Activities as Commissioner
November 2013 – April 2014
Honourable Commissioner Reine ALAPINI GANSOU
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa
Member of the Committee for the Protection of Persons Living with HIV, Persons at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV/AIDS
Member of the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities in Africa
Member of the Working Group on Communications
55th Ordinary Session
Luanda, from 28 April to 12 May 2014
1. This report has been prepared in accordance with Article 72 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) and Resolutions ACHPR Res.69(XXXV) 04 of 4 June 2004 and ACHPR/ Res.248 (LIV) of 5 November 2013. It is divided into two parts.
2. The first part of the report reviews the activities undertaken in my capacity as Member of the Commission, of the Committee for the Protection of PLWHA, Persons at Risk, Vulnerable to and Those Affected by HIV /AIDS, Member of the Working Group on Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities in Africa and Member of the Working Group on Communications of the Commission.
3. The report mainly presents the activities undertaken in my capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa since the 54th Ordinary Session of the Commission held from 22 October to 5 November 2013 in Banjul, The Gambia.
4. Finally, the report briefly examines the situation of human rights defenders in Africa, followed by some recommendations.
ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED IN MY CAPACITY AS MEMBER OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
I. ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED IN MY CAPACITY AS A MEMBER OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION
Ø Directorate of the Human Rights Component of the African Union Mission to Mali and the Sahel, Bamako, November 2013 – April 2014.
5. During the period under review, I continued to perform my duties as Head of the Human Rights Component of the African Union Mission to Mali and the Sahel (MISAHEL).
6. Human rights observers deployed in Mali carried out several activities, in particular documenting cases of human rights violations, monitoring of the human rights situation and the major ongoing court cases in Mali. They prepared two quarterly observation reports.
7. The human rights situation in Mali has somehow improved following the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in July 2013. There is hope that Mali is gradually regaining its territorial integrity, although at the moment there are still concerns about security and peace in the country. Efforts have been made by the government especially in the area of restoring the authority of the State, the gradual return of the administrative machinery, the appointment of civilian administrators in the northern regions, the slow return of refugees and internally displaced persons and the resumption of school activities in that part of the country.
8. However, there are still many human rights challenges in the country, in particular regarding the security situation, since armed groups continue to operate in Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. Tensions continue to mount among the communities, particularly in Gao between the Imrad and the Peul, and in Tumbuktu between the Fulani and the Arabs.
9. Human rights observers undertook monitoring missions to prisons as part of the monitoring of ongoing court cases. In this regard, the observers noted the dilapidated infrastructural facilities in the prisons in Bamako, prison overcrowding, logistical and food supply challenges and lengthy pre-trial detention periods. In the northern regions, decent penitentiary institutions no longer exist since they were destroyed during the period of occupation. The resultant effect has been the unauthorised extension of the detention period of prisoners who are being detained in makeshift facilities as it is the case in Gao. Judicial authorities are still absent from these regions, and the transfer of prisoners and detainees to Sevare and Bamako is highly dependent on military convoys which are always not available. Such a situation encourages long periods of custody. In the Koulikoro prison, the observers noted a difference in detention conditions between ICTR prisoners who enjoy certain facilities and Malian common law prisoners.
10. Regarding the monitoring of ongoing court cases in Mali, the authorities have to be commended for their willingness to deal with the issue of impunity. The arrest of the Mujao Islamic Commissioner, Aliou Mahamane Touré, coupled with the arrest and detention of officers and non-commissioned officers of the Malian army, the alleged perpetrators of abuses after the coup d’état of 22 March 2012 and the foiled counter-coup of 30 April 2012 as well as the mutiny at Kati on 30 September 2013, bears testimony to this fact. While underscoring the freedom of action of the judges assigned to these cases, the Observers called for respect for the principle of presumption of innocence and the principles of fair trial for the detainees (General Amadou Haya Sanogo and his fellow soldiers), the protection of the rights of the victims to truth, reparation and rehabilitation of the memory of people who were killed, summarily executed or disappeared and finally the personal protection of the judges and the judicial personnel assigned to these cases.
