Opening Statement delivered on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Andrea Ori

    Honourable Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Honourable Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Madam the Minister of Justice of the Gambia, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates, Members of Diplomatic Corp. Representatives of C.S.O, Colleagues, and all protocols duly observed

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    On behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, it gives me great pleasure to address you at the opening of the 56th 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 on Human Rights is not only an honour, it is also an indication of the strong collaboration and cooperation that exists between the office of the High Commissioner and the African Commission.

    Madam Chairperson,

    The last time I personally had the honour to address this Commission was in October 2013, it seems like ages ago and since then so much has occurred on the African continent. Many lives have been lost as a result of the scourge of the Ebola virus disease, the cruelty and moral failure of violent extremists and the horrors they perpetrate daily, xenophobia natural disasters and lives have been lost too as people sought to flee their countries in search of a better life. Please allow me to extend our condolences to the victims and family members who have suffered from such events and all whose lives have been torn apart by terrorism, tyranny and bad governance.

    Despite all this, we are, Distinguished Commissioners, still meeting to promote and protect the human rights of all. We are still gathering today  and we will do it thousands times more, to remind us that human rights are inherent to all of us as human beings, women and men equally, without distinction of our nationality, place of residence, gender, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or language. We are all entitled to our human rights without discrimination.

    Human rights must not be considered a favour, or a luxury. Every person is born with is or her rights; civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to work, with equal pay for equal work, social security, healthcare and education; or collective rights, such as the right to development and self-determination.

    These rights are an inherent and integral part of the human being. Without them there is no dignity.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Within the UN, human rights are 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. We know that the African Union has chosen as its strategic approach to development and for a stable society the need for peace and stability, good governance, democracy and respect for human rights.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is of paramount importance that responses to human rights violations are strong, coordinated and principled. It is vital that strategies to combat violent extremism uphold the values of democracy and human rights and we need to work together on this. We also need to recall that the State has the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill all human rights and it has the obligation to take steps to achieve progressively the full realization of these rights, without discrimination. Failure by the State to meet with its obligations can trigger violence and destruction, and the loss of life, as well as the deprivation of freedom and underdevelopment.

    The High Commissioner strongly recommends wide-ranging and action-oriented dialogue regarding the right to development of the people of this region, including greater participation in decision making, improved services, and broader economic, social and political opportunities.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Much as we can recount many successes in our collaboration, there will always remain room to do more, to be more effective and hold accountable those who violate human rights. We all want to ensure sustainable peace, security and development in Africa and we all know that to achieve this we must have strong institutions built on democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights. In my missions to African countries, in all my meetings with Government authorities, political parties’ representatives, civil society organizations and the population in general, the common denominator as condition for a sustainable peace and development is the demand for justice and respect for their rights.

    Our collective responsibility is to ensure that such calls are not ignored and that perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations are held accountable – and that the measures taken to ensure accountability meet international standards of independence, transparency and impartiality.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The continued collaboration between our two institutions including between the special mechanisms of the African Commission and the UN Human Rights Council is encouraging and the combined forces 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. Last year, the Special mechanisms from this Commission and those of the Human Rights Council met in Luanda prior to the 55th ordinary session and agreed on a set of actionable points to further cultivate areas of cooperation include in the Addis Roadmap which have remained underdeveloped. The office of the High Commissioner and the AU Commission also held a joint consultative meeting to explore how the two institutions can cooperated on human rights in peace operations. As you know, the AU is increasingly deploying human rights officers in its peace operations and it is important that as an office that has extensive experience in the field of integrating human rights in peace and security that we work together to strengthen the capacity of the AU in this area.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Before ending my speech, I would like to share with you some good news borne from concerted efforts taken by both this Commission and the Human Rights Council to bring attention to the plight of persons with albinism. The Human Rights Council at its just concluded 28th session decided to establish an Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights of persons with albinism. I am sure that the African Commission will lend its support to work of this new independent Expert in addressing the human rights of persons with albinism.

    On July 201 the Declaration of the Continental Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa (the Cotonou Declaration) and the statement made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the High-level meeting on leadership and Moving Away from the Death Penalty -69th Session of the General Assembly New York, 25 September 2014, which I quote: The death penalty is too severe a sanction in the hands of humans, who are not capable of applying it free of mistake. It is too filled with vengeance, too incomplete in providing relief to the victims, and is little other than a supreme example of, and claim to, human primitiveness. Surely, we cannot reach far into the 21st century, and claim to be sophisticated. End of quote.

    These are just few examples of how international and regional instances are complementing and reinforcing each other for the protection and promotion of human and people’s rights.

    I would like to assure you that the office of the High Commissioner will continue to support and be the advocate for greater complementarily between the UN human rights system and the African human rights mechanisms in the implementation, protection and promotion of human rights for all.

    I thank you and wish you good deliberation.​  

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