Opening of the 55th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR: FIDH calls for a Human Rights Action Plan in Conflict and Crises Resolution and Prevention Processes

As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) opens its 55th Ordinary Session in Luanda, Angola, today, FIDH calls upon the main African mechanism for the protection and promotion of human rights to take strong positions condemning conflict and crises situations that still persist on the continent, and to strengthen the place of human rights in conflict resolution and prevention processes.

While we commend the increasing involvement of the African Commission (AC) in conflict resolution initiatives across the continent, the complexity of, as well as the challenges arising from, these situations compel the ACHPR to re-think its intervention and cooperation mechanisms with the African Union (AU) in order to be more reactive, efficient, clear, and consistent in their actions. The ACHPR must contribute to developing an AU ‘human rights action plan’ that will enable it to strengthen and structure its coordination activities with other pertinent AU organs in order to better address conflicts in Africa,” said Alice Mogwe, FIDH Deputy Secretary-General currently in Luanda.

Such a human rights action plan is needed in the Central African Republic (CAR), a country where the territory is divided and the civilian population is now forced to either gather in safe-zones under the protection of international forces, or to flee the country, in order to escape from the worst atrocities, including summary executions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearances, acts of torture, recruitment of child soldiers, pillaging and extortion, and the destruction of goods. A human rights action plan is also urgently needed in South Sudan, where civilians continue to be victims of extra-judicial executions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and destruction of goods when messages are broadcasted on the radio inciting violence, and particularly sexual violence against women.

This type of action plans must lead to the development of genuine strategies which would shed light on the circumstances of these crimes, effectively fight against the impunity enjoyed by their authors, pave the way for necessary legal and institutional reforms in order to strengthen the rule of law, and guarantee in a sustainable manner the protection of women’s rights, human rights defenders, refugees, and displaced persons. These strategies should also find ways to give more responsibility to non-state actors, including international companies that are too often accomplices of, or even perpetrators of, human rights violations.

The sending of African human rights observers in Mali and the CAR, as well as the setting up of an AU commission of inquiry in South Sudan, clearly demonstrates the increasing will to consider human rights as an essential part of any initiative for the restoration of peace and security on the continent. However, for teams sent on the ground to be effective, these initiatives require improved transparency and consistency and the availability of adequate material, financial and human resources. They also must contribute to the development of human rights strategies that will encourage lasting peace through the strengthening of the rule of law. These aims cannot be achieved without a permanent organ for administrative coordination within the AU, said Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative before the African Union, also in Luanda.

Reinforcing the consistency of the ACHPR’s human rights action in situations of crises will enable it to fully perform its role in Sudan, where the African Commission should be able to carry out an investigation into the violent repression of the demonstrations in September 2013.This repression resulted in the death of at least 170 demonstrators as a result of the excessive use of force by Sudanese security and intelligence services. The ACHPR must also be more vocal and pro-active on the dramatic situation currently prevailing in Egypt, where demonstrators also suffer from abuses by security forces, sexual violence against women is widespread and perpetrated with absolute indifference from the authorities, acts of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres are numerous, and violations to the right to a fair trial are recurrent. The ACHPR must exercise preventive measures in volatile contexts like the one in Burundi. Less than a year before the general elections, tensions among political parties and security challenges are high, and restrictions to fundamental freedoms have been repeatedly instituted. Combined, these conditions do not help in creating the conditions for a credible and secured electoral process.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) is the organ in charge of monitoring the enforcement of the rights enshrined in the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights. The ACHPR was created in 1991 and has its seat in Banjul, the Gambia. It is composed of 11 commissioners from 11 African countries. It is currently holding its 55th Ordinary Session in Luanda, Angola during which, in addition to reviewing the state of human rights in crises situations, the ACHPR will examine the situation of human rights in Liberia, Mozambique and Western Sahara. FIDH is in Luanda with representatives of its member and partner organisations in Liberia, Mozambique, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Sudan, South Sudan, Senegal, CAR, Tanzania and Angola.

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