Activities as Commissioner
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1. Madam Chair, this Report describes my activities in my capacity as member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), and Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS), and Migrants, since the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission.
2. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was established at the 36th Ordinary Session of the African Commission held in Dakar, Senegal, from 23 November to 5 December 2004.
3. I was sworn in as Commissioner of the African Commission during the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 11 November ACHPR/Res160(XLVI)09 adopted during the 46th Ordinary Session of the Commission, I appointed as Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Commissioner Bahame Tom Mukiya Nyanduga.
4. My Report is divided into two parts. Part I covers my activities as Special Rapporteur during the period under review. Part II is divided into three sections. Section I covers my activities as Commissioner. Section II gives an overview of the status of refugees on the continent and Section III provides for the conclusions and recommendations.
Ombudsman Culture and Human Rights in a Changing Society
9. On 17 and 18 December 2009, I organized, through the Egyptian Ombudsman Office, which I chair, an international conference entitled "Ombudsman Cultural Dialogue and Human Rights in a Changing Society". It was held in Cairo and 15 Ombudsman Institutions from Africa, Asia, and Europe participated. It was also attended by a considerable number of distinguished international personalities.
10. Dr. Boutros-Ghali, Chairman of the Egyptian Council for Human Rights, inaugurated the conference and Hon. Commissioner Mumba Malila, Deputy Chairperson of the ACHPR, honoured us by his presence.
11. The Conference examined the regional cooperation between Ombudsman Institutions, more specifically, the African and European experiences through the ”African Ombudsman Association" and the "European Ombudsman Institution". It also studied the role of Ombudsman Institutions with regards to societal changes generated by globalization, war against terrorism, and crises such as the food, financial and environmental crises.
Promoting the African Commission
12. There was a wide coverage in the Egyptian press on my appointment as Commissioner of the African Commission. Such coverage extended to my appointment as a Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa.
13. I was interviewed by Al-Ahram newspaper (which has the widest distribution in Egypt). I took the opportunity to promote the work of the Commission and explained the guarantees spelled out in the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights.
14. I was also interviewed by another newspaper and I appeared on the television on
15. I noticed that in Egypt as well as in most North-African countries, people know very little about the Commission. It would be useful for the Commission to explore the possibility of combining and coordinating activities with independent institutions in these countries such as National Human Rights Institutions to attract media coverage and disseminate information about the Commission and its work to the public.
Establishing the Arab Ombudsman Organization
15. Madam Chair, On 24 December, 2009, the Chairperson of the Ombudsman Institutions in he Kingdom of Morocco, Republic of Tunisia, Republic of Algeria, federal Republic of Sudan, Republic of Djibouti, Republic of Mauritania, Republic of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Republic of Egypt and El Bahrain met in Cairo and agreed to establish an entity that unites them and coordinates their efforts.
16. The organization’s objectives are to share information and experiences, undertake research, organize trainings, and promote and spread a culture of human rights. The organization also aims at consolidating democracy, strengthening the pillars of good governance and encouraging the establishment of Ombudsman Institutions in countries that have not yet done so. It was agreed that the organization’s headquarters will be located in Cairo and I was elected as its chairman.
Conference in Paris on Human Rights Universal Principles and Regional Guarantees
17. On 1 February 2010, I participated in a conference in Paris entitled "Human Rights Universal Principles and Regional Guarantees" which was organized by Mr. Jean Paul Delovoye, the French Republic’s mediator, in collaboration with Pantheon Assas University in Paris and the Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC.
18. Institutions and organizations from 57 countries participated in the conference, including Ombudsman Institutions, mediators, and national and other independent human rights institutions from member states of the Council of Europe and of the League of Arab States. Representatives also attended the conference from the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, the International Organization of the Francophonie, the Council of Europe, the League of Arab States and the European Ombudsman Institute (E.O.I).
