Deadly conflicts, major political crisis, high-risk elections: The ACHPR must adopt a strong stance during its 14th Extraordinary Session

On the eve of the opening of the 14th Extraordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), in Nairobi, Kenya, FIDH calls upon the main African mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights, to adopt a strong position with regard to the political and security situation prevailing in some regions of the continent, characterized by the persistence or resumption of armed conflict, serious political and institutional crisis, or high-risk elections, so many situations that impact on fundamental rights and require appropriate action from the ACHPR.

The ACHPR is expected to adopt a strong and public position condemning the deteriorating situation in Central African Republic. Here, in a context of disintegration of the State apparatus, Seleka rebels continue to commit serious crimes against civilians throughout the country. Information collected by FIDH reveals more than 400 killings by Seleka forces, a hundred rapes and other forms of sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, burning of villages, abductions of civilians, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and other serious violations that may amount to war crimes and whose perpetrators are currently enjoying complete impunity. FIDH calls upon the ACHPR to ensure that the protection of civilians is at the heart of the discussions conducted by the African Union and the United Nations to restore peace and stability in this country.

FIDH also requests that the ACHPR take appropriate action to contribute to ending human rights violations committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the recent resumption of fightings, in North Kivu, between national armed forces and the M23, has forced 66,000 civilians to seek refuge in neighboring countries. The Commission’s action on the situation in Sudan must orchestrate a turning point and actively contribute to ending the violence suffered by civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur. This extraordinary session should allow the Commission to develop a real strategy in this regard. The political and institutional crisis in Egypt will also have to be at the center of the Commission’s attention. Considering the prevailing instability in the country, the Commission should remind the incumbent authorities of their obligations to respect, amongst others, fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as rights to security, physical integrity and justice, as pre-requisits to the establishment of the rule of law in Egypt.

As many states are organising national elections by the end of July, the ACHPR should immediately remind them of their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Charter on democracy, Elections and Governance, and the African Union Principles governing democratic elections in Africa. The Commission should pay particular attention to the situation in Zimbabwe, where harmonised elections will be held on July 31 in a context where political, institutional, financial and security challenges remain significant. FIDH and its member organization Zimrights, have raised particular concerns about the level of preparation for the holding of such elections, in the absence of key reforms in the media, security and justice sectors. The conditions in which the first votes of security forces took place – leaving many of them unable to vote – confirm the fears of inadequate preparation, with serious potential for violations. In such a context, and bearing in mind the drama of the 2008 elections, the ACHPR cannot remain silent.

The Commission must also call for the strictest respect for democratic principles in the context of the presidential elections to be held in Mali and the legislative elections to be held in Guinea-Conakry and Togo.

" Human rights violators consider situations of conflict and political crises as real pretexts to commit their crimes. The ACHPR should actively contribute to efforts to neutralize them. Its strength is not only denunciation, but also action. The ACHPR must use all the tools at its disposal to ensure the protection of civilians, in all circumstances " said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

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