FIDH Raises Human Rights Concerns to the African Commission, as it Meets in Midst of Pandemic and Conflict Situations

(Paris, Nairobi) 29 April 2021 – As the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) continues its work during the 68th Ordinary Session in private session, FIDH reiterates its appeal for ACHPR to take strong positions condemning conflict and crises situations that still persist on the continent, strengthen the place for human rights and accountability for serious crimes in conflict prevention and resolutions processes, and continue to play an active role in addressing the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights on the continent.

« While we commend the Commission’s continued attention to the human rights situation in Africa in this exceptional period, we call on it to seize this moment to advocate vigorously and take concrete action for the transformation of African States and economies towards social equity, delivery of basic services to the people and sustainable development”, said Alice Mogwe, FIDH President. “Here, the African Commission must play a key role in the effective protection of human rights for Africans by strengthening its work on monitoring State conduct as well as continuing to issue guidelines for better implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other regional and international instruments”»

Alice Mogwe FIDH's president

FIDH participated in the Commission’s 68th edition–the third consecutive virtual ordinary session—to raise a series of important human rights concerns on the continent. FIDH delivered to the Commission—the main African mechanism for promotion and protection of human rights—a series of oral statements, including on the situations of women’s rights, transitional justice and human rights in conflict situations.

On the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights in Africa, FIDH voiced its support, in an oral statement delivered on 17 April 2020, for a waiver on the application of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines as a means of securing States’ obligations to take all the necessary measures to ensure the right to health in the midst of this pandemic. FIDH also called on African States to strengthen the capacities of their health sectors by rededicating themselves to realizing the Abuja Declaration pledge of allocating at least 15% of their annual budgets to improve the health sector and urged them to prioritize the provision of social safety nets for vulnerable groups as a way of mitigating the loss of livelihoods and ensuring access to basic necessities.

On elections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, FIDH called attention to the situations in Uganda, the Republic of Congo, Djibouti and Chad. FIDH highlighted the undue harassment and persecution of opposition politicians, human rights defenders and journalists in these contexts and also condemned instances of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, arbitrary arrest, detentions, killing of civilians and internet restrictions. FIDH strongly advocated for the Commission to instigate a continental dialogue on the state of elections in Africa, one that can foster electoral reforms which include enhancing the independence of the Electoral Commissions, prohibiting the undue use of State resources in electoral campaigns and ensuring judicial remedies for electoral disputes.

With regard to peace and security, FIDH took note of the possibility of investigations in Ethiopia to be conducted by the Commission as well as by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); to this FIDH insisted that any investigations must be credible accountability processes anchored on full cooperation by the State authorities and those responsible for non-State armed groups. FIDH also reiterated its previous call inclusive national dialogue as a way out of the unfolding crisis and to establish a comprehensive roadmap for addressing the underlying grievances and creating conditions for peace, security and democratic and socio-economic transformation.

In the Sahel region, FIDH highlighted that the complex network of international and national security forces and armed terrorist groups that are present there, have contributed to human rights violations to varying degrees, including the killing of civilians as documented in the 30 March 2021 report by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). FIDH urged the responsible parties in these conflicts to not only ensure accountability for these civilian deaths, but to also move away from a purely security-driven approach and instead balance this by addressing the equally important basic needs of the local populations such as the restoration of health, social and education services.

“With the African Union’s 2021 theme being ‘Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want’’, it is all the more urgent to reinvigorate the spirit of Pan-Africanism and to entrench the culture of peace and tolerance as envisaged under Agenda 2063’s fourth aspiration of a peaceful and secure Africa.”, said Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the African Union. “The African Commission should play its full role in the African Union’s coordinated responses to bridge the impunity gap and ensure effective and sustained protection of African civilian populations—while supporting African civil societies’ initiatives on these issues”, he added.

FIDH acknowledges the appreciation shown by Commissioner Solomon Dersso as Chairperson of the Commission, who mentioned paying particular attention to our recommendations with respect to enhancing access to COVID-19 vaccines through patent waivers, addressing human rights violations in the context of elections and having due regard for the justice dimension when dealing with conflict situations on the continent. FIDH also undertook to share its upcoming joint reportwhich it prepared with its member organization the Kenya Human Rights Commission, on Sexual violence committed during Kenya’s 2017 elections; the report was requested by Commissioner Hon. Maria Teresa Manuela, in her capacity as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.

FIDH also participated in the NGO Forumwhich preceded the Commission’s ordinary session and saw a series of its recommendations adopted by the forum including: on COVID-19 State responses, elections in Africa, and the role of the youth in implementing the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Under the banner of the World Coalition on the Death Penalty, FIDH also supported a resolution on the death penalty which was adopted by the Forum. The Commission is currently sitting in its private session which will run until 3 May 2021. FIDH will continue to monitor key issue of concern including: the accessibility of COVID-19 assistance programmes to Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), the shrinking of civic space and curtailing of voters’ rights, the state of peace negotiations in the Sahel region and their adherence to human rights obligations and state responses to public protests associated with deteriorating living conditions and constricted democratic space.

The public component in which Non-Governmental Organisations are allowed to participate ran from 14-24 April 2021 after which the Commissioners retreated for their private session and will revert to a public session on 4 May 2021 for the official closure of the session.

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