The African Commission must react strongly against heightened threats to human rights

Continentalis via Wikicommons CC BY-SA 3.0

Paris, Nairobi 9 November 2022 – As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) nears the closing of the its 73rd Ordinary Session, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) underlines the need for the Commission to adopt strong and targeted recommendations in response to the increased threats and violations of democratic governance, the rule of law, freedom of expression and association in Africa. Faced with this, the work of the civil society is more than ever essential for governments’ accountability in relation to human rights.

The 73rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is underway since 21 October 2022, and closes on 9 November 2022. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations welcome the resuming of the in-person session in Banjul (Gambia). Together they took on an advocacy mission on the sidelines of the event to affirm the principles of human rights.

In line with article 62 of the African Charter, State reports by Ivory Coast (2016-2019) and Mauritania (2018-2021) were reviewed during the session. FIDH, the Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains (MIDH), and the Association mauritanienne des droits de l’Homme (AMDH) participated in providing alternative information on the State reports. These interventions were significant amidst marked low participation by these countries’ civil society despite the reviewing of their State’s report and a globally degraded situation on the continent.

Essential advocacy from civil society in a context marred by an increase in human rights violations across the continent

Critically, this ACHPR session was held against a backdrop of heightened attacks on democratic governance, the rule of law, freedom of expression and association in Africa. About the session, Alice Mogwe, FIDH President, declared “The Commission is meeting at a time when FIDH remains extremely concerned by the serious decline in the adherence to the African Charter and the AU Constitutive Act. Since 2021, Africa has witnessed five military coups, resulting in human rights violations, insecurity and socio-political crises. Military transition’s and governments are also increasingly cracking down on legitimate protests and actions by citizens, calling for accountable governance.”

"The Commission therefore has a high duty to urge Member States to adhere to their commitments under the African Charter, the AU Constitutive Act, as well as other regional and international instruments.”

Alice Mogwe, FIDH President

In view of this context, members of the advocacy mission focused on bringing to the attention of the Commission these violations. Importantly, it provided detailed information on incidents associated with specific Member States. For instance, the Observatory for Human Rights Defenders, managed by FIDH and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), submitted extensive information on attacks, intimidation and reprisals against HRDs and NGOs to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa, Chairperson Remy Lumbu. This information was considered during the Agenda item on Activity reporting by the members of the Commission.

Works made by field NGOs critical to effective recommendations by the ACHPR

Confronted with the trend of restrictions on democratic space on the continent, FIDH and its member organisations submitted to the NGO Forum held on 17th and 18th October, two country resolutions on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali, as well as two thematic resolutions on military transitions and the fight against impunity in Africa. Those resolutions were adopted by the NGO Forum and transmitted onward to the African Commission for consideration and adoption.

Two days before the start of the session, on 19 October 2022, FIDH and Amnesty International organised a side-event on exploring a survivor-centered approach to addressing sexual violence in Africa. The event focused on fleshing out this year’s research publications from the two NGOs, on sexual violence in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Kenya. The ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights in Africa, Hon. Commissioner Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie, delivered the key note speech, where she emphasized on the need for stakeholders to push for the adoption and implementation of the Guidelines for combating sexual violence and its consequences in Africa so as to provide additional guide to States on addressing sexual violence.

A session dedicated to the implementation of human rights standards across Africa

On October 21, the session started with the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the ACHPR. A commemorative panel event on getting to know the Commission better was convened, where information on the special mechanisms of the ACHPR and the secretariat was shared in a bid to create better understanding on how to effectively engage with these mechanisms.

Two key guidelines aimed at crystallising human rights standards as they continue to evolve, while also responding to emerging challenges, were launched during the session. The guidelines on shadow reporting, serve as the first guide provided by the ACHPR on how stakeholders can effectively provide alternative information to State reports to the ACHPR. The guidelines on the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances in Africa aim at providing guidance and support to States on the effective implementation of their commitments and contributions to eradicate enforced disappearances.

As the session comes to an end, FIDH and its member organisations call on the African Commission to adopt strong recommendations on the heightened threats to democracy, freedom of expression and association in Africa. FIDH and its member organisations will continue to monitor the resultant recommendations and resolutions adopted by the African Commission, and will follow-up on the concluding observations from the State report review, in view ofof raising awareness in the respective countries and holding the State accountable for implementation.

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