of Government support to the work of human rights NGOs.
The Commission will present a detailed report on the conduct of the mission and the meetings held in which it will make the necessary recommendations to all the stakeholders met.
In the meantime, the delegation would like to commend the Government of Gabon for making it possible for the Commission to undertake the mission and encourages Gabon to strengthen its commitment, programmes, plans and policies to promote and protect human rights.
The delegation calls on Gabon to expedite its ratification of regional and international instruments that have not yet been ratified, in particular the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women; and make the declaration under Article 34 (6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights accepting the competence of the Court to receive cases from individuals and NGOs.
The delegation calls on the Government to implement without delay decisive measures to resolve the issues of unduly prolonged detention periods and prison overcrowding.
The delegation urges the Government of Gabon to provide the National Human Rights Commission with the necessary human and material resources to ensure its independence and for it to effectively implement its mandate.
The delegation urges the Government of Gabon to enact a quota law in order to promote and facilitate women’s participation in the management of political and public affairs.
The delegation calls on civil society organisations to continue their networking, training and resource mobilisation efforts in order to ensure human rights promotion and protection in Gabon.
The delegation calls on the international community to continue to provide the Government of Gabon and Gabonese civil society organisations with the necessary financial, material and technical resources in the area of human rights promotion and protection.
Libreville, 18 January 2014