49th Ordinary Session: Final Communique

Final Communique of the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

1. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission or Commission) held its 49th Ordinary Session in Banjul, the Republic of The Gambia, from 28 April to 12 May 2011.

2. Honourable Commissioner Reine Alapini Gansou, Chairperson of the African Commission, presided over the Opening Ceremony of the 49th Ordinary Session.

3. The following Members attended and participated in the Session:

4. Honourable Commissioner Pansy Tlakula was absent with apologies. Commissioner Mohamed Fayek did not attend because he had resigned from the Commission.

5. Honourable Commissioner Reine Alapini Gansou chaired part of the deliberations of the Public Session, but had to leave before its conclusion due to other commitments. Unfortunately the Vice Chairperson, Honourable Commissioner Mumba Malila who had assumed the chair in the absence of the substantive Chairperson himself had to leave due to pressing family matters. in the absence of both the substantive Chair and the substantive Vice-Chair, Honourable Commissioner Musa Ngary Bitaye presided over the rest of the Commissions’ deliberations as acting Chairperson, assisted by Honourable Commissioner Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen as acting Vice-Chairperson.

6. Altogether four hundred and eighty nine (489) delegates participated at the 49th Ordinary Session. of these, ninety-eight (98) delegates represented twenty-three (23) States Parties, seven (7) represented African Union Organ, nine (9) represented National Human Rights Institutions, three (3) represented International and Inter-Governmental Organizations and fifty-one (51) represented African and International NGOs.

7. A number of activities were held prior to and on the margins of the 49th Ordinary Session, including the following:

  1. Meeting of the African Union on the African Union Human Rights Strategy, from 26 to 27 April 2011;
  2. Meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations / Communities in Africa, from 26 to 27 April 2011;
  3. Training of States Parties on the ‘Guidelines to the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, 28 April 2011;
  4. Sensitization Workshop on the Draft Model Law on Access to Information in Africa, 29 April 2011.
  5. Meeting organised by the Secretariat of the African Decade on Person with Disabilities, on 1 May 2011; and
  6. Meeting of the Working Group on Death Penalty on 3 May 2011.
8. As usual, the 49th Ordinary Session was preceded by a three-day meeting of the NGO Forum, organized by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, which was held from 25 to 27 May 2011.

9. The NGO Forum examined the human rights situation in many countries in Africa, and expressed concern over specific issues such as election-related crises, the violent clampdown on peaceful demonstrators in some North African States, the continuing inequalities and challenges faced by women in most countries, the plight of children and the situation of human rights defenders on the continent.

10. In her welcoming statement at the 49th Ordinary session, Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, Chairperson of the African Commission expressed, on behalf of the Members of the African Commission, her profound gratitude to the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia for not only graciously accepting to host another Session of the Commission, but also for the conducive environment and excellent facilities provided to ensure the success of the Session in two consecutive years.

11. She stated that the 49th Ordinary Session is being held at a time when the continent is facing grave human rights challenges – challenges which have resulted in very serious human rights violations in some States Parties to the African Charter. She cited Côte d'Ivoire and the recent events in North Africa that resulted to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.

12. In this regard she indicated that the African Commission had referred a Communication alleging serious and massive human rights violation filed before it against the Great Socialist Peoples’ Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, to the African Court, which issued Provisional Measures against the Great Socialist Peoples’ Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

13. In closing her speech, Honourable Commissioner Gansou emphasized that the recent protests for democracy in Africa underscore the need for the African Commission, in partnership with all stakeholders and key actors, to address human rights issues before they become peace and security challenges.

14. Speaking on behalf of the African Union Commission (AUC), Her Excellency, Mrs Julia Dolly Joiner, Commissioner for Political Affairs at the AUC, acknowledged the invaluable role the African Commission has played and continues to play in securing human rights on the continent.

15. On the Human Rights Strategy for Africa, Her Excellency Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner informed the 49th Ordinary Session that the AUC had organised the third of a series of meetings on the African Union Human Rights Strategy on margins of the Session. She said that this meeting had finalized and adopted both the Human Rights Strategy Document and Mapping Document on the Human Rights Landscape in Africa.

16. Her Excellency Mrs Julia Dolly Joiner called on the Commission and all stakeholders to continue keeping faith with the African Charter as it is one of the instruments that can usher the much-needed change in Africa, emphasized that human rights should be the collective responsibility of all, and expressed the hope that the 49th Ordinary Session would address many of the urgent human rights issues that are of concern to the continent.

