The 23rd Summit of the African Union must focus on peace, security and justice

Press release

The 23rd Ordinary Summit of the African Union (AU), which begins today in Malabo, must focus on peace, security and justice.

In a context of dramatic deterioration of the security situation on the African continent, the priority of the African Union Summit must be to take concrete measures to reverse and prevent cycles of violence, which spare no region of the continent and primarily affect civilian populations, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

In Central African Republic (CAR), civilian populations continue to face the worst atrocities. Recent investigations conducted by FIDH and its member and partner organisations reveal that the Anti-balaka and the Seleka have committed and continue to perpetrate crimes against humanity and war crimes. The investigations also underline that the senior leaders responsible for the crimes committed in CAR several years ago are now the key players in the ongoing conflict. To put an end to the violence, the African Union, must support and reinforce the budget as well as the forces of MISCA while waiting for the establishment of MINUSCA and should enact sanctions against the alleged perpetrators of the crimes committed. To restore sustainable peace and security in the country, the African Union must also support the efforts of national and international judicial bodies to fight impunity.

In the context of the forthcoming general elections officially scheduled to be held in 2015, particular attention must be paid to the deterioration of the political and security situation in Sudan. The AU must publicly and strongly condemn the continuing bombings by the national defence and security forces against civilian populations in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas. The AU must also condemn the ongoing clashes in Darfur and demand justice and reparation for the victims. The AU should stand against the increased number of arrests and arbitrary detentions of political opponents and human rights defenders, call for their release, and ensure that the Sudanese authorities respond to allegations of torture inflicted on several detainees. The AU should call for justice for the victims of the bloody repression of demonstrations in September 2013, which led to the killings of at least 170 people.

The strong political and security instability prevailing in Libya has seen developments of particular concern in recent weeks, while the elections are to be held on June 25. The AU has a key role to play to encourage a political solution that respects human rights and freedoms. The amount of unlawful killings is increasing especially in the context of clashes between different militias active in the country. Voices criticizing these militias are also subject to repression even murder in some cases. The judiciary personal, and in particular women, are subjected to harassment and isolation attempts. Insecurity seriously jeropardizes the functioning of justice and impunity for the most serious crimes remains the norm. The AU should call for effective measures to put an end to insecurity destabilizing Libya. It should also encourage the restoration of an effective and independent judiciary system that is respectful of international standards in order to put an end to this widespread impunity.

In South Sudan, FIDH welcomes the establishment and deployment of an AU Commission of Inquiry mandated to shed light on human rights violations committed during the conflict which started in December 2013. While peace remains fragile in the country, our organisation expects that these investigations will be followed by the adoption of concrete recommendations to fight the impunity of the perpetrators of all crimes committed. In this regards, the AU should set up mechanisms to support the establishment, without delay, of justice processes in this country.

The common denominator for all these conflicts remains the impunity of the perpetrators. Together with continued efforts to restore security and stability, the African Union must provide political, financial and technical support to fight such impunity. In order to be in line with the objectives and principles it has set for itself, the AU must support the strengthening of the national judiciary in all these countries. It must also cooperate with the International Criminal Court and support the development of efficient transitional justice mechanisms, said Sheila Muwanga Nabachwa, FIDH Vice President.

In all these situations of conflicts, the AU should continue its efforts towards the fight against sexual and gender-based violence. The AU must develop a strategy to fight against discrimination against women in law and practice, against the stigmatization of survivors, the generalised impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and the lack of representation of women in peace negotiations and processes. The AU should further call upon its Member States to ensure that the rights and protection of human rights defenders, who document and denounce violations committed during conflicts and crisis and whose security is too often threatened, is effectively guaranteed.

Furthermore, in the face of the proliferation of terrorism across the continent, particularly in Mali, Nigeria and Kenya, the AU needs to urgently develop a global strategy to fight against terrorism while calling upon its member states to refrain from legislating or acting in the name of the fight against terrorism with total disregard for international and regional human rights conventions.

In situations that raise concerns over potential for abuses to occur, the AU must act pre-emptively. In the context of the forthcoming general elections to be held in October in Mozambique, the AU must seriously take into account the threat of renewed clashes between Frelimo and Renamo. At the same time, the AU should take a strong stand with the Burundi authorities. The internal divisions within and between political parties, the poor security conditions and the increasing infringements to fundamental freedoms appear to compromise the holding of free, transparent and secure elections in 2015. While several AU representatives have recently made statements or carried out visits in Burundi, the AU must call for the immediate release of Pierre Clavier Mbonimpa, a human rights defender whose arrest and detention highlights the hardening of the regime. We know that elections in Africa can lead to serious crisis and even to conflicts. The African Union must take these risks into account and activate the political and legal levers it has to guarantee free, transparent and secure elections, said Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the AU.

Read more