11. The two monitoring reports prepared cover the periods extending from October to December 2013 and from January to March 2014. They contain concrete measures taken by the government in its attempt to normalize the political situation especially through the implementation of the national reconciliation and peace-building processes with the confinement of the armed groups, implementation of the fight against impunity in the above-mentioned cases. The report also captures the strategies outlined by the Component to adapt to the post-conflict situation in Mali, particularly its involvement in the judicial monitoring, the establishment of Observer teams in Bamako and Mopti, including the establishment of a framework of cooperation with MINUSMA.
12. Finally, it is important to recall that a communication strategy has been developed within the MISAHEL which allows the Head of the Component to provide regular updates on the human rights situation through press conferences. In this regard, two press conferences were organised; one on 25 October 2013 and the other on 17 March 2014. During these press conferences, I underscored the need to consolidate the gains through efforts by the government to continue to deal with the issue of impunity, restore the authority of the State, tackle national reconciliation issues, restore basic services, address the security concerns as a matter of urgency and to undertake far-reaching reforms to end discrimination and violance perpetrated against women. I also pointed out that any political decision in Mali must take the rights of victims into account.
13. The consolidated human rights monitoring report on Mali was presented on 7 April 2014 to the AU Peace and Security Council, which urged the African Union, among others, to continue to show commitment to the human rights situation in Mali, closely monitor reported cases of abuses and assist the Malian government in the process of normalizing the political situation. Following this presentation, the Peace and Security Council of the AU, while recognizing the positive developments in the human rights situation in Mali, expressed its commitment to continue with the mission in Mali and remain vigilant to the ongoing siuation.
14. In dealing with the human rights situation in Mali, the Commission has to develop appropriate strategies towards the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the factfinding mission and the report of the team of human rights observers.
Ø Commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the ratification by France of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 15 - 16 December 2013, Paris
15. This event was organized by the French Ministry of Women’s Rights in collaboration with the French National Assembly delegation on women’s rights. The purpose of this meeting was to raise awareness about the women’s rights promotion and protection instrument and to share experiences with the various stakeholders and also carry out an analysis of the common challenges they faced. It was noted that women’s rights and violence against women difer from country to country eventhough countries have implemented policies and programmes to promote women’s rights. Work needs to be done at the level of advocacy and sensitization, particularly among the youth.
Ø Meeting of the Working Group on Communications, 6 March 2014
16. The Working Group on Communications was instituted by the Commission by Resolution ACHPR/Res.255 (LIV) 2013, adopted at its 50th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, the Gambia from 24 October to 5 November 2011. The Group’s mandate, among others, is to consider Communications at the point of seisure, admissibility and where necessary, on the merits and make recommendations to the Commission; inform the African Commission about the status of implementation of its decisions on Communications; advise the Bureau of the African Commission on requests for provisional measures made by the parties where necessary, and to provide advice to the African Commission on the withdrawal or striking out of Communications.
17. The meeting was presided over by Honourable Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor. During the meeting, the Working Group considered 11 Communications, six (6) of which were on seisure, three (3) on admissibility and two (2) requesting the opinion of the Working Group. Based on the exchanges between the Honourable Comissioners and the legal officers of the Secretariat of the Commission, suggestions were made to improve the decisions of the Commission.
Ø Participation in the 15th Extraordinary Session of the African Commision on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 7 – 14 March 2014
18. In accordance with Article 26 of the Rules of Procedure, the Commission held its 15th Extraordinary Session from 7 to 14 March in Banjul, The Gambia. I took part in the Session in my capacity as a Member of the Commission. Several documents were adopted during the Session, including the report on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa which is being finalised for publication.
Ø Consultative Meeting – ACHPR /GIZ 13-14 March 2014
19. As part of its assistance project to the Commission, the GIZ organised a meeting from 13 to 14 March 2014 for exchange of views with the members of the Commission on different aspects of the procedure for consideration of communications at the Commission. The exchanges took place with a Group of Experts consisting of Prof. Franz Viljoen, Director of the ‘Centre for Human Rights’, Charles Moyer, former first Secretary of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Attila Teplan, from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights.
20. In the course of the discussions, we exchanged views on our experiences and good practices from our various human rights institutions; they include those from the Inter-American and European Human Rights systems in matters of seisure and withdrawal of role, admissibility and provisional measures.The issue of difficulties and lapses encountered in the implementation of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission was also tackled.
