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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Statement of the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) expresses its deep concern on the risks of the Coronavirus epidemic becoming a pandemic and spreading in Africa putting in peril the health and safety of the peoples of Africa.

The Commission wishes to recall relevant provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) particularly Article 4 on the right to life, Article 9 on the right to access to information and Article 16 on the right to health.

The African Commission further recalls the obligation that States Parties to the African Charter assumed under Article 1 of the Charter to take appropriate measures to give effect to the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in the Charter including through taking measures necessary for preventing threats to the life, safety and health of people.

In the light of the real threat of the spread of the Coronavirus to the African continent, the African Commission underscores the urgency and imperative of instituting preventive measures to secure the health, safety and life of peoples of the States Parties to the African Charter.

While applauding initiatives being taken for prevention and response, the Commission urges States Parties to the African Charter to:

  1. Put their public health and social services on a high alert with a view to direct their efforts towards making all the arrangements for  human rights-based preventive measures; 
  2. Follow WHO operational planning guidelines and technical guidelines to support country preparedness and response and identify, for purposes of effective prevention and response, areas and communities that are particularly vulnerable to exposure to Coronavirus; 
  3. Ensure that those affected by the virus including people coming from countries affected  are treated humanely and with dignity;
  4. Mobilize the necessary resources and technical capacities to undertake proper inspection in all ports of entry into their territory, to test suspected cases, to quarantine and provide care for those infected by the virus;  
  5. Provide comprehensive and timely information to its populations about the Coronavirus and the precautions that individuals, state and community institutions such as schools should take and avail such information in African languages and involve traditional, religious and community leaders;
  6. Ensure that the efforts to prevent and contain the disease include vulnerable and marginalized groups, are gender-sensitive, child-friendly and disability-sensitive;
  7. Strengthen, equip and allocate adequate resources to healthcare systems by providing health workers, and all those involved in addressing the epidemic, with the necessary protective gears, adequate medical equipment and supplies;
  8. Ensure that restrictions imposed on public health grounds are lawful, respect human and peoples’ rights, are necessary and proportional; and
  9. Set up effective and efficient systems to monitor the measures adopted and to take corrective measures and undertake investigation in cases of allegations of violations of human and peoples’ rights.

The African Commission further

  1. Welcomes the effort and support of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) and the WHO for enabling States Parties and requests the Africa CDC to coordinate with AU Member States for enabling access to all the information and guidelines required for preparedness and response in relevant African languages.

Honourable Solomon Ayele Dersso, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Honourable Jamesina E. L. King, Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Done in Banjul, The Gambia, 28 February 2020