Activities as Working Group ChairpersonWorking Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations
HON. COMMISSIONER PACIFIQUE MANIRAKIZA
Presented to the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Banjul, The Gambia, 18 April - 2 May 2012
- The present document is the first activity Report by Honourable Commissioner Pacifique Manirakiza, who was sworn in as a Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) at the 50th Ordinary Session.
- In accordance with the Charter, this Report outlines activities undertaken during the inter-session period between the 50th Ordinary Session (24 October to 7 November 2011) and the 51st Ordinary Session (18th April to 2 May); both sessions which took place in Banjul, The Gambia.
II. Activities undertaken during the period under review
(a) Activities undertaken as Member of the African Commission
- As a member of the African Commission, I attended and participated in the 10th Extra-Ordinary Session, held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 12-16 December 2011. This session was mainly dedicated to examining Communications filed before the African Commission. As Commissioner Rapporteur for two cases, I presented these cases, one on admissibility and another on seizure and made recommendations on the draft decisions for consideration by the Plenary. At this session, 2 cases on merits and 4 cases on admissibility were examined and decisions were taken. Additionally, I drafted an internal resolution on Commissioners’ attendance at the sessions of the Commission; which was subsequently adopted after amendments.
- From 16th to 17th January 2012, I attended a consultative meeting held between Mandate Holders of Special Mechanisms and procedures of the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and those of the African Commission, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This meeting aimed at exploring ways and means to enhance cooperation rather than competition between the ACHPR and OHCHR. It provided a useful opportunity for mandate holders present at the meeting to exchange ideas and best practices between the different human rights mechanisms.
- During the 50th Ordinary Session, the African Commission established a Working Group on Communications, to facilitate the Commission’s protective mandate which involves, inter alia, consideration of Communications alleging human rights violations against State Parties to the African Charter. At this Session, I was appointed as a Member of this Working Group.
- As a member of the Working Group on Communications, I participated in the Group’s inaugural meeting held from 19 – 20 February 2012. During the meeting, the Working Group developed its Terms of Reference. The draft document was submitted to, and subsequently adopted by, the plenary of the Commission during the 11th Extra-Ordinary Session. Further the Working Group considered Communications on Seizure and Admissibility, and assisted in the preparation of a Report which was also submitted to the African Commission’s Plenary.
- Following the meetings of the Working Group on Communications, I attended and participated in the 11th Extra-Ordinary Session, held from 21 February-1 March 2012, in Banjul, The Gambia. Here, I presented during the plenary session two cases on admissibility and one case on seizure, along with decisions recommended by the Working Group on Communications.
- As a member of the Committee on Preparations for the 25th Anniversary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, I participated in the first meeting of the Committee aimed at planning the activities to mark the 25th anniversary celebration of the Commission. In my capacity as Rapporteur of the Committee, I wrote and a report on the meeting which I presented at the plenary session for general comments. I eventually included such comments in the final report.
- From 12 to 13 March2012, I attended and participated in an Experts consultation meeting on the African transitional justice framework in Pretoria, South Africa. At this forum, which was organized by the South African based Center for Study on Violence and Reconciliation, I was asked to prepare a presentation on the institutional and legal reforms which should be carried out at regional, sub-regional and national levels for the implementation of a potential African transitional justice framework in accordance with Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act, and with different resolutions of the AU Summit of Heads of State and Governments. The presentation I gave focused on three main points: the reform of state institutions involved in human rights violations; the creation of special mechanisms at a continental level such as an African criminal court, at sub-regional and national levels, the potential role of traditional and community-based justice institutions and finally the complementarity of those mechanisms.
- On March 14th, in response to an invitation from the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, I gave a lecture to master’s law students and PhD candidates, which was titled “A New Insider’s View of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.” After a brief overview of the African Commission, I dwelled extensively on the potentials, constraints and challenges of the Commission, laying special emphasis on extractive industries. - The lecture provided a forum for participants, mainly students, to broaden their knowledge and discuss the work of the African Commission. During the discussions that followed my presentation, I was able to assess participants’ level of information, and more importantly, the expectations of these young jurists and future human rights activists, lawyers and potential partners of the African Commission.
- Moreover, from 29-30 March 2012, I had the opportunity to represent the African Commission in a meeting organized in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. At the meeting, I gave a presentation on the African Commission and its potential to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. The presentation dealt with the potential and constraints of the Commission. The purpose of this meeting was to set up a Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention. I witnessed this important step which, is as far as I know, is the first initiative of its kind in the world. This meeting was relevant for the Commission, and for Africa, given that the Aushwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation plans to extend its activities in Africa and to set up a continental network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention. That’s why other African organizations were also invited and attended the Buenos Aires meeting, including the African Union Commission, the Office of Legal Affairs Advisor, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, among others.