Ø World Health Organisation Workshop on the strengthening of health standards and human rights for safe abortion Geneva 1-2 April 2014
21. WHO, in partnership with UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA as well as with the special World Bank Programme on Research, Development and Training for Human Reproduction, organised a two-day workshop from 1 to 2 April 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, which was attended by members of the major regional and international human rights protection organisations.
22. The main objective of the workshop was to deepen the knowledge and understanding of the regional and international human rights protection organisations on the technical guide published by the WHO entitled Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems - 2nd Edition“. This approach aims at encouraging the regular use of WHO Standards on Safe Abortion as a means of assisting them to adequately prepare their concluding observations within the context of periodic reporting by States and their general observations on the issue of abortion.
23. During the workshop, the extent of the situation of unsafe abortion and the WHO health and policy standards on safe abortion including the strategies for their incorporation were extensively highlighted. Furthermore, a discussion was initiated among members of the different human rights organisations on the shortcomings, challenges and the alternative approaches to dealing with unsafe abortion within the context of human riights protection. The discussions also centred on the formulation and provision of very clear guidelines to the States and other stakeholders including making available policy and programme managers, indicating their obligations in terms of the health rights of women, prevention of unsafe abortion and the provision of healthcare services for medical abortions.
Ø Consultation between UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures mandate-holders and Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the implementation of the Addis Ababa Roadmap , 27 April, Luanda, Angola
24. The objective of the meeting was to assess the achievements and progress made in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Roadmap during the past two years. The meeting enabled the two mechanisms to draw lessons from this process and identify areas where the stakeholders need to make additional efforts. In the course of the deliberations, I was able to present the various future prospects available to the two bodies through this collaboration for sustained synergy of their human rights promotion and protection activities.
II. ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED IN MY CAPACITY AS A MEMBER OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND HIV/AIDS COMMITTEE.
III. ACTIVITIES IN MY CAPACITY AS A MEMBER OF THE WORKING GROUP ON OLDER PERSONS AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN AFRICA
Ø Meeting of the Working Group, 1 and 2 March 2014, Banjul, The Gambia
25. The Working Group met on 1 and 2 March 2014 in Banjul, Gambia prior to the 15th Extraordinary Session of the Commission. The meeting was attended by 11 persons. I presided over the deliberations at this meeting in the absence of Honourable Commissioner Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen, Chairperson of the Working Group. The meeting was organized following the one held from 9 to 11 December 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which was aimed at considering the first version of the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa.
26. During the deliberations, the Draft Protocol was meticulously read and the opinions, additions and comments were put together. The Group further reviewed the roadmap for the adoption of the Draft Protocol, and in this regard, proposals were made to improve the document. The Draft Protocol will be published in the working languages of the African Union on the website of the Commission for comments and opinions of stakeholders and the general public. Furthermore, organisations of people with disabilities shall be consulted as a matter of priority as part of the preparation of the Draft Protocol. The Group also deemed it appropriate to design a Work Plan for the finalization of the above-mentioned Protocol. The next meeting of the Group was scheduled for October 2014. A press release informing the general public about the substance of the deliberations at the meeting was published on the website of the Commission.
ACTIVITIES OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN AFRICA
27. From November 2013 to April 2014, the Special Rapporteur undertook human rights promotion and protection activities in accordance with Article 45 of the African Charter and by Resolution ACHPR/ Res.248 (LIV) of 5 November 2013 entrusting her with this responsibility. The activities undertaken by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa is presented as follows :
I. PROMOTION ACTIVITIES
28. During the period under review, the Special Rapporteur organised and took part in the following events.
Ø AJPD Workshop from 12 to 13 November 2013, Angola
29. This Workshop was attended by close to 40 persons, especially representatives of civil society organisations, Government institutions, the Office of the Ombudsman, Parliament and international organisations. The purpose of the meeting was to train the various stakeholders to appreciate the African human rights promotion and protection system and more specifically the Special Mechanisms. In this regard, I made a presentation on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and on the Mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa. Various recommendations were made to the different stakeholders.
