NGO Forum preceding the April session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

April 22, 2015

ISHR-logo-colour-highpublished on 21 April “KUMULIKA – THE AFRICAN COMMISSION MONITOR” which describes the NGO Forum that was held from 17-19 April prior to the 56th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). It involved close to 200 civil society participants from the continent. As usual. the NGO Forum followed the practice of holding a series of panel discussions combined with smaller special interest discussion groups, over the course of which recommendations and resolutions were developed to put to the Commission at the upcoming session. You can find more detail in that Newsletter but some key elements are:


AFRICAN WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS CALL ON STATES FOR RECOGNITION AND PROTECTION

ISHR organized a panel discussion to highlight the situation of women human rights defenders in the African continent, the threats and attacks they face and their specific protection needs. Panelists included Fadzai Muparutsa (Coalition of African Lesbians, South Africa), Tilder Kumichii (Gender Empowerment and Development, Cameroon) and Pédan Marthe Coulibaly (Côte d’Ivoire Coalition of Human Rights Defenders). The panel took place ahead of the official launch of the ACHPR report on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa, which is to be on 23 April 2015, during the 56th ordinary session of the ACHPR… more 

UPDATE ON REGIONAL REPRISALS CONSULTATION

The ACHPR at its 55th ordinary session mandated its Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to be a focal point on the issue of reprisals. In this light, the consultation aimed to gather inputs from civil society that would help inform the working methods of the focal point, in order to ensure that it is effective and responsive to the needs of human rights defenders. Clément Voulé (ISHR) and Rosalind Hanzi (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights) provided updates to the NGO Forum and the consultation deliberated several strategies, drawing from experiences in addressing reprisals at the UN level. These included the need to better understand existing avenues to address instances of reprisals when they occur, including through developing a roadmap for interaction between victims of reprisals and the ACHPR focal point on reprisals, and an effective communications policy between the focal point and victims. The consultation also identified the need for better reporting to the ACHPR on instances of reprisals.
FORUM INTERACTS WITH STUDY GROUP ON FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND ASSEMBLY

An ACHPR report on the right to freedom of association and assembly – which was adopted at the 55th ordinary session of the ACHPR – will be officially launched at the upcoming 56th ordinary session beginning 21 April 2015. Its comprehensive methodology compiled inputs from the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network as well as the various sub-regional human rights defenders networks and coalitions. Inputs were also collected from national human rights institutions and States. Following up from the report, the Special Rapporteur and the study group are to develop a set of guiding principles to provide a framework to assist African States to better protect the right to freedom of association and assembly in the continent.

OUTCOMES OF THE NGO FORUM:

Analysis of the situation facing HRDs:
There was extensive discussion on the situation of HRDs in the continent, particularly given the rise of their surveillance and monitoring in countries including Benin, Mali, Togo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Furthermore, the enactment and arbitrary application of national security laws to restrict the activities and funding of NGOs in the name of counter-terrorism was a key issue of common concern.

The NGO Forum adopted a resolution calling on the ACHPR to urge African States to guarantee that existing anti-terrorism legislation is not misused for the monitoring and restriction of the work of HRDs by bringing them in line with international standards that guarantee human rights promotion and protection, and to allow HRDs charged under counter-terrorism laws to have due process before a court of law.
 
The NGO Forum also adopted a resolution calling on the ACHPR to urge African States to take full consideration of their report on the situation of WHRDs in Africa as well as to implement the recommendations contained therein and report on the progress at their periodic reviews. 

Recommendations made of freedoms of association, assembly and expression
Extensive discussion took place regarding the increasing restrictions on the freedom of association, assembly and expression in the continent. It was recognized that NGOs working in the area of sexual orientation and gender identity have found it difficult to register themselves, and that laws are used to effectively shut down NGO activities. Furthermore, peaceful assemblies are disrupted with disproportionate use of force and journalists are often targeted for their work. The NGO Forum Special Interest Group in this regard made recommendations to the ACHPR to remind State Parties to respect international human rights standards, and that where national laws are not progressive, the Commission should continue to call on the government to amend these laws to make space for civil liberties.

LGBTI 
The relevant Special Interest Group outlined continuing challenges for LGBTI persons in the continent, and also pointed to certain positive developments. For instance, some progress had been made in Kenya where the Medical Practitioners Board allowed for gender reassignment surgeries, and the allowance for a change of names in exam certificates. While no resolution had been adopted at this NGO Forum, the Special Interest group noted as a matter of priority the need for effective follow up on resolution 273 on ‘Protection against violence and other human rights violations against persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’. In this line, they called on the NGO Forum to encourage the ACHPR to accept the application of the Coalition of African Lesbians for observer status to the ACHPR. 

Human Rights of Women
Attention was given to an initiative to develop a General Comment to Article 7 (d) of the Maputo Protocol. The Protocol provides that ‘States shall enact appropriate legislation to ensure that women and men enjoy the same rights in case of separation, divorce or annulment of marriage’. The draft General Comments deal specifically with the notion of ‘equitable sharing’ and provides specific guidance to States Parties in this regard.

There were also provisions in the resolutions the NGO Forum adopted on peace and security as well as human rights and counter-terrorism on the specific challenges and threats faced by women, especially women human rights defenders, in these areas. 

—————–

Thus the session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights will thus officially launch two key reports:

  1. The report on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa w(23 April)
  2. The Report right to freedom of association and assembly (date to be confirmed).

In addition a number of periodic reports of States Parties will also be presented such as:  Sierra LeoneEthiopiaNigeria and Uganda.

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