African Commission leads way in designating a high-level focal against reprisals

May 19, 2014

On 16 May 2014 the International Service for Human Rights [ISHR] reports that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has designated a high-level focal point to document and follow up on cases of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders that cooperate with the African human rights system. The spokesperson of the ISHR, Clement Voulé, welcomed the move and said: ‘The UN and its Member States should take note of the African Commission’s initiative and approve the designation of a high-level UN focal point’…‘Delegations in New York should also heed the call led by Botswana and joined by 56 States in Geneva in March to expedite this process and ensure a comprehensive, system-wide response to reprisals.’  While this is in itself good news and a step in the right direction, some caution is needed:

(1) The tasks of documenting, monitoring and encouraging effective Commission follow up on reprisals has been delegated to the existing African Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Reine Alapini-Gansou [‘By designating me as a focal point, the Commission has acted on the need to strengthen its response to reprisals by monitoring cases and working with States to prevent recurrence and promote accountability’]. However, there is no indication that Commissioner Alapini-Gansou is given additional powers or resources.

(2) Almost all the African countries (except Chad and Morocco) supported the UN Resolution in the General Assembly last year that in fact blocked the creation of a focal point against reprisals in the United Nations. Courageous little Botswana may well have led a large group of countries with a statement in March 2014 at the Human Rights Council [http://www.ishr.ch/news/human-rights-council-has-duty-strengthen-response-reprisals] which favors such a UN-wide focal point, but how the African group will vote next time is far from clear. See more on: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/un-general-assembly-indeed-defers-un-focal-point-on-human-rights-defenders/

Still, I hope we can all share the ISHR’s passionate statement that “Any other outcome will signal support for impunity for the perpetrators of reprisals and a betrayal of human rights defenders and others who engage with the human rights system”.

via African Commission designates high-level focal point to combat reprisals | ISHR.

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