Ø Meeting of the Study Group on Freedom of Assembly in Africa, Accra, Ghana 19 to 21 March 2014
30. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in collaboration with the International Center For Not-for-Profit Law and the Human Rights Defenders Project in the East and Horn of Africa organised the third meeting of the Study Group on the Freedom of Association in Africa in Accra, Ghana from 19 to 21 March 2014. This meeting was organized in accordance with Resolution ACHPR Res.151 (XLVI) 09 on the need to carry out a study on the freedom of association in Africa. At this meeting, a human rights defense group was established to carry out a study on the laws governing freedom of association in Africa and on the practices which violate these laws and also prepare a Resolution ACHPR/Res. 261 (LIV) 13 extending the deadline for the said study to October 2014.
31. Under the supervision of the special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, the meeting brought together representatives of sub-regional human rights defense networks in Africa and some resource persons. The purpose of the meeting was to finalise and validate the report on the freedom of association and peaceful assembly in Africa and also consider the Draft Guidelines on freedom of association and peaceful assembly in Africa.
32. During the three-day meeting, the Members of the Study Group reviewed the draft report and contributed to its improvement in both substance and form through comments and observations. The resource persons assisted in identifying specific areas that needed to be deepened, and provided an in-depth analysis of certain aspects of the report.
33. In the light of the objectives of the meeting, the Study Group provided a strategic framework for the formulation of Guidelines on the freedom of association and peaceful assembly in Africa. In this respect, the members of the Study Group agreed that a first draft of the Guidelines will be presented during the Non-Governmental Organisations Forum to be held on the sidelines of the 55th Ordinary Session of the Commission in Luanda, Angola. This approach will enable observations and comments to be obtained from civil society on the approach adopted by the Study Group. This Consultation at the civil society level will be followed by the Experts’ meeting to be held in June 2014. The document will then be presented to the Commission for adoption at the 56th Ordinary Session scheduled for October 2014. These guidelines establish a protection threshold in order to avoid disparities in guaranteeing these rights and will serve as a guide to the States in the implementation of the freedom of association and peaceful assembly. The report on the freedom of association and peaceful assembly in Africa will be submitted to the Commission for adoption at the 55th Ordinary Session.
Ø Conference on rapid response mechanisms for human rights defenders in Africa, ICJ, Pretoria, South Africa, 27-28 March 2014.
34. Though the Special Rapporteur could not personally take part in this event, she made her presentation available to the organisers. It was entitled ‘’Protection mechanisms and legal and operational environment for human rights defenders in Africa from the perspective of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’’
Ø Publication of the 9th Edition of the Newsletter ‘’The Newsletter of the Rapporteur’’
35. The Special Rapporteur continued with the publication of the Letter of the Rapporteur by publishing the 9th Edition on the theme: “Defending Human Rights Defenders”. This theme is a repetition of the theme for the Eight (8) Edition and the emphasis is based on the relevance of ensuring that HRDs are given adequate protection as they contribute to the mission of promoting and protecting human rights to the peril of their lives. The instruments available to the Special Rapporteur to address this situation are very limited but they consist especially of dialogue with the States and cooperation with the HRDs. The absence of monitoring by the States and the lack of resources for the rights defenders constitute serious obstacles for the effectiveness of the mechanism in spite of our efforts and willingness.
Ø Consultative Workshop of the Study Group on Freedom of Association and Assembly, 27 April 2014, Luanda, Angola
36. The Study Group on freedom of association and assembly in Africa was established by Resolution ACHPR/Res.151 (XLVI) 09 with the mandate to conduct a study on the freedom of association in Africa. In the light of the analysis carried out by the Study Group and the different results emerging from the study, the Group started drafting the Guidelines on freedom of association and assembly to provide the stakeholders with the principles that could guide them in the effective implementation of these rights. They establish the protection threshold for these rights.
37. The meeting of the study group was intended to obtain comments and observations from civil society organisations collaborating with the Commission on the Draft Guidelines. The purpose was also to ensure the participation of civil society stakeholders in the preparation of the above-mentioned document.
38. Following the deliberations of the working group, the participants were able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Guidelines. A meeting of Experts will be organized in June 2014 for the finalization of the said document during a High Level Workshop to be held in September 2014 as part of the cooperation between the European Union and the African Union.
II. PROTECTION ACTIVITIES
38. During the period under review, several cases of human rights violations against rights activists were referred to the Special Rapporteur. She used several approaches to handle these cases, especially by means of Communications and press releases.
39. During the intersession, the Special Rapporteur had a dialogue with four (4) States on allegations referred to her in respect of violations perpetrated against human rights defenders. They are the Democratic Republic of Congo (4), Somalia (1), Senegal (1) and Sudan (3).
