Activities as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
Honourable Commissioner Reine ALAPINI GANSOU
Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa
Member of the Committee for the protection of the Rights of PVHIV, of persons at risk, vulnerable and affected by HIV/AIDS
54th Ordinary Session
Banjul, from 22 October to 5 November 2013
1. The present Report has been prepared pursuant to Article 72 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Resolutions ACHPR/69(XXXV) 04 of 4 June 2004 and ACHPR/Res.202 (L) 11 of 5 November 2011. It is presented in two Parts.
2. In the first phase this Report takes stock of the activities carried out in my capacity as Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in general and that of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of PVHIV, of persons at risk, vulnerable and affected by HIV/AIDS in particular.
3. It then presents the key areas of the activities carried out in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa since the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) held in Banjul (The Gambia) from 9 to 22 April 2013.
4. As conclusion, the present Report presents a brief analysis of the situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa. It ends by outlining a few recommendations.
ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT IN MY CAPACITY AS MEMBER OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS AND THE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND HIV
I. ACTIVITIES AS MEMBER OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION
5. From April 2013 I have headed a human rights observation mission within the International Mission of Support to Mali under African leadership, then within the African Union Mission to Mali and to the Sahel. I embarked on a fact finding mission from 3 to 7 June in Mali. I participated in a seminar on the relations between the Court and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Abidjan from 30 April to 2 May. At the request of the FIDH and of Malian Civil Society activists I took part in a capacity building exercise for Human Rights Defenders of the West African sub-region.
1- Observations on Human Rights in Mali / African Union Mission to Mali and to the Sahel, Bamako, April – October 2013
6. The crisis in Mali which began in early 2012 with the occupation of the country’s Northern regions by Armed Groups and the Coup d’Etat of 22 March 2012, mobilized the commitment of the International Community, the African Union included, through the establishment in January 2013 of the International Mission of Support for Mali under African leadership, (MISMA). Within this Mission a Human Rights Component was set up and it has been operational since April 2013 with 20 Observers from African Union countries with me as Head. With the transformation on July 1 of the MISMA into a United Nations Mission (MINUSMA), the African Union has maintained its presence in Mali through the African Union Mission in Mali and in the Sahel (MISAHEL) which also integrated a Human Rights Component.
7. The team of Human Rights Observers deployed in Mali by the Peace and Security and Political Affairs Divisions of the African Union is mandated to:
§ Document the cases of transgressions and human rights violations perpetrated in Mali, particularly in the Northern regions (Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal) Mopti and Bamako;
§ Guarantee the protection of human rights and formulate recommendations and opinions for the African Union and for the Malian Authorities on the most appropriate manner to deal with human rights issues;
§ Assist Mali in the process of establishing transitional justice and in its efforts at national reconciliation.
8. The Observers carry out these activities within the framework of their meetings with direct victims, with public Authorities, with the representatives of civil society organizations and humanitarian and international organizations working in the target areas. Furthermore, the Observers provided support to the African Union’s mission for elections observation during the presidential elections of 28 July and 11 August 2013.
9. To-date, namely 6 months after the establishment of the Observation Mission, the Component has produced two quarterly Observation Reports the contents of which reveal a certain number of transgressions and violations attributable to those engaged in the conflict. These Reports outline areas of concern and key indicators to be taken into account within the context of the gradual normalization of the political and human rights situation in Mali. Finally they contain recommendations for the State Party and the African Union necessary for the optimal management of the human rights situation and national reconciliation in post conflict Mali.
10. It is important to note that despite the return to constitutional order, despite the presidential elections, and the launching of the current democratic process, the issue of reconciliation, of national dialogue and of justice remain relevant. The problem of impunity remains unsolved. Moreover, despite the apparent precarious calm, the problem of the security of the populations and their belongings remains acute. The Observers continue to perceive, here and there, extra-judiciary and summary executions and disappearances of civilians and men in uniform. All these situations deserve the sustained attention of the international and regional African community, indeed, prompt action on the part of the special mechanisms.
2- The ACHPR fact finding Mission to Mali, 3-7June 2013
11. Within the framework of its human rights protection mandate, the African Commission, also extremely concerned by the critical situation in Mali, decided to field a fact finding mission in relation to the occupation of the North of Mali and the violations taking place in the aftermath of the 22 March 2012 Coup d’Etat. This mission which comprised five members of the Commission was headed by my good self in my capacity as Commissioner responsible for Mali. It took place from 3 to 7 June 2013.
12. The conclusions of this mission have been outlined in a detailed Report which will be examined during the upcoming 54th Ordinary Session. It focuses on the humanitarian and human rights situation in Mali and formulates recommendations in the form of future approaches to be considered for effective combat against impunity and a judicious manner of dealing with the rights of the victims, namely the populations of the North who continue to be subjected to atrocities by armed groups and terrorists.
