Summit of the African Union: The urgency to Ensure Protection, Security and Justice to African Populations

Press release
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As the populations of the Central African Republic and South Sudan witness the commission of abhorrent atrocities, as those in Mali and Libya experience persistent insecurity and as those in Egypt face increasing restrictions upon their fundamental freedoms, FIDH release a position paper that calls upon the African Union, on the opening of its 22nd Summit in Addis Ababa, to work to ensure protection, security and justice for African populations.

22nd Summit of the African Union (January 2014): The urgency to Ensure Protection, Security and Justice to African Populations - FIDH’s Position Paper

"The African Union must take stock of the challenges posed by the perpetration of serious and massive human rights violations on the continent. The AU must provide a strong and coherent response to combat the rising number of conflicts that degenerate into ethnic or religious war, against the proliferation of terrorism, and against state collapse" declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. "Such a response must include the deployment of robust peacekeeping forces, the documentation of violations, the identification and bringing to justice of those responsible, as well as supporting democratic political processes and taking concrete measures to strengthen the rule of law" he added.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), civilians continue to suffer serious abuses throughout the country against a backdrop of political instrumentalisation leading to religious clashes. In the face of this spiraling crisis FIDH calls for the urgent deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation, which presents the only viable means of deploying the human, logistical and budgetary resources required to adequately support the African Union mission in the CAR and guarantee the safety of the civilian population throughout the territory. According to Mathias Morouba, President of the Central African Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), who is currently conducting an advocacy mission to the African Union together with FIDH, “the worst is at work in the CAR and we fear that the situation will continue to deteriorate if the international community does not intervene accordingly. The chaos we face requires a peacekeeping operation able to ensure our protection and to get our country back on the track of political stability and security”.

In South Sudan, violent clashes that erupted last December between two sides of the political power, within one month took on an ethnic character, led to the killing of thousands of people and forced nearly 400,000 others into internal displacement. FIDH had already alerted the international community to the danger of inter-ethnic violence in South Sudan and had called for the strengthening of the legal and democratic institutional human rights framework in the country. Today FIDH reiterates this call. To prevent further deadly clashes and to strengthen the rule of law in South Sudan, FIDH calls upon the AU to ensure the deployment, without further delay, of an Independent Commission of Inquiry mandated to shed light on the circumstances of the violence, to identify those responsible so that they can be brought before competent courts and to identify political and democratic solutions aimed at promoting sustainable peace in the country.

Despite the restoration of constitutional order in Mali, the security situation, particularly in the north of the country, continues to raise concern. Persistent terrorist attacks and banditry, against a backdrop of stalled peace talks between the Malian authorities and armed groups, requires an urgent strengthening of AU action in this country. The AU must ensure that the parties comply with their previous commitments to secure the return of sustainable peace and security in this region.

In Libya, the security situation has deteriorated considerably in recent months with violence being particularly marked in Benghazi and Tripoli. The government is unable to regain control of armed militias and a genuine process of transitional justice, providing for mediation and disarmament phases, is yet to be implemented. The AU should help accelerate the establishment of a national consultation process on issues related to security and governance and ensure that independent mechanisms are able to document human rights violations and establish responsibilities.

The AU has also a role to play in ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly in states experiencing political instability. In Egypt, FIDH is concerned by the fact that the implementation of most of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, which has just been approved by referendum, are subject to the adoption of implementing law, whilst Egypt recently adopted restrictive laws. Similarly, serious concerns remain about respect for the freedoms of opinion, expression and association, in a context where several human rights defenders are still arbitrarily detained by the authorities. FIDH calls upon the AU to ensure that effective and independent mechanisms mandated to secure the implementation of constitutional provisions concerning fundamental rights and freedoms are put in place, that restrictive laws are repealed and that human rights defenders are released.

Amina Bouayach, FIDH Secretary General, who is also present in Addis Ababa states: "In all these situations of conflict and crisis, lack of a strong legal and institutional framework for the protection of human rights, rampant impunity, the exclusion of certain communities and the breaking of political dialogue have all been ingredients for the worst situations. The African Union must act out its responsibility to stop the violence and insecurity and to fight against the instability installed in many parts of our continent."

As the African Union Peace and Security Council meets on 29 January 2014, enabling Heads of State and Government to discuss the prevailing situations in the CAR, South Sudan and Egypt, FIDH calls upon the PSC to make firm commitments to these three countries and to consider the recommendations of our organisation. FIDH also submits to the Heads of State and Government the following recommendations : positon paper.

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