The ACHPR condemns the Persistence of Crimes of Sexual Violence in Africa

Nairobi, Paris, May 28, 2014 - The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has adopted two major resolutions condemning the persistence of crimes of sexual violence on the African continent. FIDH, which has for several years campaigned against these crimes, welcomes the stance of the ACHPR and calls upon the African Union (AU) member states to take the measures that are required to effectively fight this scourge.

In its Resolution 283 on the Situation of Women and Children in Armed Conflict, the ACHPR denounces the persistence, in situations of conflict, of various forms of “sexual and gender-based violence such as rape, sexual slavery, and sexual mutilations of women and children” ; and denounces the fact that the “laws aimed at protecting women and children from violence are insufficient, discriminatory or non-existent and that legal definitions of crimes of sexual and gender-based violence are inadequate, especially in conflict situations”. The Commission also expressed its concerns that “crimes of sexual violence are often defined as “crimes against morality or honour”, rather than against the victim’s bodily integrity” ; and denounced “the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of crimes of sexual and gender-based violence”.

"This Resolution echoes the damning analysis we have undertaken with our member organisations, both in countries experiencing instability such as Egypt and Mali, or armed conflicts such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic or Libya, and in countries considered relatively stable or on the path of democratic transition, such as Tunisia" said Sheila Muwanga Nabachwa, FIDH Vice President. "In all these countries, the watchword which seems to have been given is the impunity of the perpetrators of sexual violence. This situation must stop", she added.

In its Resolution 284 on the Suppression of Sexual Violence against Women in the DRC, the ACHPR denounces "the persistence and increase in cases of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, perpetrated by armed groups and members of the Congolese armed forces against women and girls, especially in the eastern part of the DRC” and denounces “the impunity still enjoyed by the perpetrators and accomplices of these crimes despite the existence of specific laws on sexual violence”. In its Resolution, the Commission notably pointed out the shameful verdict pronounced in the case of the rapes committed in November 2012 in Minova, which consecrated the impunity of 36 out of the 39 members of the FARDC who had been accused of the rape of at least 135 women and girls.

"The Minova trial was emblematic for all the victims of crimes of sexual violence in DRC. Its highly criticised verdict reminds us forcefully that an increased and coordinated engagement of the international community is needed to stop this phenomenon" said Dismas Kitenge, FIDH Vice President and President of Group Lotus. "The ACHPR, which has already interacted in the past with our authorities on the issue of sexual violence, must intensify its advocacy and define a political and legal strategy to resist such violence ", he added.

FIDH calls upon AU Member States to implement the recommendations contained in the ACHPR Resolution 283, in particular those calling for "independent and effective investigations into all crimes of sexual and gender-based violence, and prosecute and punish perpetrators to end impunity” ; for the providing of “adequate training on investigating and prosecuting crimes of sexual and gender-based violence to personnel in the criminal justice system (police, forensic examiners, prosecutors, lawyers, judges)" ; or to the guarantee of “the right to a fair and equitable victims in its various forms (restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition) repair".

FIDH, which, jointly with its members organisations in the DRC had demonstrated in a recent report that in the DRC, "victims of sexual violence rarely obtain justice and never receive reparation", calls on the Congolese authorities to implement the recommendations of Resolution 284, in particular those calling upon them to ensure the “effective access to justice of women and girls towards putting an end to impunity and ensuring that the perpetrators and accomplices of such acts are prosecuted before the competent courts within a reasonable time” ; “the effective protection and safety of Congolese women, in particular victims of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, by providing medical and psychological support, as well as adequate compensation” ; and to take “the necessary measures for the effective implementation of Law No. 06/18 and Law No. 06/19 of 2006 criminalising various forms of sexual violence”.

Finally, FIDH calls upon the African Union and its human rights protection mechanisms to strengthen and coordinate their action in the fight against crimes of sexual violence in Africa. "The persistence of crimes and sexual violence on our continent requires the AU to intensify its efforts to ensure that States adopt non-discriminatory laws, adopt repressive measures against perpetrators, enact effective remedies for victims, and raise awareness and provide improved training for officials. The ACHPR has a major role to play in this process" said Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the African Union.

See FIDH oral statement on the situations of women’s rights in Africa pronounced during the 55th ordinary session of the ACHPR.

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