17. The Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, Mrs Hannah Forster, made a statement on behalf of the NGOs present at the Session and made reference to the NGO Forum which was held prior to the 49th Session to discuss the human rights situation in Africa.

18. In reviewing the human rights record of States Parties in the previous six months,Mrs. Forster noted that the human rights landscape in Africa has registered some real progress, despite the many challenges. She applauded six African countries that have adopted legislation criminalizing torture in their jurisdictions and ten that have also ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. She also commended State Parties for including legislations and programmes that took into consideration the human rights of persons with disabilities. She stated that some State Parties have also taken concrete steps to include people with disabilities in their electoral process.

19. The Representative of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions, Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate of the South African Human Rights Commission noted with regret that many African countries continue to violate the human rights of their own citizens, and singled out for particular mention, the growing pressure which the Chairperson of the Malawian Human Rights Commission, Mr John Kapito, is facing from the Government of Malawi to resign for criticizing the Government.

20. Commissioner Mokatealso informed the Session about the assistance which the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions provided to the newly created Burundi Human Rights Commission which came into existence in January 2011.

21. Speaking on behalf of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court), Honourable Justice Sophia A. B. Akuffo, Vice-President of the African Court, noted with satisfaction that the symbiotic relationship between the African Commission and the African Court has enabled the two institutions to shape a new human rights paradigm for the continent.

22. She informed the Session that, presently, the main source of cases for the African Court is the African Commission. She pointed out that the success of the African Court would depend on a one hundred percent ratification of the Court’s Protocol and implored States Parties to the African Charter, that had not yet done so, to ratify the Court’s Protocol and make the Declaration under Article 34(6), to enable individuals and NGOs to have direct access to the Court.

23. Speaking on behalf of the African Union Member States, Madame Coumba Gaye, Minister in Charge of Human Rights in the Republic of Senegal, said that the agenda of the Session included many important human rights issues on the continent, giving the various stakeholders the opportunity to exchange views in an open manner. She further added that the Commission’s Sessions are an important forum in reminding States Parties and all other stakeholders of the need to further improve the promotion and defence of human rights.

24. in her Opening Statement, Mrs Isatou Graham, speaking on behalf of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Honourable Edward Gomez, welcomed the delegates and participants to the 49th Ordinary Session and listed some programmes that have been undertaken by the Government of The Gambia to improve the rights of its citizens, through the creation of a number of institutions such as the Agency for Legal Aid, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat, the Shelter for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, and the Agency Against Trafficking in Persons.

25. In concluding, Mrs Graham stated that The Gambia is ready to learn from its difficulties and challenges in promoting human rights but without wavering from its desire and commitment to maintain the peace and stability of the country.

26. During the Session, statements were made by State Delegates from the Republic of Algeria, Republic of Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Cameroon, Arab Republic of Egypt, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Kenya, Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahirya, Republic of Mali, Republic of Niger, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Republic of Senegal, Republic of South Africa, Republic of Sudan, Republic of Tunisia, Republic of Uganda and Republic of Zimbabwe, on the human rights situations in their respective countries.

27. Statements were also made by the representatives of Intergovernmental and International Organisations, including the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, as well as the Network of National Human Rights Institutions in Africa. A total of thirty seven (37) NGOs enjoying Observer Status with the African Commission also made statements on the human rights situation in Africa.

28. In conformity with Article 62 of the African Charter, the Periodic Reports of the following State Parties were presented:

  1. Burkina Faso;
  2. Great Socialist Libyan Arab Jamahiriya;
  3. Republic of Namibia; and
  4. Republic of Uganda.

29. Members of the African Commission presented reports of the activities they undertook during the inter-session as members of the Commission, as well as reports of activities they undertook in their various capacities as part of the different Special Mechanisms of the Commission. in that regard, reports of the various Special Rapporteurs, Committees and Working Groups were presented; namely, the Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Women in Africa; Human Rights Defenders in Africa; Prisons and Places of Detention in Africa; and Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa. Also presented, were the Reports from the Chairpersons of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa; the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa; the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities; the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV; the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa; and the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights in Africa.

30. The Report of the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa could not be presented as the Commissioner Rapporteur had resigned from the African Commission.

