Statement delivered on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    United Nations

    Human Rights 

    OFFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 

    Statement delivered on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    By Andrea Ori

    OHCHR West Africa Regional Office 

    At the 54th ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

    The Gambia, 22nd October 2013

    Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of the Gambia, Honourable Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right, Honourable Commissioner, Honourable representative of the African Union Department of Political Affairs, Excellencies and Distinguished delegates, Honourable Ambassadors and representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, Special procedures and mandate holders of the UN Human Rights Council, Representatives of national human rights institutions, Representatives of non-governmental organisations, All protocols respectfully observed, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    On behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, it gives me great pleasure to address you at the opening of the 54th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    To be here today as a representative of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is not only an honour, it is also an indication of the strong collaboration that exists between the office of the High Commissioner and the African Commission.

    Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners,

    I was recently in Geneva on official business and during my meeting with the High Commissioner, she expressed her regrets for not being able to participate in this session and she asked me to personally deliver her sincere apologies and to congratulate you on your work and determination to ensure human rights are enjoyed by all on the continent.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Within the UN, human rights is affirmed as one of the three core pillars along with peace and security, and development and all three have to be strengthened and upheld if we are to achieve a more peaceful, more prosperous and more just world. This view is definitely shared by the African Union which has recognized in its four years strategic plan that there cannot be development or a stable society without the foundation of peace and stability, good governance, democracy and respect for human rights.

    So it is therefore not by chance that the human rights arms of the two systems are collaborating because it is through such collaboration that we can play a greater role in not only addressing the human rights problems that face the continent but also contribute to a more peaceful and more prosperous Africa.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

     

    I would like to recall that our cooperation with the African Commission dates back more than a decade when the African Commission was virtually the only institution of the then OAU with a human rights mandate. The signing of an MOU with the Office of the High Commissioner and the AU Commission in 2010 and the adoption in 2012 of what is now called the Addis Road map between the special procedures and mandate holders of the Human Rights Council and the African Commission has only strengthened this relationship. Indeed we are building on the successes of this relationship to strengthen our collaboration with the African Committee on the Rights and welfare of the child as well as with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

    Ladies and Gentlemen

    There are numerous examples to illustrate the good collaboration that we have with the African Commission. Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council and those of the African Commission have issued joint press releases and statements, and even undertaken a joint country visit to Tunisia. More recently, the African Commission’s Working Group on the death penalty has been working closely with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and have for instance held a joint seminar on the death penalty, and collaborated on an expert meeting on the management of assemblies. The Secretariat of the Office of the High Commissioner also continues to build on this relationship through various activities as well as through providing technical support aimed at not only strengthening the African Commission’s institutional capacity to fulfil its mandate but also that of civil society organizations to voice human rights concerns to the African Commission. Indeed during this session, the Office of the High Commissioner will be involved in several activities including a training on gender integration for NGOs, a side event on extractive industries and the impact of illicit flight of capital on human rights in African and a panel discussion at the NGO Forum on the link between the Human Rights Council, its mechanisms and the African Commission with a substantive contribution by Civil Society Organisations.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    There is definitely a growing interest of the Human Rights Council’s and of its special mechanisms in the work of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. The work of the African Commission has been recognized as a key landmark in the advancement of human rights within the regions and an example for other regions to follow. If there was ever any doubt about the interest of the Human Rights Council and of its special mechanisms in the Commission’s work, one only has to see that these days it is almost the practice that at least a number of the Council’s special Procedures and mandate holders participate at each session of the African Commission. This was not the case a few years ago. The Council also recently recognized the role the African Commission could play in the implementation of its recommendations by calling on it to monitor the recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Much as we can recount many successes in our collaboration, there will always remain room for building on these successes in a bid to do even much more. In particular, I would like to draw our attention to the question of integrating and mainstreaming human rights in all the activities and programmes of the African Union. For example, the AU is increasingly taking greater initiatives on peace and security in Africa – is there a role for the African Commission to play in ensuring that human rights are integrated in AU peace and security initiatives? I believe there is. And this is also an area where we can build on a strong working relationship. The case of the peacekeeping operation in Mali is a case in point where the AU deployed human rights observers and the UN human rights officers on the ground in Mali is commendable and should continue to be replicated wherever similar operations are established.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    As we go along, we have learnt that an organized framework of cooperation, though not indispensable, may be helpful and provide us with a further push for increased cooperation. We need to build around a strong determination and will at all levels – at the mandate holders’ level and at the secretariat level. This is absolutely necessary. We need to define very concrete and realistic objectives and steps and although they may seem mall steps they do pave the way to a consolidated cooperation between the two organizations.

    In 2016, the ten years capacity building programme which was negotiated between the UN and the AU will come to an end. However, I am hopeful that another such framework of support will be negotiated to build on what has been achieved. As the human rights community we should be at the forefront of making certain that support for regional human rights mechanisms is secured. This means that as plans to review this framework are initiated, human rights should be at the centre of that discourse whether in relation to peace and security issues on the continent or whether in relation to the development agenda of the continent.

    On our part, I would like to assure you that the office of the High Commissioner will continue to support and be the advocate for greater complementarity between the UN human right system and the African Human Rights mechanisms in the implementation, protection and promotion of human rights standards.

    I thank you and wish you good deliberations.

     

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