Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Escalation of Rights Violations Worries African Commission

The hundred and eighty six delegates present at the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights held in Banjul from 11th – 25th November 2009 have noted with concern the gross human rights violations escalating in countries like the Gambia, among notorious others like Guinea-Conakry, Sudan, Niger, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Sierra Leone.
Members agreed that the Commission continues to receive numerous reports of human rights abuses perpetrated on the continent, adding that as the first decade of the 21st century ends, there have been important developments in many parts of the world, including Africa, which have “witnessed unparalleled growth of democracy” and major social and economic changes that have transformed the political landscape. It pointed out that Africans have continued to agitate for the right to determine how they are governed, and though major strides have been made in this regard, there are still a few areas in which Africa must do better.
The document notes that numerous elections that have taken place in many of the nation states on the continent give a clear indication that Africa has started “an irreversible trend” towards political liberalization that is driven by the participation and the choice of the people. It informed the strengthening of the human rights infrastructure, promoting the rule of law; and monitoring governance structures to ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected, becomes very significant during these times and must be reinforced in order to preserve what has been achieved over the years.
A final communiqué of the 46th Ordinary Session read by Commissioner Musa Ngary Bitaye urges the African Commission to urgently undertake a fact-finding mission to Guinea in their bid to end gender-based violence, violations of child rights, violation of the rights of human rights defenders, violations of freedom of expression and religion, torture and the continuing marginalization of homosexuals and bisexuals.
They also agreed on the need to campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, underscoring the relevancy of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as a landmark document that is contributing to the process of building a regional human rights culture. They decried that socio-economic rights are going beyond the reach of the majority of Africans, with millions of Africans trapped in poverty and living without access to basic needs like clean water, adequate housing, food, education and primary health care.
The said Communiqué is also in line with the issue of climate change as “another disturbing threat” to the enjoyment of human rights on the continent, out lining that many African nations are realizing that the threats from climate change are serious and urgent, since no nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor can escape the impact of climate change. It indicated the rising sea levels which it says, are threatening many coastlines as more powerful storms and floods continue to wreak havoc, whilst in many other places, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees.
It argues that unless Africa and the international community adopt policies and programmes to combat the negative effects of climatic and environment changes, there is the risk of massive violations of human rights in Africa, through the loss of livelihood of the peasantry across Africa, who continue to rely on rain-fed agriculture. They further assured that member states of the UN, including African States, to carry out activities aimed at reinforcing the progress made in the field of human rights while urging African states to ratify international and regional human rights instruments and to establish National Human Right Institutes (NHRIs) in countries where such institutions do not exist.
The African Commission also adopted its Twenty Seventh (27th) Activity Report, which will be submitted to the 16th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and the 15th Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, scheduled to take place in January 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, the African Commission decided to hold its 47th Ordinary Session from 12 to 26 May 2010 in Tunis, the Republic of Tunisia. It also selected new Commissioners to replace the outgoing Commissioners at the 46th Ordinary Session held in Banjul. Source:

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