Activities as Commissioner
BY HONOURABLE BECHIR
As you might have observed, as a result of my health condition, I could not resume activities except at the beginning of the deliberations of the 51st Ordinary Session. Indeed, I arrived in Banjul just on 14 April, 2012. I forwarded a medical record to you and the Secretariat as proof of my state of health.
I seize this opportunity to express my gratitude to you, Madam ATOKI, Chairperson of our bureau and to all colleagues, Honourable Commissioners for all your best wishes and your prayers, in particularly to my dear colleague Madam Soyata MAIGA who accompanied me almost every week during the long and painful treatment. I also express my thanks to members of the Secretariat headed by Dr. Mary MABOREKE. Finally, I express my appreciation to States’ representatives and members of civil society who were eager to know about my state of health and prayed for my recovery.
For more than fifteen years that I have been participating assiduously in the work of this august assembly, my experience and devotion have been enhanced and boosted by the kindhearted attention you have given to me throughout all these years in spite of our philosophical and ideological diversity. This state of affairs undoubtedly shows that we all belong to a single big family.
I WISH TO SAY A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL
I. In my capacity as Commissioner:
1. I participated in several meetings with representatives of the African Diaspora living in Paris and particularly, in a conference-debate facilitated by my friend, Mr. Abdoulaye Lelouma DIALLO, representative of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) at the ILO in Geneva on the theme :
«The Role of the Trade Union Movement, in particular the African Trade Union Movement, in the light of the Algiers Appeal, vis-à-vis occupation wars and foreign interference in Africa»
The ensuing discussions once again showed how members of the Diaspora are attached to their motherland and its freedom; and are always ready to defend its sovereignty while respecting the political, philosophical and religious choices of every individual. Furthermore, they expect greater clarity of action from our African Union and its African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. They do not stop asking themselves the following two questions: «When will African problems be solved solely by Africans themselves? When will African resources directly benefit the African population?
2. On 1st April, 2012, I received a 53-page report from the Secretariat on the mission undertaken to the Central African Republic from 6 to 16 June, 2011 requesting that I submit my observations and contributions as head of delegation responsible for human rights problems in the Central African Republic. I sent back the report on 4 April, 2012 via Chronopost.
3. I responded to several mails sent my legal assistant, Mr Lassana KONE, on countries for which I am responsible, namely : Chad, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the Central African Republic and Mauritania in my capacity as the Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and generally when it had to do with my participation in any initiative. Mr Lansana KONE left us on 10 April, 2012, and since then I do not have any French-speaking legal assistant, in spite of the numerous requests I have made in that respect.
Thank you for your kind attention
Activities as Working Group ChairpersonWorking Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
I. In my capacity as the Chairperson of the Working Group on economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR)
I would like to thank all Members of the Working Group who finalized the work on THE TUNIS GUIDELINES in two (2) parts and their presentation, even in my absence, to Honourable Commissioner ATOKI, member of the Group.
1. We provided support concerning the text we received from the Coalition of NGOs on the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which enjoins African States to ratify it as part of the campaign dubbed « JUSTICE NOW: Ratify to protect all human rights. »
2. We also supported the United Nations Lawyers and Experts’ Declaration presented by about twenty personalities who are urging our States to ratify the ICESCR, and are encouraging the ACHPR to continue with its efforts to promote the ESCR.
3. We also had a meeting by telephone on 28 March, 2012 which lasted for about forty minutes; this meeting involved me, Mr. Lain BYRNE, Policy Coordinator for the ESCR and Mr. Daniel VALLS, Regional Campaign Coordinator for AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL- Africa.
This international organization
was of the view that the Principles and Guidelines on the Implementation of the
ESCR adopted by the ACHPR Working Group marked a significant step forward as they
clarified the obligations of States vis-à-vis the African Charter. The
organization informed us that it was launching a campaign entitled «LET US
DEMAND DIGNITY» with the aim of publicizing the problems of the poor to enable
them claim their rights. It was a large-scale campaign touching on poverty-related
issues and the means by which they could be addressed.
Finally, to support and encourage the work of the ACHPR Working Group on ESCR, AMNESTY International proposed to organize «an event» in collaboration with FIDH during the 51st Session to be held in Banjul from 18 April to 2 May, 2012.
On behalf of our Group, I expressed our appreciation to Amnesty International for its encouragement and diligence in mobilizing its efforts and energy to ensure that Africa becomes a key partner in the ratification of the ICESCR.
4. Meeting at the headquarters of FIDH in Paris on Thursday 5 April, 2012 with Ms. Elin Wrzoncki and Florent. During this meeting, I was able to learn about the essential methods used by this organization in getting the ICESCR ratified, namely:
- The creation of a thirty-member Coalition of NGOs mobilized to achieve this ratification
- The publication of 4 brochures with very wide and clear coverage of all aspects studied with a view to popularizing the human rights contained in the ICESCR and also introducing civil society activists to methods aimed at ensuring successful ratification.
The FIDH confirmed its participation, in collaboration with Amnesty International, to facilitate the event for ratification which will take place in the course of this session.
5. Together with my colleague, Member of the Group, Madam MAIGA, we participated in the event for ratification on 19 April, 2012 from 13h 30 to 15h.00
During the discussions, all the speakers and participants highlighted the importance of the ESCR which are complementary to political and civil rights and constitute the first instrument of our people liberated from dictatorship and arbitrariness.
Today, more than ever before, the key to dignity, multiparty democracy and good governance is the respect for economic, social and cultural rights and achieving them.
We wholeheartedly express our thanks to State representatives for the importance they attach to ESCR and to civil society representatives for their mobilization drive and their participation.
We have before us 2 statements and 2 resolutions to support the ratification of the ICESCR which will be submitted for consideration by our Commission during the private session.
Thus, the adoption of the ESCR on 10 December, 2008 and the opening of the procedure for ratification from 2009 paved the way for 47 States of the African Union to be parties to the ICESCR. Ten (10) States have signed the Protocol but it has not yet been ratified by any State.
However, to date, 8 States have ratified the Protocol and it will come into effect once it has been ratified by the 10th State.
Though the African human rights protection system is generally viewed as the forerunner of ESCR and that Africa played a key role in the negotiations leading to the adoption of this instrument, only 10 States have signed the Protocol and none has so far ratified it.
It would be unfortunate that countries that set the ball rolling will miss out on this historic opportunity.
Thank you for your kind attention