40. The alleged violations centred on cases of breaches of privacy, bodily integrity, arbitrary arrests, threats, judicial harassment, prohibition of demonstrations and of assembly.
Ø Press releases
41. During the period under review, six (6) press releases on the situation of human rights defenders in some countries and specific cases of violations of the rights of some human rights defenders were published. They include the following :
- Press release on the draft media bill of 5 December 2013 (http://www.achpr.org/press/2014/04/d198/)
- Press release on the situation of human rights defenders of Benin of 9 January 2014 (http://www.achpr.org/press/2014/01/d184/)
- Press release on the situation of human rights defenders of Djibouti on 23 January 2014 (http://www.achpr.org/press/2014/01/d186/)
- Press release on the implications of the 2013 Law on [the ban on] homosexual marriages for human rights defenders of Nigeria of 6 February 2014 (http://www.achpr.org/press/2014/02/d190/)
- Press release on the implications of the anti-homosexuality law for the work of human rights defenders in the Republic of Uganda of 11 March 2014 (http://www.achpr.org/fr/press/2014/03/d196/)
- Press release of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa on the arrest of Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu of 28 March 2014 (http://www.achpr.org/fr/press/2014/03/d197/)
ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
42. The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa notes that the situation of HRDs did not improve during the intersession. In spite of the efforts made in the area of awareness-raising among States on the importance of their work, human rights defenders continue to be victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, assaults, threats and harassments, defamation campaigns and unjustified legal action. Furthermore, it has been observed that restrictive laws are resurfacing with regard to the activities of human rights defenders. These cases apply, among others, to Nigeria, Uganda and Benin. The human rights defenders are also confronted with judicial harassment at the instance of the authorities, a specific case in point being that of Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu of Swaziland. Furthermore, it has also been noted that the situation of human rights defenders is worsening as they are faced with risks of gender-specific discriminations like the case in Egypt.
43. The increase in cases of violations and the constant practices criminalizing the activities of human rights defenders are more alarming for my mechanism and justify the information and dialogue with States in the same way as awareness-raising campaigns directed at civil society and other non–State actors. The adoption of the report on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa and the impending one on the Study on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly in Africa will provide the various stakeholders with the necessary tools for ensuring respect for the rights of human rights defenders.
44. The level of cooperation between States and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders remains low, eventhough during the period under review the Special Rapporteur noted with satisfaction the answers provided by Cameroon and Senegal regarding the two Communications submitted by the mechanism. The Special Rapporteur would like such cooperation to be total, comprehensive and representative of all the State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The absence or lack of cooperation between State Parties and the mechanism necessarily undermines the effectiveness of the mechanism and does not ensure an effective and efficient protection of human rights defenders in Africa.
45. There is also the issue of cooperation between UN and African mechanisms, in particular the Commission. Several human rights defenders are victims of retaliation as a result of their activities and for collaborating with the African human rights promotion and protection system. This has been the case of Ethiopian journalists and bloggers, members of the “Zone 9” Group, who were arrested on 25 April 2014. Those arrested include Tesfalem Waldyes, Edom Kassaye, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Atnaf Berahane, Befekadu Hailu, Natnael Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kiberet and Abel Wabela.
46. In conclusion, human rights promotion and protection activities are carried out in a difficult environment and the challenges faced in the implementation of my mandate are daunting. Nevertheless, the mechanism notes that there is commitment by human rights defenders to work together and to work with State Parties, as well as to support the work of the mechanism.
47. In the light of the analysis of the situation of human rights defenders presented above and the conclusions drawn from them, I recommend the following:
· Refrain from all practices that contribute to the violation of the rights of human rights defenders;
· Cooperate effectively with the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, particularly by replying to communications and notes verbales sent to them;
· Implement their regional and international human rights obligations as a means of giving effect to the rights of human rights defenders;
Civil society organisations
· Increase opportunities for cooperation with the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa;
· Support States in implementing their human rights obligations through constructive dialogue;
· Coordinate their activities to make it an instrument for the promotion and protection of human rights.
· Continue to support the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur, particularly by promoting it and supporting the implementation of the action plan;
· Continue to support human rights defenders financially, technically and materially to facilitate their human rights promotion and protection activities in Africa.