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					NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.




   STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF PATICIPANTS OF THE FORUM OF NGOs
                          AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE
         49TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON
                             HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS,
                                         28th APRIL 2011
                 KAIRABA BEACH HOTEL, BANJUL, THE GAMBIA


Madame Isatou Alwar Graham representing the Honourable Attorney General and Secretary of
State for Justice of the Republic of The Gambia;
Your Excellency, Commissioner Julia Joiner, Department of Political Affairs, African Union
Commission (DPA/AUC);
Honourable Chairperson of The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR),
Madame Reine Alapini Gansou and Members of the African Commission;
Honourable Vice Chairperson and Members of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
(AfCHPR);
Honourable Members of the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child;
My Lord, Chief Justice of the Republic of The Gambia;
Mr. Musa Gassama, Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
East African Office;
Representative of the United Nations Office in West Africa
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;
Honourable Members of the National Assembly;
Honourable Secretaries of State;
Distinguished State Representatives;
Venerable Religious and Traditional Leaders;
Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions;
Representatives of National and International NGOs;
Representatives of the Press;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
All protocols respectfully observed


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NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.




As the Executive Director of the The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
Studies (ACDHRS), the Secretariat of the NGO Forum and the Chairperson of the NGO
Forum Steering Committee, I am humbled to be called upon to stand before this august
gathering, charged with the responsibility to deliver a statement on behalf of my
colleagues of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 49th Ordinary Session of the
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. On behalf of all the participants of
the NGO Forum, and indeed on my own behalf, like to thank the Chairperson and
Members of the African Commission for affording us this opportunity.


Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Allow me to also express the gratitude of all the participants to the Government and
people of The Gambia for their hospitality, in facilitating the activities of the 49th
Ordinary Session and to reiterate the appreciation of the Forum of NGOs for the warm
welcome afforded them since their arrival on the ‘smiling coast of Africa’.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
The Forum is saddened by news of the demise of a dear colleague and former participant
of the NGO Forum. Mr. Alpha Fall was one of the co-founders of the African Institute
for Human Rights and Development. (1 minute silence) May his soul rest in peace.


Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The NGO Forum, held for three days prior to the commencement of this Session of the
Commission, registered yet another remarkable turnout. Notwithstanding the limitation of
time and the many human rights areas to be reviewed, the debate was objective and
professional leading to commendable outcomes. About 200 representatives from over
30 African countries participated including 25 participants from Europe, The USA
and Asia.



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NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.


The Forum acknowledged that despite the persistence as a result of the human rights and
democracy situation on the continent leading to violence, insecurity and conflict, real
and positive developments have been registered in a good number of African countries.


Some of these positive and welcome developments reported during the Forum were the
conscious harmonisation of domestic law to take into consideration the human rights of
persons with disabilities as well as the human rights of women; some countries have been
applauded for taking steps to progressive inclusion of people with disability in the
electoral process.       It was noted that six African countries have adopted legislation
criminalising torture in their jurisdiction while ten have ratified the African Charter on
Democracy, Elections and Governance. The Forum welcomed the fact that a spirit of
goodwill and cooperation exist among many African countries to respect the human
rights of its citizen despite the negative economic environment with its attendant
challenges. These times have also seen an increasing trend of collaboration between state
and non state actors for human rights in Africa, to name but a few.


Despite these and many other positive developments, The Forum was overwhelmed by
the situation in some countries in recent months which remain a cause for concern for all
the participants of the Forum.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Please bear with me as I present to you the highlights of the said deliberations.


Participants opined that North Africa would never be the same after the tumultuous and
historic demand for human rights that had been spreading like wild fire in that sub region,
particularly in Tunis, Egypt and Libya.             Furthermore, the persistence of challenges
related to the conduct of elections have been brought alive by the stalemate in Cote
D’Ivoire. In an effort to encourage the African Commission and its partners to curb and
or deal with these issues in a timely manner, The Forum has highlighted the situation in


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NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.


many an African country but have come out with resolutions on Burundi, Djibouti, Cote
D’Ivoire, Libya, North Africa and Swaziland.                 Thematic resolutions and
recommendations prepared for the attention of the African Commission includes the
following themes: the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the Human
Rights of Children; Persons with Disabilities; Elections; Forced Disappearances;
Freedom of Expression, Opinion, Assembly and the Press; Conditions of Prisons
and Places of Detention; the observance of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
HIV/Aids and Human Rights; the prohibition of Torture; Refugees and Internally
Displaced Persons; Reprisals of Human Rights Defenders; Sexual Orientation and
Gender Identities; the human rights of Women and the African Consensus
emerging from The World Social Forum. Furthermore, the Forum also prepared a
Declaration of Solidarity with the People of North Africa. Full details are provided in
the resolutions and recommendations emanating from the Forum.


I would wish to reiterate that it is not the intention of the Forum to name and shame but
a call to action in order to address potentially deteriorating observance of human rights,
rule of law and democracy on the continent.


We, therefore, request the African Commission to express solidarity with all human
rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders; journalists, LGBTIs
(Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex) other marginalised groups living
under extreme persecution and to urge states to abolish repressive laws and to ensure a
conducive environment for the protection of all these groups in Africa.


Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
We noted that human dignity has been observed by some states by substituting life
imprisonment for the death penalty. However, the need for states to condemn the death
penalty and to commit themselves to its abolition was also reiterated.



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NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.


Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
The Forum also re-emphasised the necessity of popularising the various documents
emanating particularly from the African Union and the African Commission to ensure
that the messages contained therein reach the African populace. The importance of
human rights education was underscored and representatives of the Forum re
committed themselves to work towards the achievement of this goal.


The Forum would like to encourage more collaboration and joint actions between the
Institutions of the African Union especially the African Commission on Human and
Peoples’ Rights and the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
and The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.


Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of all the participants, I would wish to again congratulate the African
Commission and indeed the Chairperson for the many missions and achievements
registered during the last inter session. The Forum noted with satisfaction, the reaction
of the Commission to the situation in North Africa and for taking the necessary action to
contribute towards its resolution. While we congratulate the joint harmonization and
adoption of the rules of procedures for The Court and The African Commission, we
would equally wish to recognise and applaud the joint effort of The African Court and
The African Commission on securing the order of provisional measures in relation to
the current situation in Libya as we reiterate the readiness of the NGO community to
work with these and other relevant institutions and their mechanisms in the realization of
their mandates.


The threat of citizenship as a potential source of conflict in Cote D’Ivoire has been
raised over a decade ago by the Forum calling on the Commission to action. However,
we are also pleased that the African Commission is seized of the situation in Cote



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NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.


D’Ivoire and we would wish to acknowledge the nomination of Madam Alapini-Gansou
as a member of the UN Investigation Team to this country.


Madam Chairperson, allow me, on behalf of the Forum, to express our profound
gratitude to the African Commission for your collaboration and support in the
organisation and facilitation of the NGO Forum. We would equally like to extend our
appreciation, through you, to the Secretariat of the African Commission, and particularly
to the Secretary and the Legal Officers, for the interest and continued support enjoyed by
the NGO community, particularly those with observer status. We continue to urge as
many of our colleagues in the wider community to consider applying for observer status
to enable them play their role and maximise the accrued benefits that can be achieved
from the access provided by this great institution.


The Forum applauds the resounding success of the January Summit with its apt theme of
Shared Values and would like to congratulate Department of Political Affairs of the
African Union Commission for effectively leading the formulation and discussion
process of the development of a human rights strategy for Africa, which has led to its
adoption in the last few days. We recognise that the human rights strategy for Africa
forms an integral part of the African Governance Architecture and hereby wish to convey
the Forum’s pledge and commitment to support and collaborate with your esteemed
institution in its implementation.


Within this framework of collaboration, the Forum wishes to request the African
Commission to urge states to cooperate in the operationalisation of their commitment to
the UPR process. It was observed that many African countries have undergone the
APRM process, the need for the UPR process to draw inspiration from the APRM was
proposed.


Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,


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NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.


Participants at the Forum recognised that while there has been some progress in the
ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
(ACDEG), there is a need for more states to ratify and accelerate its entry into force into
the not too distant future.       Lack of independence of the electoral systems have made
elections in Africa a growing source of conflict.          Spurred by the substance of the
ACDEG, participants have committed themselves to actively support the call of the
DPA/AUC to campaign for its speedy ratification and implementation. The efforts of the
Pan African Parliament and other AU organs in this endeavour were also noted.


The Forum also noted that many African and International instruments have been ratified
by states, which is commendable. However, the challenge remains that there is need to
harmonise and implement these treaties at the national level in order to maximise
their impact. Consequently, we would wish to appeal to states, which have not ratified
these pertinent treaties, to speedily ratify them and therefore enable their inevitable
implementation. We similarly, urge those who have ratified to ensure that harmonisation
does take place to speed up their implementation and thereby give life to their provisions.


In the same vein, we wish to urge states to ratify and expedite action on the
domestication and effective implementation of the Rome Statutes.


Furthermore, to date, there are only 22 ratifications of the Protocol to the African Court
adopted since 1998, we would equally urge state parties to work towards its universal
ratification and to consider also signing the Declaration, as per Article 34 (6) by which
individuals are granted access to the Court.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter relating to the Rights of
Women in Africa continues to be a beacon of hope for the promotion and protection of
human rights and gender equality in Africa. We fervently hope that universal ratification


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NGO Statement at ACHPR 49th Session, Banjul, The Gambia.


by other states would usher in that much needed momentum to put into action gender
equality in our various countries. The launch of the African Women’s Decade provides
the much needed impetus in the development of the human rights of women. The Forum
reviewed the linkages between HIV/AIDS and the Protocol and wishes to acknowledge
that Violence Against Women is adequately covered in the Protocol.


Participants at the Forum recognised the lack of impetus in the implementation of the
World Conference against Racism (WCAR) Declaration and Programme of Action
urged the OHCHR to renew and revitalise its strategy in accompanying the
implementation process of the Programme of Action.


Madam Chairperson, Distinguished Commissioners, Honoured Guests, Ladies and
Gentlemen,
While the Forum congratulates the African Commission as its celebrates 30 years since
the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, allow me to
conclude by reiterating the readiness of your partners, particularly NGOs with
Observer Status to work in collaboration with the African Commission and its partners
to further complement your efforts in your work to promote and protect human rights,
good governance and the rule of law in Africa.


Madam Chairperson
On behalf of the participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the work of
the 49th session of the African Commission, allow me to wish you, Your Excellency, and
all the Commissioners a fruitful deliberation and a successful session.


Thank You.



HJF / ACDHRS
April 2011


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