The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights should not remain in the Gambia

21/10/2009
Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomes the resolution adopted on 11 October 2009 by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Republic of the Gambia which called on the African Union to consider relocating the Secretariat of the Commission.

Considering the deteriorating human rights situation in the Gambia, headquarters of the ACHPR, and the serious threats against human rights defenders, journalists and all dissenting voices, the African Commission, meeting at its extraordinary session in Dakar from 5 to 11 October 2009, called on the African Union (AU) to provide extra-budgetary resources to the African Commission to ensure that its 46th Session is held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia or any other member State of the AU. The AU was asked to consider relocating its secretariat to another country in the event that the human rights situation does not improve.

The African Commission was concerned by the statement made on state-owned radio and television by the Gambian president on 21 September 2009. Yahya Jammeh threatened to kill anyone who sought to sabotage and destabilise his government, in particular human rights defenders and those who support them. His statements have been firmly condemned by FIDH [1] .

«The resolution adopted by the ACHPR is a call to order to President Jammeh. We cannot, with impunity, threaten human rights defenders with death, all the more in a country which hosts the body in charge of the respect of African instruments for the protection of human rights», declared Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

The statements made by the Gambian president reflect the deteriorating human rights situation in this country where hindrance to freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests and detentions, murder and judicial harassment of journalists and human rights defenders are recurrent. Considering the escalation of those human rights violations, FIDH repeatedly called on the African Union to relocate the headquarters of the ACHPR to another country.

« Once more, we call on the African Union to relocate the headquarters of the ACHPR. What is at stake is the safety of human rights defenders and more generally the credibility of this body which is an unavoidable place of expression for human rights defenders. The remaining of the ACHPR headquarters in the Gambia is incompatible with its mandate and objective », continued the President of FIDH. 

More generally, FIDH calls on all states hosting institutions, organs and jurisdictions for the protection of human rights to ensure that human rights are being respected, in particular those of human rights defenders. In this regard, FIDH calls on the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, where the headquarters of the AU are located, to put an end to the violations of human rights defenders in Ethiopia and to fully respect the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

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