3- Seminar on the collaboration between the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 30 April to 2 May 2013
13. The African Commission and the African Court share competences in the area of human rights in Africa. The question to be addressed now is the manner in which the two Institutions are to accomplish their respective mandates without encroaching on each others’ areas whilst pursuing their service for the population.
14. This meeting was enhanced by the participation of several players including members of civil society, representatives of the African Court on Human Rights, Côte d’Ivoire’s Judicial Authorities, etc. I presented a paper on « the relations between the Court and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights ». In my presentation I underscored the fact that from the formal viewpoint, the two Institutions are required to guarantee the effectiveness of the rights recognized by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, keeping in mind that the Commission has the sole and total obligation of promoting human rights on the Continent and that it continues to retain the mandate of protecting these rights collectively with the Court. In this regard there is need for objective and unprejudiced collaboration between the two Institutions.
4- Participation at the 2nd Statutory Meeting between the African Human Rights Court and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 18 – 19 July 2013, Nairobi / Kenya
15. Within the framework of cooperation in human rights protection on the Continent, the Court and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held their second annual statutory meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, from 18 to 19 July 2013, at which I participated.
16. This meeting sought to pursue discussions on issues relating to the complementarity between the two Institutions as well as registered achievements in their collaborative efforts to guarantee the effective protection of human rights on the Continent.
5- Training Seminar on the methodology of documenting human rights violations, Bamako, 1-3 July 2013
17. On the invitation of the FIDH and of the Malian Human Rights Association, I participated in a training session on the methodology of documenting human rights violations. This training was organized for the benefit of the focal points of the Malian Human Rights Association in the eight regions of Mali, for sub-regional focal points of the FIDH (Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad) and for local Malian civil society activists.
18. During the training session the participants discussed various issues: observation of elections by CSOs, the methodology of observation and investigation of human rights violations; methods of investigating sexual abuse and gender specific crimes; criminal and legal proceedings; the principles of international humanitarian law; the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons. The participants also carried out exercises in practical cases. The objective moreover consisted in achieving greater mastery of the basic principles of documentation, of sharing the joint methodology based, in particular, on the FIDH’s and its member organizations’ experience at the international level, on experience sharing and on facilitating the sharing of information gathered for use by decision makers and human rights activists. The link between this training component and the ongoing work of documenting human rights in Mali by various actors cannot be overemphasized. This training session came at the right time and deserves to be duplicated, particularly in anticipation of conflict situations.
19. The Commission’s experience in the documenting of human rights, through its fact finding missions in particular, must necessarily be shared. Furthermore, as Head of the Human Rights Component of the African Union Mission in Mali and in the Sahel which engages in monitoring and human rights documentation activities in Mali, it was logical for us to share the experience acquired on the ground. I therefore highlighted the importance of documenting violations in the effort to combat impunity. I also indicated that the objective of this documentation should not be limited to the denunciation of acts, but should be extended to planning effective future activities to deal with cases of violations so as to help prevent future violations.
II. ACTIVITIES IN MY CAPACITY AS MEMBER OF THE HIV/AIDS COMMITTEE
20. During the period under review, I participated in the Seminar organized by the HIV/AIDS Committee.
- Regional Seminar on the main issues affecting women living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, Dakar, 3-5 October 2013
21. This Seminar was a joint initiative of the Committee responsible for the protection of the rights of persons living with HIV, of persons at risk, vulnerable and affected by HIV and the Mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa. In the course of this Seminar organizations active in the field of women’s rights and of HIV discussed the problems affecting women living with HIV in Africa, and took steps to sensitize all the stakeholders on the relevance of these problems and on the need to provide them with care.
22. Several themes were discussed ranging from the theoretical presentations on HIV/AIDS and human rights to practical experiences on issues relating to the rights of women living with HIV/AIDS, in particular countries such as Tanzania, DRC, Benin, Malawi, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. A sensitization exercise on the use of the Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was carried out. In this respect I presented an overview of the Communications procedure within the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In this presentation I outlined the entire scope of the procedure, its interests and importance for the greater protection of human rights in general and those of women living with HIV in particular.
23. At the end of the deliberations a draft Resolution was prepared for submission to the ACHPR.
ACTIVITIES OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN AFRICA
24. Between October 2012 and April 2013 the Special Rapporteur engaged in human rights promotion and protection activities as outlined and mandated by Article 45 of the African Charter and by the Resolution ACHPR/Res.202 (L) 11 of 5 November 2011. The activities carried out by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa are presented as follows:
I. PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES
25. During the period under review the activities of the Special Rapporteur consisted of Seminars, Workshops, Conferences and Meetings with various activists and contacts with States Parties.