(b) Activities undertaken as Chairperson of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa
- At the 50th Ordinary Session of the African Commission, I was appointed to Chair the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa (the Working Group).
- This Working Group was established in order to address the human rights violations being committed in the extractive industry in Africa, by State Parties or by non-state actors, in this case extractive industries.
- The Working Group held its inaugural meeting from 28-30 November 2011, in Nairobi, Kenya. The overall objective of this Meeting was to discuss and develop a Work Plan, and plan of action on the implementation of the Working Group’s mandate. During the meeting Expert Members gave presentations on various topics related to human rights violations and the extractive industry, followed by an interesting discussion between the members. The overall goal of this exercise was to provide information to the group members and to make sure that they have a common understanding of the concepts, the impact of extractive industry on human and peoples’ rights and the challenges they will be facing in discharging their mandate. At the end of the Meeting, the Working Group adopted a tentative Work Plan for the period 2012-2013 which was to be improved on and completed afterwards.
- The Working Group held its second meeting from 20-21 March 2012, in Pretoria, South Africa, with the support of the Centre of Human Rights of the University of Pretoria. At this meeting, Expert Members gave presentations on the progress of the research they were directed to conduct for the Working Group. Additionally, Members discussed the Working Group’s budget, and identified partners who will be approached to support the Working Group’s mandate. Furthermore, they finalized the Work Plan and planned some activities for the Working Group’s operational phase.
- On 22 March 2012, the Working Group had the opportunity to conduct a consultation meeting with various stakeholders in the extractive industry, in accordance with the Working Group’s mandate to “request, gather, receive and exchange information and materials from all relevant sources, including Governments, communities and organizations.” This meeting brought together representatives from civil society organizations in southern Africa and Latin America, and served as a good opportunity for the Working Group to reveal its work plan, raise awareness about its existence among partners, and state how these partners can engage with the Working Group and the African Commission.
- On Wednesday 18 April 2012, I chaired an inter-active meeting between the Working Group and various partners attending the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission. The meeting was attended by representatives from State Parties, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society organizations. This meeting was also a useful opportunity to raise awareness about the Working Group’s mandate and work, in addition to a forum for exchange of ideas between participants, on areas of research and how various stakeholders can interact, work with, and contribute information and areas of concern to the Working Group.
- During the inter-session period, I coordinated the Group’s work through regular communications with expert members.
(c) Activities undertaken as Member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa.
- From 15th to 17th April 2012, I took part in the regular meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa. Here, I chaired a joint session of the Working Group and civil society organizations, where issues of major concern relevant to indigenous rights were discussed and views exchanged by the participants.
III: Human Rights Situation in Guinea-Bissau
As a member of the African Commission, I am responsible for monitoring the human rights situation in Guinea-Bissau. I would like to note specifically the prevailing human rights situation in this country.
- Irrespective of positive developments towards the end of 2011, which include the signing of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and ratifying the African Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, all on the same date (23/12/2011), the situation in Guinea-Bissau has been tenuous in recent months.
- On 26 December 2011, an attempted putsch was carried out by a section of the Armed Forces of Guinea Bissau; fortunately it was not successful. Following this, President Malam Bacai Sanha died on 9 January 2012, of an undisclosed illness. In accordance with the law, Raimundo Pereira, the National Assembly Speaker, became the acting president and he set the date for presidential elections, which were held March 18. A second round run-off was scheduled to be held on 29 April 2012.
- However, on the night of 12 April 2012, some members of the national army overthrew the legitimate political institutions and took control of the ruling party headquarters and the national radio. I would like to note that the whereabouts of the outgoing Prime Minister Mr. Carlos Gomes Junior, the Interim President H.E. Raimundo Pereira and the army chief of staff General Antonio Indjai are currently unknown. This coup d’état constitutes a serious violation of the laws of Guinea Bissau, the principles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other relevant regional and international human rights treaties; not least of which the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which recently entered into force, and to which Guinea Bissau is a State Party.
- In response to this situation, I prepared, and the African Commission subsequently issued, a press statement condemning this coup d’état, calling on the renegade soldiers to immediately restore democratic governance and constitutional order in the country and for an immediate release of all political leaders arbitrarily detained incommunicado.
- One of the challenges that I would like to specifically note is the failure of State Parties to respond to requests for authorization to undertake promotion missions. I would like to encourage State Parties to respond to these requests and authorize promotion missions by the African Commission.
- I would like to encourage Benin, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania to ratify the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which Tanzania is yet to sign.
- Further, I would like to call on these State Parties to ensure timely submission of period reports on legislative and other measures taken to ensure implementation of the African Charter, to the African Commission for consideration. To this end, I would like to note that Guinea-Bissau has never submitted a periodic report to the African Commission, and as such is over-due by 13 reports.