31. The African Commission considered applications for Observer Status from ten (10) NGOs, and it granted Observer Status to all the ten (10) NGOs in accordance with Resolution ACHPR/Res.33 (XXV) 99 on the Criteria for Granting and Enjoying Observer Status to Non-Governmental Organizations Working in the Field of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

32. The ten (10) NGOs that were granted Observer Status are:

  1. Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association;
  2. Southern Africa Litigation Centre;
  3. IPAS Africa Alliance;
  4. Dignity International;
  5. Action Internationale pour la Paix et le développement dans la Région des Grands Lacs;
  6. Réseau des Défenseur des Droits de L’Homme en Afrique Centrale:
  7. Defender International;
  8. Ogiek Peoples’ Development Project
  9. Ligue Togolaise des Droit de L’Homme; and
  10. Right to Information Initiative.

33. This brings the total number of NGOs with Observer Status before the African Commission to four hundred and twenty-eight (428).

34. The African Commission examined and adopted the Reports of the Research and Study Visits of the Working Group on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples / Communities in Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

35. The Report of the Research and Study Visit to the Republic of Kenya was not adopted. The Commission directed that additional work be done on that Report after which the Report would be resubmitted to the 50th Ordinary Session.

36. With regards to the Study of the Death Penalty in Africa, the Commission decided to refer the document back to the Working Group on the Death Penalty for amendments.

37. On the transfer of cases to the African Court, the Commission directed the Secretariat to further research and propose criteria for referral of cases to the African Court, for the Commission’s consideration during the next Extra Ordinary Session.

38. The African Commission appointed the following three (3) Experts to its Working Group on Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa:

  1. Dr. Anike Isabella Gbemisola ABODERIN, Senior Research Fellow and Coordinator, African Research on Ageing Network (AFRAN), Oxford University, German /Nigerian;
  2. Mr Kudakwashe Dube, Chief Executive Office, Secretariat of African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, South Africa; and
  3. Mr Lawrence Murugu Mute, Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

39. The African Commission adopted Concluding Observations on the Periodic Report of the Republic of Namibia, while those on the Reports of the Great Socialist Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Burkina Faso were deferred to the next Extra-Ordinary Session of the Commission.

40. The Concluding Observations on the Report of the Republic of Uganda could not be adopted as the Delegation of the Republic of Uganda was unable to provide any response during the Public Session.

41. The African Commission adopted the following Resolutions:

  1. Resolution on the Safety of Journalists and Media Practitioners in Africa;
  2. Resolution on the Appointment of the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa;
  3. Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous Women in Africa;
  4. Resolution on the Appointment of Members for a Study Group on Freedom of Association in Africa;
  5. Resolution on the Renewal and Extension of the Mandate of the Advisory Committee on Budgetary and Staff Matters
  6. Resolution on the Nomination of Expert Members to the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa.

42. The African Commission considered 83 Communications. It was seized with 5, 1 was withdrawn, and the rest were deferred to the next Extra-Ordinary Session of the Commission due to time constraints and lack of response from one or both parties.

43. The African Commission adopted its 30th Activity Report which will be submitted to the 20th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU and the 17th Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, which is scheduled to take place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in July 2011. It also reviewed its 29th Activity Report, which will also be resubmitted to the African Union Policy Organs for Consideration, at the same time Sessions.

44. The African Commission decided to hold an Extraordinary Session from 6 to 9 August 2011, in Kigali, Rwanda, to discuss urgent and outstanding Communications and other matters.

45. The African Commission decided to hold its 50th Ordinary Session from 24 October 2011 to 7 November 2011 at a venue to be decided. This will be preceded by a two day colloquium from the 21 to 25 October 2011, to mark the 30th Anniversary of the celebration of the African Charter.

46. The African Commission expresses its sincere appreciation and profound gratitude to the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia for the facilities placed at its disposal, and for the warm welcome and hospitality accorded to the participants, all of which contributed to the excellent outcome and successful deliberations of its 49th Ordinary Session.

47. The closing ceremony of the 49th Ordinary Session took place on 12 May 2010 in Banjul, The Gambia.

48. The Final Communique was read by Honourable Commissioner Catherine Dupe Atoki, Special Rapporteur of Prisons and Places of Detention and Chairperson of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa.

49. The Acting Chairperson of the African Commission, Honourable Commissioner Musa Ngary Bitaye, held a Press Conference after the closing ceremony.

Done in Banjul, Republic of The Gambia, 12 May 2011