1- Sub-regional workshop on the protection of human rights defenders, Bujumbura, Burundi 29-30 April 2013
26. On the invitation of the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa and the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Bureau in Burundi the Mechanism was represented at the sub-regional workshop on the protection of human rights defenders by my Assistant, Mr. Claude Ndemeye. Several human rights defenders from Burundi, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Chad participated in this workshop. This workshop sought to sensitize the participants on the role of human rights defenders and on the importance of protecting them, at both the national level and within the human rights defender networks at the sub-regional and regional levels.
27. In this context the Office of the Special Rapporteur took stock of the situation of human rights defenders in Africa. He presented some challenges encountered by HRDs in their mission in Africa and pointed out the need for them to be adequately protected by the Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in general and by the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in particular. These challenges constitute, among others, those presented in the context of my end of mandate Report.
28. The Special Rapporteur’s interest in taking part in such an activity lies in the fact that one must take advantage of all possible opportunities to promote the African Charter and the African Commission itself and its Mechanisms. The opportunity had been provided for the participants to be sensitized on the functioning of the Commission, on the granting of Observer Status and the advantages of using the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa; on good practices in relation to the protection of human rights defenders; on the need to set up a legal framework for the protection of human rights defenders in each State. Finally, the workshop served as a forum for the sensitization of state and non-state actors on the contents of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
2- Validation meeting of the draft Report on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa, 28 - 29 June 2013
29. The ACHPR, through the Special Rapporteur on the rights of human rights defenders in Africa, organized in Cotonou, Benin, from 28 to 29 June 2013, a validation meeting of the draft Report on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa. This draft Report had been prepared in conformity with Resolution 230 adopted in October 2012 by the African Commission on the need to carry out a study on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa.
30. This meeting was conducted by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Human Rights Defenders in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Women in Africa and was attended by representatives of Civil Society Organizations active in the promotion and protection of the rights of women human rights defenders as well as other resource persons.
31. An initial draft Report had been prepared and discussed between the Experts and the Special Rapporteur on the sidelines of the 53rd Session of the Commission held in Banjul from 9 to 22 April 2013. The Report examined the various human rights instruments which deal specifically with the protection of women human rights defenders; it combines the contributions of women human rights defenders and other civil society actors. Furthermore it formulates recommendations for the States and other stakeholders on the best approach for putting in place effective protection measures for women human rights defenders.
32. In the two days of the deliberations the format and content of the draft Report was amended, discussed and enriched. The said Report will be examined by the African Commission for adoption during the present Session.
3- Meeting of the Study Group on the Freedom of Association in Africa, Cotonou, Benin, 12 - 14 August 2013
33. In collaboration with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law and the Pan-African Network of Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur organized the second meeting of the Study Group on the Freedom of Association in Africa in Cotonou, Benin from 12 to 14 August 2013. This meeting was organized in conformity with Resolution ACHPR/Res.151 (XLVI) 09 on the need to carry out a study on the Freedom of Association in Africa which had set up a study group mandated to take stock of and analyse the laws governing the freedom of association in Africa, with a view to proposing appropriate strategies for optimal management of the freedom of association in Africa.
34. This second meeting brought together the sub-regional networks of human rights defenders in Africa and sought to examine and validate the draft Report prepared by the study group which had met in Lomé in 2012, and to draft the guidelines on the freedom of association and freedom of assembly in Africa. The Report of the study group will be submitted to the African Commission at the upcoming 54th Ordinary Session.
4- The 7th Forum of Front Line Defenders for Human Rights Defenders, 9-11 October 2013, Dublin, Ireland
35. This Forum had as theme: the « security and protection of human rights defenders ». Close to 145 human rights defenders from 93 countries attended. During the three days of the meeting the realities that human rights defenders encounter in their daily activities were analysed and highlighted. The Forum also sought to provide the latter with a space for discussion, for exchanges of experiences and testimony on good practices that can help prevent and minimize the risks to which they are exposed.
36. On this occasion, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was represented by the Assistant, Ms Tchamba Olivia who was able to hold discussions at the personal level with the human rights defenders from the African Continent. In this regard information sheets in French and English were distributed to them to improve their knowledge of the Mechanism and to enhance their use of it. Moreover, during this forum numerous panel discussions were held, in particular one relating to the various regional human rights defenders protection mechanisms. This facilitated the exchange of information and practices with the European and American Human Rights Defenders protection mechanisms.
37. During the group meetings the defenders identified new challenges, new phenomena that could endanger human rights defenders in their respective countries. Among other things, terrorism and the increase in religious fundamentalism, the stigmatization of human rights defenders, repression through legislation and the economic and financial crisis were mentioned. The defenders went on to highlight good practices and formulated recommendations in the area of security for the improved protection of human rights defenders.
