NGOs statement

    Hon. Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic Of The Gambia, Mr. Lamin Jobarteh;

    My Lord, Acting Chief Justice of The Republic of Gambia

    My Lord, Justices of the Republic of The Gambia;

    Honourable Members of the National Assembly;

    Honourable Ministers of the Republic of The Gambia;

    Your Excellency, Commissioner, Department for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission;

    Your Excellencies, Madam Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR);

    Honourable Special Rapporteur on Eritrea

    Members of the United Nations Family present – UNOCHCR and UNOWA;

    Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;

    The Chairperson and Executive Governing Council Members of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (GC/ACDHRS);

    Distinguished State Representatives;

    Venerable Religious and Traditional Leaders;

    Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions;

    Representatives of National and International NGOs;

    Representatives of the Press;

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

    All protocols respectfully observed. 

    It is with pleasure that I stand before this august gathering to give a statement on behalf lf all my colleagues of the Forum of NGOs in the Work of the 53rs Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

    On behalf of the Governing Council of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS); The NGO Forum Steering Committee; all the participants of the NGO Forum, and indeed on my own

     behalf, I wish to express our appreciation to the Chairperson and Members of the African Commission for affording us, yet again, this opportunity to speak at this ceremony as we accompany you on the march to promote and protect human rights in Africa.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

    The forum on the Participation NGOs in the 53rd Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, commonly referred to as the NGO Forum was held from the 6-8 April, 2013 a few days before the commencement of this Session of the African Commission.

    It was noted that while significant and positive developments in the human rights and democracy situations in African have been made, it is worthy to applaud an improvement in the respect for human rights, good governance and the rule of law in a lot more countries.

    It must be stated here that the role of the African Union has been and remains crucial in strengthening the continental framework to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa and has spurred the pursuit of human rights which is evidently a shared responsibility. The increased involvement of civil society organizations in the consultative processes are indeed commendable and has enhanced the partnerships in the various processes by the African people.

    In spite of these developments, the Forum noted with concern that Africa continues to face grave human rights challenges characterized by conflict, insecurity and violence. Poverty, disease, underdevelopment, internal political strife, the taking up of arms by rebel groups, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings; harassment of journalists and human rights defenders continue to bring untold hardships to the majority of citizens of the affected countries, most especially the women and children. Moreover, globalization has brought to the fore the increased threat of terrorism and transnational organized crime impeding protection of human rights. This phenomenon has not ceased to undermine even the most resilient state. The eroding respect for and observance of human rights in many an African state therefore, remain a cause for concern, including continuing conflict in Mali; sexual crimes in Sudan; the Boka Haram attacks in Nigeria. The human rights situation in Angola, Eritrea, Guinea, Mali, Kenya, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe deserved special mention.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

    The full report of the Forum will be submitted, for the kind consideration of your august body, as our contribution to your deliberations at this 53rd ACHPR Session.

    The discussions were intense and highly participatory. I, therefore, crave your indulgence as I share a few highlights from the outcomes of the Forum.   The Forum heard reports of the existence of cultural practices that infringe on the rights of persons with psychosocial disability instead of viewing them as a health issue was encouraged.

    The persecution of persons with Albinism has reared its ugly head in a number of African countries, particularly in Tanzania, even to the extent of killing them for body parts. The Forum calls on the African Commission to conduct an investigative mission to expose these violations and to develop mechanisms to protect the rights of person with Albinism.

    Women remain the face of poverty, illiteracy, inequality, discrimination and targets of sexual violence as well as experience other forms of violations. It was noted the LGBTI communities, especially women are subjected to repressive laws and unjust punishment coupled with the lack or limited access to services and resources thereby hampering their development and progress of these women. The Forum, while calling on states to ratify, domesticate and implement the African Women’s Protocol calls on the African Commission to encourage states to offer universal access to health for women including universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health. The need for states to reform repressive laws should also be encouraged.

    Furthermore, the linkage between reproductive rights and health and safe abortion to seven fundamental human rights as contained especially in the African Women’s Protocol were also shared with participants. It was revealed that lack of implementation has led to hill cases of maternal deaths. As a result, The Forum call on the African Commission to urge states to review national laws on abortion and to refrain from entering or removing reservations on Article 14 on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights when ratifying the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women. In relation to children, The Forum urges the African Union to ensure stronger and closer collaboration between the African Commission, the African Court and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

    Water remains a source of life and the Forum reiterates its commitment to promoting the ACHPR Guidelines which protect water resources as sources of drinking water as well as the ESCR Guidelines with regards to water resources management.

