African Commission must do more to ensure accountability for human rights

25.04.2013

(Banjul, The Gambia – 25 April 2013) The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights must take concrete steps to achieve progress and ensure accountability for the realisation of human rights.

The African Commission recently concluded its 53rd session in Banjul, a session attended by staff of the International Service for Human Rights.

‘The session achieved modest progress on some fronts but fell short when it came to holding States to account for their human rights records,’ said Clement Voule, ISHR’s head of advocacy at the African Commission.

 

(Banjul, The Gambia – 25 April 2013) The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights must take concrete steps to achieve progress and ensure accountability for the realisation of human rights.

The African Commission recently concluded its 53rd session in Banjul, a session attended by staff of the International Service for Human Rights.

‘The session achieved modest progress on some fronts but fell short when it came to holding States to account for their human rights records,’ said Clement Voule, ISHR’s head of advocacy at the African Commission.

Disappointingly, this session of the Commission did not include any review of States. No official reason was given for the lack of reporting – despite the periodic report of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic being available ahead of the session. With 12 States never having reported and countless others behind in submitting their reports, the Commission needs to establish a schedule for review even in the absence of States.

‘With no State reporting, all those who rely on the Commission as a means to effecting human rights change at national level are failed,’ said Mr Voule.

According to Ms Openshaw, ISHR’s Cross-Regional Advocacy Coordinator, the Commission also needs to increase its engagement with NGOs. ‘Hearing the voices of human rights defenders is essential to understanding the human rights situation on the ground.’

Ensuring that it can benefit to the maximum from the experience and expertise of NGOs will require the Commission to continue to reform its ways of working. Whilst the Commission deliberated on recommendations made to it during its last session there is as yet no road map for their implementation.

'Inefficiencies in the way the Commission operates clearly undermine its effectiveness to hold States to account, including in regard to State cooperation with the mechanism itself,’ said Mr Voule.

More positively, the Chair of the Commission publicly condemned threats and reprisals against human rights defenders. In this regard, ISHR is aware of attacks and reprisals against defenders which deterred them from attending the most recent session of the Commission. However, despite a call by NGOs for the Commission to establish a process to investigate and ensure accountability for reprisals, the Commission took no such step. 

‘Moving from mere rhetoric to an effective response to reprisals is essential if human rights defenders are to continue to engage with this mechanism,’ said Ms Openshaw.

In more positive developments, the Commission also launched two important documents – a model law for African States on access to information, and a General Comment on Article 14 (1) (d) and (e) of the Maputo Protocol on the rights of women – showing it is capable of breaking new ground in promoting rights. This was confirmed by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders who announced that she will shortly submit a report on the situation of women defenders. It was pleasing also that the Commissioner acknowledged the role of NGOs in providing energy and expertise to drive these projects. 

The visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Ms Sheila Beedwantee Keetharuth, to the Commission, allied with NGO demands, prompted a faintly positive response from the Eritrean State. An ad-hoc meeting was held between the Rapporteur and States and the Commission later reported a meeting with the Eritrean delegation at their request. However, the long-sought request by the Rapporteur to visit Eritrea continues to be denied. The Special Rapporteur will now visit neighbouring countries to hear the evidence of those who have fled from Eritrea, ahead of presenting her first report to the UN Human Rights Council in June.

Ending the public session, the Chair of the Commission, Ms Dupe Atoki announced that she will be stepping down as a Commissioner.

‘We hope that under the next Chair, the Commission will continue to improve its practices to hold States to account, and make evident in every aspect of its work its commitment to promoting and protecting all human rights for all Africans’, concluded Mr Voule. 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw,  e.openshaw@ishr.ch, or Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, c.voule@ishr.ch

Further information about the 53rd session of the Commission is available at http://www.achpr.org/sessions/53rd/.

Category:

Region
  • Africa
Topic
  • Reprisals and intimidation
Mechanism
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • ACHPR Special Rapporteur on HRDs
Country
  • Eritrea