38. For the participants, this forum for dialogue served as a direct contribution in promoting the Mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.
II. PROTECTION ACTIVITIES
39. During the period under review the Special Rapporteur was seized of several cases of violations of the rights of human rights defenders. She dealt with these cases by means of Communications and Press Releases.
40. The Special Rapporteur dialogued with seven (7) States Parties to the Charter regarding the allegations of violations of the rights of human rights defenders with which she had been seized. These were the Democratic Republic of Congo (4), Kenya (2), Cameroon (1), Egypt (1), Angola (1), Zimbabwe (1) and Sudan (1).
41. The violations related equally to cases of attempted murder, physical integrity, arbitrary arrests, threats, judicial intimidation, and prohibition to demonstrate, to assemble and to publish documents.
42. The details of these exchanges are available in the Special Rapporteur’s end of mandate Report on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa which will be presented during the present Session.
2- Statements and Press Releases
43. During the period under review I published, on 26 July 2013, a joint statement with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of women in Africa on the arrests and ill treatment being suffered by women human rights defenders in Sudan.
44. During the same period I produced two Press Releases on the assassination of the Cameroonian human rights defender, Eric Ohena Lembembe (on 26 July 2013) and that of Mohamed Brahmi, Tunisian Member of Parliament and Political Opposition Member (on 31 July 2013) respectively.
v ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
45. From what has been perceived during the intersession, the situation of the rights of human rights defenders in Africa remains one of concern. Despite all the efforts to sensitize the States on the importance of their work, the human rights defenders continue to face major challenges. These challenges relate, among other things, to the quasi-systematic ignorance of their right to expression, to assemble, to their freedom of movement. During the intersession the Special Rapporteur picked out 4 cases of attempted murder without prejudice to numerous others relating to physical integrity. Where the cases of Mohamed Brahmi in Tunisia and of Eric Ohena Lembembe in Cameroon have been published in a Press Release, two other cases on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya were dealt with by means of Communications with the States Parties.
46. The upsurge in these violations and regularity of the practices criminalizing the activities of human rights defenders calls for the increased attention of the Mandate and undoubtedly justifies the actions of warnings and dialogue engaged with the States as well as the sensitization activities with civil society and other non-state actors. The Commission needs to examine the most extreme cases in greater depth and assist the States in improving their frameworks for the protection of the rights of human rights defenders. It is for this reason that I have emphasized the need to finalize the Reports on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa and on the freedom of association which constitute the foundation stone of the work of Human Rights Defenders in Africa and the restriction of which is the means most often used by the States to limit its effects. I hope that the adoption of these tools will help guarantee a greater visibility of the Commission’s actions in their favour and that it will have a dissuasive effect.
47. The Special Rapporteur has pursued the publication of the Rapporteur’s letter. This 9th edition which focuses on the theme: « Defending human rights defenders » follows up on that of the 8th Issue. This is justified by the fact that the African Commission needs to pursue its search for appropriate strategies for the optimal protection of HRDs considering that they are of great assistance in its mission of promoting and protecting human rights. This fact has been recognized in the foregoing paragraphs. The resources available to the Special Rapporteur to deal with this situation, namely dialogue with the States and cooperation with the HRDs, are very limited. The absence of follow up with the former and the lack of resources in relation to the latter constitute major handicaps for the effectiveness of the Mechanism, despite all the deployed efforts and goodwill.
48. For instance the cooperation between the States and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has been inadequate during the period under review. None of the Communications addressed to them by the Special Rapporteur has had any follow up; all of which only serves to destroy the efforts deployed so far to improve the situation of human rights defenders in Africa.
49. In conclusion, the activities aimed at promoting and protecting human rights are being carried out in a highly difficult environment and the challenges faced in implementing the mandate are enormous. Nonetheless, the collaboration of the human rights defender networks and the goodwill of the Commission to always execute its mandate as well as the efforts being deployed by all the civil society organizations are serving as judicious support to the mandate.
50. In view of the foregoing analysis of the situation human rights defenders and the conclusions drawn, I hereby recommend:
- To the States Parties
· To refrain from all practices contributing to the violation of the rights of human rights defenders;
· To implement their international human rights obligations so as to make the rights of human rights defenders more effective;
· To collaborate effectively with the Mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, in particular by responding to the Communications and Notes Verbales addressed to them;
- To the Organizations of Civil Society
· To support the States through constructive dialogue in their effort to implement their human rights obligations;
· To coordinate the activities of civil society thereby facilitating their use as a tool for the promotion and protection of human rights;
· To enhance the opportunities for cooperation with the Mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa.