Statement on the General Human Rights Situation in Africa – ITEM 4

Alice MOGWE, FIDH Deputy Secretary-General
and Executive Director of DITSHWANELO (The Botswana Centre for Human Rights)

Honorable Chairperson of the ACHPR,
Honorable Commissioners,
Distinguished State delegates,
Distinguished representatives of international and national institutions,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has been strongly advocating over the years, for the strengthening of the involvement of the Commission in conflict and crisis situations prevailing on our continent and has welcomed the fact that such involvement has materialized in urgent situations such as Mali, Central African Republic and South Sudan. The deployment of African Human Rights Observers in Mali and CAR and the setting up of an African Union Commission of Inquiry in South Sudan demonstrate the increasing willingness to consider human rights as an essential part of the initiatives aimed at restoring peace and security on the continent. In a context where violence is escalating in several countries, where the worst atrocities are still being committed against civilians, where peace negotiations are at a standstill, investigating serious human rights violations, working for impunity to be removed and developing human rights strategies, are complex yet critical aspects.

Madam Chairperson ,

To ensure the effectiveness, of the human rights based approach of the African Union and the Commission, when dealing with conflict and crisis situations, strengthened transparency and coherence, adequate financial, material and human resources, specific expertise and improved coordination, including with relevant stakeholders such as civil society organisations, are all necessary. This approach requires the establishment of a permanent organ for coordination within the African Union, which would ensure improved reaction and coherence of the action. This approach also requires the development of detailed human rights action plans, aimed at shedding light on the circumstances which have led to the perpetration of crimes, aimed at adequately dealing with the impunity of those responsible, aimed at opening the road to legislative and institutional reforms, aimed at guaranteeing the long-lasting protection of women’s rights, the rights of human rights defenders, refugees and internally displaced persons, and aimed at ensuring that non state actors, including international companies, are held accountable, where they are involved in the violations of human rights.

Such a human rights action plan is required in Central African Republic, a country divided in two. The East and North regions are still held and occupied by Seleka armed groups, while in the West region anti-balaka militias are committing mass killings based on political-religious grounds, mainly targeting Muslim populations. Despite the presence of the 8,000 military forces from the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic and the French Sangaris, the violence in the country has reached unacceptable levels of violations. On a daily basis, civilians are summarily executed, are victims of sexual and gender-based violence, acts of torture, enforced disappearances, pillaging and looting. This situation is the consequence of years of impunity, bad governance and weak human rights legislative and institutional frameworks.

A human rights action plan is also needed in South Sudan where civilians have suffered the worst atrocities since the eruption of the fighting between forces of Salva Kiir and Riek Machar on 15 December 2013. Thousands of civilians have been killed, over 800,000 have been forcibly displaced while 270,000 others have been forced to flee the country. The ethnic aspect of the violence has escalated the conflict to disturbing levels of horror where civilians are facing extra-judicial killings, sexual and gender-based violence, looting and destruction of property. FIDH, who had already, in 2011, alerted the international community to the danger posed by inter-ethnic violence in South Sudan and had called for the strengthening of the legal and democratic institutional human rights framework in this country, today reiterates this call.

A better coherence of the Commission’s human rights approach when dealing with crisis situations will enable the Commission to play an effective role in Sudan, where those responsible for the killing of at least 170 demonstrators who attempted to express divergent views in September 2013 have not been held accountable. The African Commission, which, over the past 20 years, has adopted a wide range of recommendations calling upon Sudan to strengthen the administration of justice, to fight against impunity and to guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms, must adopt a strong position condemning this repression and must consider a fact-finding mission to Sudan to shed light on the circumstances which have led to this repression, to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and that relevant legislative reforms are carried out.

Madam Chairperson ,

The Commission must also be more vocal and proactive concerning the alarming situation in Egypt, where fundamental rights and freedoms are increasingly violated. Yesterday, 28 April 2014, as the Commission was opening this session, an Egyptian judge sentenced 683 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death, including the group’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, on charges of killing a policeman in August 2013. The judge also confirmed the death sentences of 37 of 529 alleged supporters previously condemned on 24 March 2014. The defendants whose death sentences were not upheld were each sentenced to 25 years in prison. FIDH calls upon the Commission to take all necessary measures within its mandate, including the adoption of provisional measures, to ensure that no executions are carried out. A dialogue with the Egyptian authorities is also needed to ensure that demonstrators are no longer severely repressed by security forces, that women are no longer subjected to sexual violence and that detainees no longer face acts of torture. The Commission must further act proactively in volatile situations such as in Burundi, where less than a year before the general elections which are to be held in 2015, the tensions between political parties, security challenges and restrictions to fundamental rights and freedoms have dramatically increased. This situation does not create conditions conducive to a credible and secure electoral process and requires the Commission to send a clear message of concern to the Burundian authorities.

Madam Chairperson

As we are gathered here in Angola, we can not but raise the human rights challenges prevailing in this country. 10 years after the end of a 30-year long war which claimed one million lives and left one-third of the population displaced, multiple human rights challenges are yet to be effectively addressed while laying the foundations of democracy and the rule of law in the country. In a socio-political context still marked by the prevalence of widespread poverty, endemic corruption and police brutality - these despite an avowed commitment from the Angolan authorities to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with civil society on human rights issues, Angolan human rights defenders continue to face various obstacles which prevent them from preventing them from monitoring, documenting and taking action concerning human rights abuses in a satisfactory manner. The Commission must seize the opportunity of its presence in Angola to engage meaningfully in dialogue with the national authorities concerning the respect of the Angolan authorities for the freedom of association, the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly.

I Thank you

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