Human rights Violations in Sub-Saharan African Countries in the Name of Counter-Terrorism: A High Risks Situation

While from November 14th to 28th, human rights activists and members of governments from across sub-Saharan Africa are meeting in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, for the 42nd ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, FIDH releases the present report entitled “Human rights violations in Sub-Saharan African countries in the name of counter-terrorism: a high risks situation” which highlights numerous examples of human rights violations in the context or in the name of the fight against terrorism on the continent.

Human rights violations in Sub-Saharan African countries in the name of counter-terrorism: a high risks situation

According to the leaders of the international campaign against terrorism -led by the United States of America- Sub-Saharan Africa is a fertile breeding ground for the recruitment of terrorists, a potential terrorist hideout, a secured location for the acquisition of illegal arms as well as a privileged territory for obscure financial transactions linked to terrorist activities.

While human rights defenders are among the very first ones to condemn terrorist attacks, they also firmly believe that the most efficient ways to respond to this phenomenon are to be found within the respect of the rule of law and the legal framework set forth in international human rights treaties. This report however demonstrates the potentially harmful nature of certain provisions for fundamental freedoms. Indeed, to fight against terrorism, numerous states have adopted and applied provisions that derogate from international human rights instruments binding upon them and others use the fight against terrorism as a pretext to act outside of any legal context and without judicial control.

The report emphasizes the most worrying violations which include arbitrary detentions, torture, violations of the right to life, of the right to a fair trial by an impartial and independent tribunal, violations of the right to freedom of expression, to private life and property, or refoulement of asylum seekers and expulsion of migrants suspected of taking part in terrorist activities to countries where they may face torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

Far from being an obstacle, the demand that counter-terrorism measures are respectful of fundamental rights will result in greater admissibility and efficiency. This is why FIDH encourages the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the future African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to play an important role in controlling the conformity of state measures and practices in the context of the fight against terrorism with international and regional human rights standards.

This report will be largely disseminated during the Commonwealth Human Rights Forum on November 19th and 20th which will gather human rights activists from Commonwealth countries in Kampala, Uganda, just prior the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on November 23th to 25th and which many sessions will focus on the impact of anti-terrorism legislation on countries’ compliance with their commitments to promote and protect human rights and fundamental liberties.

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