Mixed results of the 58th ordinary session of the African commission during the African year of human rights

(Paris, Banjul) FIDH and its 5 member organizations present in Banjul welcome resolutions adopted by the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) during its 58th ordinary session, in particular on protection of human rights defenders. We however regret that civil society recommendations with regards to the fight against impunity were not fully taken into account, and we reiterate the importance of the ACHPR’s role in supporting victims in their search for justice for the gravest crimes perpetrated on the continent.

FIDH welcomes ACHPR’s adoption of a strong resolution on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa. This resolution firmly condemns “obstacles to the activities of human rights defenders and all forms of violence and reprisals against them”. It also urges States to release arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, to put an end to all forms of harassment and other acts of intimidation and to take all necessary measures to conduct investigations and to prosecute cases of violations of defenders’ rights. FIDH has been conducting active advocacy before the ACHPR on the protection of human rights defenders for years, including through its oral interventions at each session and its urgent appeals [1]. Therefore we welcome this position and we call on States members of the African Union (AU) to take necessary measures to efficiently protect rights of human rights defenders.

“The African Union declared 2016 as ’the African year of human rights’. The ACHPR must now more than ever denounce human rights violations perpetrated on the continent and must also guarantee the respect of principles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, so as to ensure an effective protection of African civilian population, including human rights defenders. This resolutions marks a step towards this end and must be followed by actions.”

Mabassa Fall, FIDH representative to the African Union

However, FIDH is very concerned by the position formulated by the Commission in its resolution on the fight against impunity in Africa, in which it calls on State members to ratify the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court on Justice and Human Rights, more commonly called the Malabo Protocol. FIDH reminds that this Protocol contains a clause providing for the immunity of heads of States and other high-ranking officials, which cannot be in accordance with the right of victims to obtain truth, justice and reparations for the gravest crimes, whoever are the perpetrators of such crimes. This position of the Commission goes contradictory to recommendations adopted by civil society during the Forum on the participation of NGOs to the work of the 58th ordinary session of the African Commission. Thus, we reiterate the absolute necessity to reject all immunities for international crimes and we call on the Commission and on State members of the African Union to support existing judicial mechanisms at the national, regional and international levels, including the ICC, in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of serious human rights violations on the continent.

“The ACHPR must formally reinforce its recommendations and its actions with regards to the fight against impunity, while taking into account recommendations and concerns of civil society and victims of human rights violations. States must be reminded their obligation to investigate, prosecute and condemn perpetrators of the most horrendous crimes, no matter what their official position is.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH president


The ACHPR is the organ in charge of monitoring the respect of rights included in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Established in 1991, it is based in Banjul. The Commission is composed of 11 commissioners from 11 different African countries. Its 58th ordinary session took place in Banjul from 6 to 20 April 2016. It ruled on human rights violations in situations of crisis and debated several prior issues related to the protection of human rights on the continent, as well as it examined respect of human rights in Namibia, Mali and South Africa. FIDH was present in Banjul during its public session from 6 to 13 April with its member organizations from Mali, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire which introduced their observations on the situation of human rights in their respective countries.

Following this session, the Commission adopted 12 resolutions, among which 3 deal with specific situations including in the Republic of Congo and in Nigeria.

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