57th Ordinary Session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Public Session, Item 4: Human Rights Situation in Africa
Statement by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Madame Chairperson, distinguished Commissioners, State Delegates, representatives of NHRIs and NGOs; all protocols respectfully observed.
On behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to raise some of the key human rights issues from the East and Horn of Africa in the past six months.
A few countries in the sub region including Sudan, Burundi and Ethiopia conducted their general elections while others are slated to hold their elections in 2016 including Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia. During the pre- election and election periods there have been reports of renewed government clampdown on civil and political rights.
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In Burundi, since the controversial April 2015 elections, the country has spiralled out of control with reports of, police brutality during protests and targeted killings. During this period, our organisation documented a rise in digital targeting, harassment, physical attacks, arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture. Opposition protests and government crackdown have led to almost two hundred thousand people fleeing the country. A major crisis is underway, that risks destabilising the fragile peace established by the 2000 Arusha Peace Accords. In Tanzania thirty six election observers were arrested and their monitoring tools confiscated in the recent October elections. As Uganda gears up for its 2016 polls, there have been reports of use of excessive force and harassment by the police force during protests organised by opposition parties. Lessons should be learnt from the state crackdowns in Burundi, Ethiopia and Sudan.
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Away from elections, terrorist atrocities in Kenya and Somalia resulted in appalling human rights abuses against civilian populations. In Kenya efforts to tackle the increasing security threats have been tainted by on-going patterns of serious human rights violations by Kenyan security forces, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and torture. Impunity prevails as the government rarely investigates or prosecutes security officers for such abuse.
Africa’s newest nation South Sudan has been severely affected since the outbreak of the December 2013 ‘man-made’ war. The publication of the AU Commission of Inquiry report confirmed fears of wide-spread atrocities taking place. Although the peace agreement was signed in August this year, insecurity remains a big challenge to the young nation. In Sudan, armed conflicts continue particularly in Dafur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states characterized by civilian deaths and injuries; sexual violence against women and girls; destruction of property and have forced thousands to flee their homes.
The human rights situation in Eritrea remains worryingly concerning as the country grapples with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. According to the June 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry Report on the human rights situation in Eritrea, there were reports of gross, systematic and wide spread human rights violations some of which may amount to crimes against humanity.
In light of these updates and observations, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project recommends to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:
- Call on member States to observe the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights treaties to which most of these countries are signatory;
- Carry out a Commission of Inquiry into violations of the Charter and international humanitarian law in the regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan;
- Call on all parties to stop violence in Burundi, and urge the authorities to allow independent radios to resume broadcast and lift a ban on protests;
- Take all necessary measures to follow up on decisions taken by the ACHPR on communications that remain unimplemented, so that victims’ may receive a remedy for the violations of their rights as contained in the Charter
- Promote international criminal investigations into serious human rights violations committed in the region, where domestic and regional remedies have failed;
- Encourage all members of the African Union to ratify and implement the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance;
- Encourage full engagement with the ACHPR by States in the sub-region, especially those in transition or conflict periods, such as Somalia, including by urging states to invite visits from the Commission and to submit periodic reports;
- Call on member States to deposit the declaration under article 34 (6) of the protocol of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to allow individuals and NGOs to directly submit their cases to the court.
I thank you.