Opening Statement on behalf of participants of the Forum of NGOs


    Honourable Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of The Angola, Mr. Rui Mangueira;

    Honourable Chairperson of The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Madame Silvie Zeynabou Kayetesi,  Hon. Vice Chairperson and Members of the African Commission

    Your Excellency, Madame Aisha L. Abdulahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs, African Union Commission (DPA/AUC) represented by Dr. Salah Hammad

    Honourable Ministers of The Republic of Angola;

    Honourable Vice President and Members of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) Hon. Justice Bernard Ngoepe;

    Honourable Members of the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child;

    Honourable Members of the African Union Organs here present

    Hon. Mme Aichetou M’Haiham representing African Union Member States

    Distinguished Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Yanine Poc, representing the High Commissioner for Human Right

    Mrs. Kagwiria Mbogori, Representive of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions

    Your Excellencies, The Dean and Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;

    Honourable Members of the National Assembly;

    Members of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, Governing Council

    Members of the NGO Forum Steering Committee

    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

    I am honoured to stand before this august gathering, charged with the responsibility to deliver a statement on behalf of my colleagues of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.  At the onset, please allow me, on behalf of all the participants of the NGO Forum, and indeed on my own behalf, to thank the Chairperson and Members of the African Commission for this opportunity afforded us.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

    On behalf of The Forum, I would wish also to express our gratitude to the Government and people of Angola for their hospitality, in facilitating the activities of the 55th Ordinary Session and to express the appreciation of the Forum of NGOs for the continued cordiality and warmth accorded them since their arrival on the soil of this beautiful country.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 55th  Ordinary Session on the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the 29th African Human Rights Book Fair, organised and facilitated by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and the Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD-Angola); and was held at the Centre Convencione de Belas, in Luanda, Angola from 24-26 April, 2014.

    With the usual remarkable turnout, objective and professional debate, the Forum was able to reach commendable outcomes.  Over 175 representatives from 26 African countries participated including participants from Canada, France, Europe, The United Kingdom, The United States of America. 

    The programme was guided by the provisional agenda for the 55th  Ordinary Session of the African Commission circulated prior to the said meeting and prepared in consultation with the NGO Steering Committee, all participants, the Secretariat of the African Commission and the ACDHRS Governing Council respectively, with the aim to review and formulate strategies and recommendations on the following three themes – 

    1. The Developments on the Situation of Human Rights and Democracy in Africa;

    2. The review of specific human rights relevant to the work of the African Commission; and

    3. Networking for Human Rights in Africa.

    The full report of the Forum together with the adopted resolutions and recommendations will be forwarded, for the kind consideration of your distinguished body, as our contribution to your deliberations at this 55th Session.

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    We crave your indulgence as we present to you a few highlights of the said deliberations.

    The Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the Work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognised the positive development of the human rights and democracy situation in Africa but asserted, however, that a lot more needs to be done as many African countries continue to face challenges of insecurity, disease, poverty, corruption, unemployment, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings, violence, rise in terrorist attacks and many other human rights violations that bring untold hardship and even death to the citizenry of the concerned countries, especially the women and children.

    The Forum further noted the disparity in the progress realised by some states - the deterioration in other states due to armed conflict, religious intolerance tribal wars – example the ongoing war in Central Africa Republic; calamities and environmental degradation and failure in constitutional obligations in other states. Diverse situations including repressive legislations to muzzle freedom of the press, expression and the media; the hostile environment characterising the hazardous situation of human rights defenders, not to mention the shrinking space for interaction as a result of the increase of reprisals in  other states were raised; the precarious fate of the LGBTI particularly in Uganda with the enactment of the anti gay bill; the kidnappings, profiling and deportation threats of Somali nationals in Kenya; increased cases of forced evictions especially in Kabinda here in Angola; the kidnapping of over 200 school girls by armed gangs, allegedly by Boko Haran, in Nigeria; and the increase in public protests with corresponding cases of freedom of assembly,  counter terrorism bills restricting association were among the areas of concern raised.  The Forum believes that the situation in various countries especially Angola, Central Africa Republic, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Sudan and Swaziland should be given attention by the African Commission.  Alternative reports on Liberia and Mozambique were also discussed as their state reports would be considered in the forthcoming ACHPR session.

    Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

    Other burning issues include

    • The importance and process of truth commissions as a tool for transitional justice while lessons learnt from various experiences including Kenya and South Africa were reviewed in the session that ensued.
    • A Panel on the ACHPR's human rights approach to dealing with conflict and crisis solutions which applauded this new role in the AU missions among others in Mali
    • The criminalisation of free speech in Africa both off and online was also the focus of discussion.  Presenting the state of policy and practice of press freedom and the protection of journalists in Africa, this panel highlighted the increase and rising levels in digital surveillance and safety in a number of African countries which violate the right to privacy of many citizens due to large scale and intimate monitoring of individual and group activities.
    • The session on Women's access to Land and Property Rights in Africa which brought to the fore the dire need for States to be more proactive in addressing gender issues.  In the same vein, it was proposed that the African Commission considers the development of a General Comment on the theme in order to stimulate discussion and aid the interpretation of the provisions of the African Women’s Protocol in this matter.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The Forum reviewed in depth in over fourteen thematic special interest groups, namely: the situation relating to Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons; Minorities and Indigenous Persons; Women, Reproductive Rights and Sexual Violence; Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; the Death Penalty; Human Rights Defenders; Prevention of Torture; HIV/AIDS; Impunity; and Freedom of the Press; Prison Conditions and Places of Detention; Rights of Older Person and Persons with Disabilities; Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations; Policing and Human , Economic Social and Cultural Rights; Freedom of Association and Assembly among others.

