The African Commission finally establishes a focal point on Human Rights defenders in Africa !

Within the framework of their
joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders, the FIDH and the OMCT welcome the establishment by the
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of a focal point on
human rights defenders at its 34th Ordinary Session held in Banjul,
Gambia, from 6 to 20 November 2003.

The Observatory welcomes the appointment of Commissioner Jainaba Johm
to head the focal point on Human Rights defenders and offers her its
full support.

The creation of this focal point is a genuine step forward, towards
which the Observatory has been working for several years. The
Observatory has since 1997 unremittingly worked to achieve
recognition of the role played by Human Rights defenders and the need
to protect them at regional level.

To this end, the Observatory has actively participated for several
years in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and has
contributed to the creation of an item about human rights defenders
on the agenda of each of its sessions. At each session of the African
Commission, the Observatory has drawn Commissioners’ attention to the
violations and to the threats against defenders in Africa. In 2002,
the Observatory and the International Service for Human Rights also
facilitated attendance by the Special Representative of the UN
Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, Mrs. Hina Jilani, at the
Pretoria session where she met with Commissioners, government
representatives and NGOs.

This regional mechanism to protect defenders in Africa complements
existing instruments : the post of the Special Representative of the
UN Secretary General on human rights defenders (2000) and the special
Human Rights Defenders Unit within the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (2001).

This ongoing process holds out hope for all those who struggle day by
day to defend and foster rights and fundamental freedoms in Africa
and who are under threat because
of their commitment. It also recognizes the role they play in working
for peace, democracy and the Rule of Law.

The Observatory stays at the disposal of Commissioner Jainaba Johm,
in order to provide her with the necessary information to help her in
fulfilling her mandate. The Observatory calls on Commissioner Jainaba
Johm to work closely with the UN Special Representative on Human
Rights Defenders, Mrs. Hina Jilani, and her team.

The Observatory also welcomes the creation by the Commission of focal
points on the prevention of torture and on freedom of expression and
of a focal point on refugees and displaced persons in Africa.

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