African Commission: 58th session celebrates and reflects on human rights

07.04.2016

The African Commission officially opened in Banjul on 6 April, with over 400 participants drawn from the African Union Member States, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations. 

(Banjul, The Gambia) - ‘We are marking a significant milestone in 2016, as we celebrate the African Union’s Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women,’ said Commissioner Pansy Faith Tlakula, the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Commission) in her opening statement at the 58th ordinary session yesterday.

The African Commission officially opened in Banjul on 6 April, with over 400 participants drawn from the African Union Member States, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organisations. In February, the African Union launched the 2016 theme ‘African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women,’ in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

‘We all have a role to play, let us implant a truly human rights culture on our continent. Let us focus on making concrete solutions on how to promote and protect human rights during this session,’ said the African Commission chairperson.

Reflecting on the situation of human rights in the continent, the chairperson highlighted some progress made in respecting the rule of law through the successful elections in Benin, Central Africa and Niger. She added that despite these positive cases the continent still faced human rights challenges. She highlighted the cases of Burundi and South Sudan in this regard. 

Speaking on behalf of the NGO Forum, Ms Hanna Forster, the director of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights, highlighted some of the challenges human rights defenders are facing on the continent. She was particularly concerned about the situation in South Sudan, Burundi, Egypt and Angola.

‘While we celebrate the year of human rights, the work of civil society continues to be threatened due to the trend of shrinking space made possible by restrictive laws in Uganda and Ethiopia and unfair sentencing of human rights defenders in Angola,’ she said.

Speaking on behalf of the Network of African National Human Right Institutions, Mr Gilbert Sebihogo highlighted electoral violence in Uganda and Burundi as examples of where NHRIs saw a massive back slide in human rights promotion due to contested results, high incidences of violence and in some cases arrests and killings. 

‘Côte d’Ivoire has taken steps to promote human rights by adopting a law that protects human rights defenders in 2014,’ said the country's Minister of Human Rights Ms Paulette Badjo, speaking on behalf of the African Union Member States.

She reiterated her Government’s commitment for the protection and promotion of human rights and encouraged fellow Member States to do the same as they participate in celebrating the Year of Human Rights. 

The guest of honor from the Islamic Republic of The Gambia explained how the Government was taking the initiative to uplift women’s rights through its legislature.

‘We have the Women’s Act of 2010 and recently passed a law that bans female genital mutilation and sets penalties of up to life in prison for offenders of the new law,’ said Hon. Sulayman Samba, Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service of The Gambia.

Celebrations of the pertinent year will take place at the 59th Ordinary Session and in particular on 21 October 2016, Africa’s Human Rights Day, in Banjul. 2016 is also the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter, 10th anniversary of the African Youth Charter, and 29th anniversary of the operationalisation of the African Commission.

Contact: Clément Voulé, ISHR Africa Advocacy Director,  c.voule@ishr.ch

Click here to view ISHR's Facebook album on the African Commission opening ceremony

 

Category:

Region
  • Africa
Topic
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
Mechanism
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Country
  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Burundi
  • Egypt
  • Gambia
  • Ivory Coast
  • South Sudan