Statement by H.E Dr. Aisha l. Abdullahi (amb.) commissioner for political affairs african Union Commission

    STATEMENT BY

    H.E. DR. AISHA L. ABDULLAHI (AMB.)

    COMMISSIONER FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION

    AT

    THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 54TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS (ACHPR)

     

    DELIVERED ON HER BEHALF BY

    MR. SALAH S. HAMMAD HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT

     

    BANJUL, THE GAMBIA

    22 OCTOBER 2013 

    Honourable Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of the Gambia, Honourable Madam Catherine Dupe Atoki, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Honourable Commissioners of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Honourable Representative of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Honourable Representative of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegation, Delegates of States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Excellencies Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Representatives of the African National Human Rights Institutions, Distinguished Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Right, Distinguished Representatives of the UN Agencies, Distinguished Representatives of the EU, Distinguished Religious Leaders, Distinguished Representatives of Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organizations, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I feel greatly honoured and privileged to be afforded the opportunity to address this August assembly on this occasion of the 54th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Allow me also to express on behalf of the African Union Commission, our heartfelt appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of The Gambia for being such gracious hosts. I wish to thank members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for their efforts in organizing this session, but more importantly all the participants for their attendance.

    Honourable Chairperson Mrs. Dupe Atoki and Members of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, I would like to congratulate you, for your relentless efforts and dedication to the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights on the continent. As the principal custodian of the continental human and peoples’ rights agenda in Africa, the African Union appreciates your diligence and efforts to conduct this 54th Ordinary Session, which in no small measure, will enhance the effectiveness of the African Human and Peoples’ Rights System in general and the work of the Commission in particular.

    Honourable Chairperson Mrs. Dupe Atoki wish you well as you intend to depart your post as the Chairperson of the Commission and I reiterate the support of the African Union Commission to the election of a new chairperson.

    At this juncture, I would also like to recognize and thank members of the Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for their hard work and for being the catalyst for the effectiveness of the Commission; and even more importantly, to all the delegates and participants for their attendance of this session.

    This 54th Ordinary Session is most historic coinciding with the commemoration of Africa Human Rights Day, which took place yesterday on 21 October 2013 under the theme “the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights is our collective responsibility”. The commemoration of Africa Human Rights Day marks a continental effort to reflect and recommit to the solemn undertaking by our leaders and all African to promote and safeguard human rights in Africa.

    The African continent has witnessed decades of numerous human rights challenges resulting from a diverse range of factors, which include war, poverty, corruption, autocratic governance and much more. It is against this background that member states of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), solemnly resolved to promote and safeguard freedom, justice, equality and human dignity in Africa by putting in place instruments to enforce these values.

    The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) was adopted by the OAU on 27 June 1981 and was entered into force on 21 October 1986. This instrument forms the bases of the African Human Rights System and it is unique to other regional human right instruments in that it not only covers internationally accepted human rights standards, but also recognizes values that are unique to the African continent. The African Charter also provides for Civil and Political Rights, Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, Peoples’ and Group Rights and includes duties and responsibilities of the individual in the society.

    It is on this basis that commemorating Africa Human Rights Day is an opportunity to urge all African Member States to honour their obligations under the African Human Rights system and take measures to ensure the respect, promotion and protection of all human rights. In line with the foregoing, I wish to take this opportunity to request that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as the heart of the African Human Rights System to take the responsibility of deciding the theme for this commemorative event annually, a request that I consider a noble task for a noble cause.

    This Ordinary Session also coincide with the adoption of the African Union’s Strategic Plan 2014-2017, which prioritized the promotion of human and peoples’ rights, peace and stability, democracy and good governance as foundations for sustainable development and stable societies in Africa. This couldn’t have been more apt as it clearly demonstrates the Commission’s understanding of the nexus between peace, development and human rights.

    This nexus explains the rationale that established the policy focus and re-engineering that followed the transformation of the OAU to the African Union. The change in nomenclature and the paradigm shift gave birth to a new wave of ideas and dispositions to addressing challenges facing the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa.

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guest, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    With regards to the continued prevalence of conflict crises in Africa and the fact that no single internal factor has contributed more to socio-economic decline on the Continent and the suffering of the civilian population than the scourge of conflicts within and between African States, African leaders decided to establish the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA).

    Years later, our Heads of State and Government realized the need to focus on promoting democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law on the continent by reaffirming the commitment of African Member States to implementing the ratified instruments at the national level. As a result, the 16th AU Summit adopted the African Governance Architecture and its Platform to support Member States in their efforts to promote democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law at the national level. The Platform presents a framework through which many of the stakeholders on governance, democracy and human rights will influence the process of facilitating accession to and ratification of AU instruments, but more importantly their domestication, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

    The Department of Political Affairs is humbled but at the same time proud of the progress that has been made thus far in consolidating democracy and good governance on the continent. The launch of the African Governance Platform, particularly under its Human Rights and transitional Justice Cluster, provides a unique opportunity to strengthen capacity and deepen our understanding of issues of human and peoples’ rights, democracy and governance, which constitute our African Shared Values. We are happy to announce that the Platform is in the process of being operationalised with the Department of Political Affairs at the AUC and each one of us present here is invited to engage with the Human Rights Cluster and to contribute to the Platform’s objectives of greater synergy, harmony, better coordination and cooperation among African Union organs, institutions and regional economic communities on matters of good governance, democracy and human rights.

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    As part of the continued efforts of the African Union to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights on the continent, the Department of Political Affairs is coordinating the process of implementing the Action Plan of the Human Rights Strategy for Africa. The key objective of the Strategy is to address current weaknesses within the human rights system in Africa, as well as to bring about convergences in the workings of the human rights institutions and actors on the continent. This will then aid the efforts to strengthen and facilitate the development and the coordination of the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.