19. During this conference, participants had a constructive dialogue on the concepts of universalism and relativism of human rights by focussing on the issue of the death penalty, gender discrimination, freedom of speech and other related issues. As the conference dealt with regional guarantees, it was a good opportunity for me to explain that two third (2/3) of the Arab World is composed of African citizens gathered in 10 African countries, members of the African Union. Consequently, they can enjoy the guarantees of the African Charter since all African and Arab countries in Africa have signed and ratified this instrument.
Celebrating 50 years since the creation of the African Association
20. Madam Chair On 4 May, 2010, I was invited to lecture at the African Association in Cairo, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary since its creation. The central topic of my presentation was on the African Charter and other instruments of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
21. After the lecture, the question of dividing Africa into South Sahara and North Sahara was raised. I explained how colonial powers were keen to see Africa divided and how they tried to make us believe that the Sahara is a barrier between South and North Africa. But the old African leaders were able to overcome all the difficulties and to unite Africa by establishing the Organization of African Unity and were able to prove to the world that the Sahara can be a bridge and not a barrier. I revealed my worries that the concept of Sahara as a barrier is coming back to our minds and unfortunately some of us are accepting this as a fact.
Activities as Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons
Conference on Migration in the African-Arab World
5. Madam Chair, From 7 – 9 December 2009, I participated in an International Conference on Migration in the African-Arab world. The conference was held in Cairo and was organized by the Egyptian Council for Human Rights in partnership with UNESCO. National Institutions for Human Rights in Africa and in the Arab world were invited
6. The Conference was also attended by many distinguished international figures including Dr. Boutros-Ghali, Chairman of the Egyptian Council for Human Rights and former UN Secretary-General, Mr. Abdou Diouf, Secrétaire-Général de la Francophonie, Frederico Mayer, UNESCO’s former Director General, Irine Bokova UNESCO’s new Director General, and other prominent personalities from Africa, Asia, and Europe.
7. The Conference examined South-South migration and highlighted the role of national and international human rights institutions (NIHRI) in the protection of rights of migrants and refugees and their responsibilities in regulating the legal status of those migrants and refugees.
Request for Provisional Measures
8. On 9 April 2010, I received an Urgent Appeal from the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), through the Secretariat of the African Commission requesting the Arab Republic of Egypt to refrain from expelling two Sudanese, Mr. Mohamed Adam Abdalla and Mr. Ishaq Fadl Dafallah, from Egypt to Sudan, where they were to suffer irreparable harm in violation of their fundamental rights under the African Charter. I was also informed that preparations were underway to deport them 12 April, 2010.
22. Madam Chair, the two Sudanese had been recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They alleged that they were arrested on 4 August 2009 on suspicion of trying to cross the boarder to Israel. As soon as I received the urgent appeal, I wrote an urgent letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior as well as to the UN office of Refugees in Cairo. I followed this matter through to the highest in Egypt. Fortunately, I was able to obtain the consent of the Egyptian authority not only to stop the deportation of the two Sudanese but also to release them.
Conditions of the Refugees and the Internally Displaced in Africa
23. Madam Chair, the conditions of the displaced, the victims of enforced migration, and refugees in Africa constitute a chronic problem, which makes Africa home to the largest number of internally displaced (13 millions), mostly as a result of domestic conflicts and civil wars.
24. Because of the short period of time that has elapsed since I have assumed my responsibilities as Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, IDPS, and Migrants, it has been impossible to address all the problems relating to enforced migration and displacement. However I wish to comment on two areas which to be generating enforced migration
25. The first one is the case of Mauritania where approximately 500 000 persons were forced to migrate to Mali and Senegal. Fortunately, it is hoped that this problem will be shortly resolved with the change of regime in Mauritania. The government’s views on the deported persons and refugees have changed, allowing for their return. It is imperative to monitor their return and ensure that the deported and refugees are living in adequate conditions. The African Commission has been actively engaged with previous Mauritanian government on the safe and dignified return of the expellees. Various missions by the Commission have taken place to the Republic of Mali, Senegal and more recently to Mauritania from 9-17 February 2010, with the intention to follow-up on the matter.
26. The second case on which I wish to focus is the case of Somalia and the region of Eastern Africa. The conditions in Somalia have been deteriorating at an alarming rate, especially with the renewal of fighting in May 2009. The country has recently witnessed an escalation of the conflict in the capital, Mogadishu, and its surrounding between the Interim Government, supported by African Union troops, and the Youth Mujahideen Movement that occupies most of Mogadishu and its surroundings’ districts. During the months of February and March 2010, approximately 150 people were killed in Mogadishu and more than 400 people were injured in battles in which artillery and Hawn Missiles were used. Three thousand civilians were besieged for more than a week by the belligerent troops without being able to use a safe path to escape the siege. The head of the City Council asked the inhabitants to flee, which created a state of terror among the population. This resulted in the displacement of approximately 35, 000 Somalis over a period of only two months.
27. It is noted that the continuing prevalence of these conditions in Somalia has grave repercussions in the Horn of Africa Region and on the continent at large, especially with regards the following issues:
28. In Somalia, the number of internally displaced persons amounts to approximately 1.5 million. These persons suffer from the unavailability of humanitarian aid and are unable to meet their basic needs. As a result, the number of Somalis in need of humanitarian aid has significantly increased. Half of the aid ends up in the hands of corrupt contractors and armed groups who sell the various items on the black market. This information has recently been incorporated in a report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, which accused the World Food Program (WFP) to manipulate aid.
b. Migration to Neighbouring Countries:
29. As long as the civil war will continue in Somalia, enforced migration and refuge from Somalia to neighbouring countries shall persist. It is estimated that 320 Somalis sought refuge in Kenya; 10, 000 fled to Djibouti; and 50, 000 to Ethiopia. Furthermore, refuge is also sought in Yemen via the Gulf of Aden, and in the Sudan and Egypt through the Red Sea.
c. Piracy in the Red Sea:
30. Since Fall 2008, several measures have been taken to fight sea piracy close to the Somali coasts. However, piracy has significantly increased with the passage of time in a manner that threatens the movement of world trade via the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal in particular.
31. Despite the success of the Danish force in liberating a French cargo ship and a Spanish fishing boat and despite the detention and prosecution of 11 pirates in a court affiliated to the Republic of Somalia for their attack against a NATO warship after believing that it was a commercial ship, acts of hijacking have increased quantitatively and qualitatively during the month of March. Pirates managed to hijack giant ships, including the Saudi oil tanker “Alnas” during its passage in the Gulf of Aden, the Norwegian oil tanker “Bobby T. Ocean”, and the Turkish ship “Le Verger”.
32. Obviously, there is a close relationship between the loose security control in Somalia and the absence of law and discipline on one hand, and piracy on the other hand; the former allowing Somalia to become a base for pirates. The pirates’ success allows for the provision of more supplies for war, placing Somalia outside any government control.
d. Conclusion and Recommendations
33. The magnitude of the violations to which Somalis are subjected has reached a level that necessitates action. Somalis are killed in great numbers and there is a sharp increase in the number of displaced Somalis and refugees to the neighbouring counties. The problem is seriously aggravating. These sustained conditions entrench the influence of the war lords who have interwoven interests with non-governmental foreign forces that provide the required tools for the pirates, such as advanced launches in return for a share in their loots.
34. The persistence of these conditions shall be reflected on the human rights situation in the countries where Somalis seek refuge. These conditions shall further affect stability in the Horn of Africa region as well as the navigation in the Red Sea.
35. From our perspective, the solution can only be through the support of the state authority via strong internal alliances with forces that are not involved in terrorism, and the support of this authority by increasing the number of police forces and coast guards in the country, especially in the capital.
36. What can the commission do?
- Write to the AU to facilitate a Mission of the ACHPR to the country.
- Engage in a dialogue with all political forces
- Provide adequate resources to the Interim Government and increase the number of African Union forces and resources
- Ensure the support of the UN and the international Community