    • The need to ratify and implement all relevant human rights instruments including the  Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (OPCAT) in Africa ; and for the ACHPR to urge states to sign the Declaration to the African Court (Art 34(6)  to enable individuals and CSOs have access was also request;
    • Considering the rise in conflict worldwide, it is no coincidence that the Forum discussed the intersection between conflict and religion and generated a lot of interest and proposed that the African Commission identifies a focal point to carry out initial investigation in this area.

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    • In line with the objectives of the ACDHRS' Networking for Human Rights in Africa session, which was geared towards the provision and sharing of more information between the three main partners i.e. the African Commission; States; and Civil Society, in the development and maintenance of an effective human rights community included.
    • A overview of United Nations Human Rights System, with special emphasis on opportunities available for civil society access and participation was provided by Mr. Safir Syed from the Civil Society Unit of the UN OHCHR The exchange, intended to enhance forum shopping for dealing with human rights issues was engaging highlighting the similarities and areas of complementarities between the two systems and mechanisms.
    • The Forum in exploring its role in the linkage between the UN Human Rights System and its Mechanisms with the ACHPR reiterated the importance of such a crucial collaboration.  Participants expressed satisfaction of the implementation process of the Addis Ababa Roadmap.
    • Opportunities for networking and collaboration continue to be at the core of Forum.  It was therefore worthy to note that networking and collaboration continues to be one of the objectives of the Forum.  Relationships among civil society and between civil society and other partners especially the African Commission, National Human Rights Institutions, OHCHR and other partners were examined to consolidate on the strategies for effective collaboration between these groups with a common goal of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.  
    • Worthy of mention was the presence of Mr. Peter Ngumi from the Attorney General's Office in Kenya who enriched the exchange of the Panel on the Advocacy and Technical Support for Freedom under the African Union Human Rights Strategy.  Mr. Ngumi also argued that non state compliance should not be misinterpreted for lack of political will without full knowledge of the underlying challenges.
    • The final panel provide a space for further exchange of information and experience on advocacy strategies around the ACHPR and formed a basis to share best practices and lessons learnt from previous interaction. It emerged that there are many strategies which can be used.  However, it was pointed out that there is no one size fit all and thus the need to think through situations in order to be effective in our interventions.

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    In considering the state of policy and practice of press freedom and the protection of journalists and human rights defenders in Africa, the panel highlighted the increase in the continued harassment of journalists, the violation of the right to privacy for journalists and human rights defenders.  The Forum received information that as it met, 16 journalists were detained in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, in unknown destinations, on charges relating to their work.

    Participants wish to applaud the adoption of the following resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council, namely Resolution A/HRC/24/L.5/rev.1(Action on Resolution on Human Rights and Unilateral Coercive Measures) and A/HRC/24/L.24 (Civil Society Space: Creating and Maintaining in Law and in Practice, a Safe and Enabling Environment) respectively and would wish to request the African Commission to support the resolutions and to urge states to do so in a bid to put a stop to reprisals against persons cooperation with human rights mechanisms, whether at the local, national, regional or international level.

    Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Guests,

    The Forum congratulates the Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the United Nations and the ACHPR on the successful implementation of the first two years of the Addis Ababa Roadmap.  Participants are pleased that this overdue collaboration has gained ground and wish to appreciate the efforts of the Chairperson and Members of the Joint Task Force and for their achievements for far.  Furthermore, they reiterate their full support for such a collaboration, which would go a long way to enhance the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms globally; and stand ready to participate, when called upon, to participate in the various ongoing advocacy processes vital to the implementation of this e Addis Ababa Roadmap.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The Forum, while commending the ratification of many regional and international instruments states, noted the usual challenge of harmonisation and implementation of these treaties at the national level, which minimise the desired impact. Consequently, we would wish to appeal to states, which have not ratified these pertinent treaties, to speedily do so and therefore enable their implementation.  We similarly, urge those states which have ratified to ensure that harmonisation does take place to speed up their implementation and thereby give life to their provisions.

    Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Permit me, Madam Chairperson, to reiterate our profound gratitude to the African Commission for your collaboration and support in the organisation and facilitation of the NGO Forum.  We would equally like to extend our appreciation, through you, to the Secretariat of the African Commission, and particularly to the Secretary and the Legal Officers, for the interest and continued support enjoyed by the NGO community, particularly those with observer status.  We will continue to urge as many of our participants in the wider community to apply for observer status and thereby play their role and to benefit from the access provided by this great institution.

    The Forum reiterates to call on State parties and all partners of good will to provide the much needed support and resources to the African Commission to enable Africa’s premium human rights institutions to effectively perform its mandate.

    We would wish to congratulate the African Union Commission for dedicating 2016 as the Year for Human Rights and look forward to our involvement in the process.

    Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    On behalf of all the participants, I would wish to again congratulate the Commission and indeed Her Excellency, the Chairperson for the number of  missions and achievements registered during the last inter session, The participants at the Forum would like to reiterate the availability and willingness of your partners, particularly NGOs with Observer Status to work in collaboration with the African Commission in a bid to complement your efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, good governance and the rule of law in Africa.

    Madam Chairperson,

    On behalf of the participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the work of the 55th  session of the African Commission, allow me to wish you, Your Excellency, our best wishes and to all the other Commissioners a fruitful deliberation and a successful session.

    Your Excellencies, Madam Chairperson and Members of ACHPR, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I thank you for your kind attention.

     

    HJF / ACDHRS

    Luanda, Angola

    April, 2014

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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