    While congratulating the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights for the developments made so far, the Forum reiterates the challenge of access faced by civil society organizations with most African countries reluctant to ratify and deposit the Declaration which allows NGOs access to the Court. The Forum hereby renew its call to states to work towards the ratification and deposition of the Declaration to enhance the jurisprudence and grant the necessary access.

    In discussing the threat of terrorism and transnational organized crime on human rights violations, the Forum examined the causes and implications of these emerging phenomenons in the building and maintenance of peace. The reality was that the territorial integrity of states, peace and stability are threatened thereby undermining social, cultural, political and sustainable development as evidenced by the serious and massive human rights violations in states under attack. The Forum noted the existence of many regional and international instruments developed, compliance has been minimal and deadly consequence on states and citizens devastating. Consequently, the Forum calls on the Commission to consider the inclusion of Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime on its agenda for a more in depth study and development of strategies to mitigate its negative effects on the rights of citizen and for the management of development and maintenance of peace.

    In examining torture, the Forum recommends the necessity to develop guidelines for reparation and urged the Commission to undertake studies to have a better perspective of its application at the regional and global level; and to urge states to adopt the implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines (RIG) and to implement Part III in particular, with deals with reparations.

    Following recent arbitrary arrests and subsequent torture, ill treatment and even deaths of peaceful demonstrators in a number of African countries by police and other security agents. The forum calls on the Commission to urge states to adopt a human rights approach to policing to minimize the drivers that promote the use of excessive use of force, torture, arbitrary arrest and pre trial detention.

    Furthermore, the need to develop guidelines on oversight mechanisms in prisons and places of detention in Africa would be highly desirable.

    The number of asylum seekers and internally displace persons continue to swell as outcomes of violations of human rights. The Forum calls on the Commission to urge states to ratify, domesticate and implement the Kampala Convention and to organise mission in conjunction with other mechanisms to have a better perspective which will enhance their capacity to develop mitigation strategies.

    Human rights defenders remain harassed, intimidated, face arbitrary arrests and detention and in some countries killed for promoting and protecting human rights. Prominent among these victims are LGBTI communities as well as defenders who work in this area. It is also disturbing that they receive reprisals for collaborating with human rights bodies and mechanisms.

    Human rights defenders remain harassed, intimidated, face arbitrary arrests and detention and in some countries killed for promoting and protecting human rights. Prominent among these victims are LGBTI communities as well as defenders who work in this area. It is also disturbing that they receive reprisals for collaborating with human rights bodies and mechanisms.

    Moreover, it is becoming the norm even to use these tactics before, during and after elections. This has been the case in Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe among others.

    The Forum therefore calls on the African Commission to urge states to ensure the integrity of defenders in their territory and to provide the conducive environment for defenders to carry out their work.

    Increasing cases of disappearances, summary and arbitrary executions have also been reported in Angola and other countries. While acknowledging the resolution in include the issue of disappearances by the African Commission. The Forum calls on the Commission to rigorously revive its work in this area of human rights to curb the growing wave.

    Access to justice for citizens in crucial. The Forum congratulates countries who made the declaration on 34(6) of the African Court Protocol. We therefore call on the African Commission to urge states to ra                                                                 The Forum also called on the African Commission and the African Union to take a proactive role in the development an African Transitional Justice policy framework which will also monitor and evaluate the implementation of Transitional Justice processes and agendas.

    While congratulating the Working Group on Indigenous Populations on the launching of the manual on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and would like to call on The African Commission to urge states to support the work of the Group and to support the implementation of ACHPR decisions relating to minorities and indigenous populations.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

    Representatives at the Forum reaffirmed their commitment to the reinforcement of this partnership with the African Union and all its organs, not the least, the African Commission.

    Furthermore, participants reiterated their willingness and availability to work in close collaboration with the African Commission, and of course, the African Union Commission and its organs, to promote and protect human rights, good governance and the rule of law in Africa.

    The Forum, while pleased with the progress made by the African Commission notes that this institution continues to face serious challenges. Consequently, I would like to take this opportunity to launch an appeal to states and indeed the international community to continue to support the strengthening of this institution to ensure the effective implementation of its mandate.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

    On behalf of ACDHRS and indeed the participants of the Forum of NGOs, allow me to thank you all for listening and to wish The Honourable Chairperson and all the Members of the Commission, Fruitful deliberations and a successful session.

    Thank you.

     

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