Mixed result

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, meeting in Pretoria in May 2002, launched an urgent appeal to African States urging them to ratify rapidly the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Protocol to the African Charter on the establishment of an African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

The President of the FIDH, Sidiki Kaba, welcomed that stance of the African Commission: " the strong commitment of African States in favour of the ICC and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights will be decisive in order to put an end to impunity, which perpetrates human rights violations in Africa ".

However, the FIDH is deeply disappointed by the decision of the African Commission to delay until its next session the issue of the creation of a mechanism to protect human rights defenders. In Africa, human rights NGOs are systematically labelled as State enemies or political opponents aiming at destabilising the country. Human rights defenders are harassed, arbitrarily prosecuted, arrested and detained on the grounds of their peaceful commitment in favour of fundamental freedoms, democracy and Rule of law in their country. The States use multiple and sophisticated methods of repression, in total contradiction with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1998.

The FIDH, who addressed the issue repeatedly in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint Programme of the FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), regrets that the African Commission did not take the opportunity to express its firm support to women and men who defend the rights of others and very often put their own lives at risk doing so, during its 31st session, to which it had invited the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders. It is the sixth time that the Commission delays its decision, a delay that obviously shows a lack of political will.

The mission of the African Commission necessarily involves a firm support for human rights defenders; it must therefore adopt a mechanism to protect them. Human rights defenders play an essential role in the establishment of democracy and the Rule of law in Africa.

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