    As a direct result of the Strategy, consistent meetings between the AU and the UN Human Rights Special Mandates and Procedures are being held on a regular basis. These meetings are aimed at enhancing the level of cooperation and collaboration between the Global and Continental Human Rights Systems and have successfully achieved this goal.

    It is also pertinent to note that, the Human Rights Strategy for Africa also focuses on Transitional Justice, which has become a major area of focus that aids our quest to deal with issues of post conflict reconstruction, peace and development. The Department of Political Affairs is collaborating with the relevant AU Organs, partners and other stakeholders to finalize the development of an AU Transitional Justice Policy Framework for Africa, which will be endorsed during the June Summit of 2014. We also welcome and support Resolution 235 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Transitional Justice that was passed at the 53rd Ordinary Session, which calls for the undertaking of a study on how to facilitate the implementation process of the AU Policy Framework on Transitional Justice after its endorsement by the Assembly of the Union.

    Additionally, the Human Rights Strategy for Africa foresees the creation of a Pan African Institute for Human Rights by 2015. The work on establishing this Institute is led by the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in close collaboration with all AU organs with a human rights mandate. The proposed Institute will have a mandate corresponding to article 45 of the African Charter and its focus will be on research as well as support to the AU human rights mechanisms, namely: The African Commission, the African Court, and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and welfare of the Child. It is my wish, therefore, that during this Session, the African Commission will issue a recommendation supporting these efforts.

    Another outcome of the implementation process of the Action Plan of the Human Rights Strategy for Africa is the support provided to the Network of the African National Human Rights Institutions in an effort to enhance its working relationship with African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as other organs of the Union. Today, a meeting consisting of members of this Network will be concluded after successful deliberations on how to strengthen this working relationship in order to enhance the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa.

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The conflict in Mali has taken a particularly acute toll on civilian populations. The recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence and amputations amongst other violations are but some of the horrific crimes exacted upon civilians, particularly in the Northern part of the country. The report of the Chair of the AU Commission on the situation in Mali on 14 July 2012, spoke to the widespread evidence of sexual and other violence against women and girls including gang rapes, public beatings, forced marriage and torture.

    The inclusion of women and the promotion and protection of their rights must be prioritized as part of an effective strategy fro conflict resolution in the country. Child soldiers are being recruited into the ranks of insurgent groups and have been seen actively participating in combat on the frontlines, conducting patrol and manning checkpoints. These children should as a matter of priority be removed from harm’s way and reunited with their families. These cruel and inhumane punishments represent an alarming violation of human and civil rights and freedoms. PSC Communiqué 327 of 14 July 2012 “Strongly condemns the violations of human rights perpetrated by the various armed, terrorist and criminal groups which occupy the northern part of Mali….”

    In accordance with PSC Communiqué 353 of 21 January 2013, the DPA began the deployment of human rights observers to Mali through AFISMA as of 1 March 2013 to monitor the human rights situation in the country and in this way to promote and support the respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms. Currently, we have 24 human rights observers on the ground headed by Hon. Commissioner Madam Gansou, who deserves to be commended for a job well done. The efforts and visibility of Madam Gansou and her team contributed to the improvement of the human rights situation in the country and the mission is still ongoing.

    In a similar way, the Department of Political Affairs is in the process of deploying a human rights observers’ mission to the Central African Republic, which is expected to be on the ground very soon. The team will be led by Hon. Commissioner Bechirkhalfallah, whom we wish the best of luck and success in this noble mission.

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    As we express our support for the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, it is important that we also recognize with appreciation the efforts of all who are active in the terrain of human rights in Africa. We urge Member States to ratify all human rights instruments and encourage all of the governmental and non-governmental organizations to continue promoting our African Shared Values, and in particular the instruments in the area of human rights and governance.

    It is essential to state that the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights is the responsibility of every AU member state. But we should also be mindful of our individual responsibility, which is crucial for building a culture of human rights promotion and protection on the continent. No doubt this Session will contribute to the advancement of human and peoples’ rights in Africa as well as help to strengthen the relationship between the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and other stakeholders in the terrain of human rights in Africa.

    Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is preparing itself to take actions to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa, I wish to seek the support of its members to explore the possibility of issuing a recommendation for our Heads of State and Governance to pronounce 2015 as the year of “human and peoples’ rights in Africa”.

    The realization of our common vision of a united and prosperous Africa as well as the building of a culture of promoting and protecting human and peoples’ rights remain a great task, which requires our common resolve. It is indeed a must to analyze and understand the global challenges that we are currently facing and to find home grown solutions to them. In this regard, I would like to emphasize that, the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance as underscored in the Constitutive Act of the African Union will contribute to the maintenance of peace and security on the continent thereby accelerating its development as well as the realization of its vision of a peaceful, prosperous and fully integrated and united Africa. Our gathering here today is evidence of our collective dedication and commitment to this goal.

    I will conclude this statement by calling on every one of you to support the work of the AU human rights mechanisms and institutions in order to enhance the promotion and protection of Human Rights on the Continent. I underscore that the African Union needs the support of all Africans in order to achieve its goals and objectives for a better future for our beloved continent.

    Once again, I would like on behalf of the African Union Commission to express our appreciation to the Government of the Republic of The Gambia and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for taking the initiative to organize this very important gathering and invite you to contribute your ideas and suggestions on how we can move forward together and make this Session a success.

    I thank you.

     

     

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