Friday, May 14, 2010

ACHPR Convenes 47th Ordinary Session

News Banjul The Gambia(MB)-The 47th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and
Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) started on 12 May 2010 at the Laico Atlantic
Hotel in Banjul, and is expected to wind up on 26 May 2010.
The session is an important opportunity for the commission, non
governmental organisation, delegates of state parties, diplomatic and
consular corps to reflect on the state of human rights in Africa.
Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, chairperson of the ACHPR,
addressed the delegates.

She reminded them that from November 2009 to date, the ACHPR has been
called upon to examine and re-examine the human rights situation on
the continent, adding that since the beginning of time, from time
immemorial human rights has been a topical issue in the continent.
The ACHPR chairperson spoke of the numerous challenges that the
populations have to face in the effort to promote and protect human
rights on the continent.
She dwelt at length on some of the problems linked to the troubles in
the continent, citing coup d’etats.
“Today, there is no doubt, whatsoever, that Africa has, through the
African Union (AU) taken full stock of the stakes by making decisions
on the need to get state parties to adopt the democratic route”.
“Democracy is defined as political system within which the rule of
law should constitute a cardinal principle, a political system which
respects the separation of powers and within which change remains a
condition sine qua non.”
She continued: “a political system within which all the rights
guaranteed by the various international and regional legal
instruments, in particular the African Charter, are really promoted
and respected”.
She declared that the best strategy for promoting human rights in
Africa is the ratification of the Charter on Democracy, Elections, and
Governance, and the implementation of the AU decisions on
anti-constitutional changes.
The human rights violations about which the ACHPR is called upon, she
said, emanated most often the systematic denial of democratic change
and the refusal to recognise the fundamental rights of the human
being, as well as the unacceptable reversal of constitutional order,
with no regard for the rights of the populations”.
Commissioner Alapini-Gawsou stated that several human rights
violations are perpetrated with impunity in the state parties to the
charter, adding that “this is in those where there are governance
problems and where there is no hope of peace”.
The Commission, therefore, needs to deploy greater efforts in
combating against torture, against the death penalty, the rights of
human rights defenders and associations, and the rights of
journalists, she added.
“Our Commission should also convince the state holders to accept the
right to be different and, in particular, to that of
“It needs to commit the stakeholders to the scrupulous respect for
the provisions of the Charter”.
According to her, “one cannot speak of respect or promotion of human
rights in a context of bad governance, in a context of electoral
violence or of truncated elections covered with serious and massive
human rights violations. “One cannot speak of respect for human
rights in a context of the villainous exploitation of their wealth to
the detriment of the peaceful populations”.
Madam Alapini-Gansou noted that arbitrary arrests, torture in
custody, problems of gender-based discrimination, or the populations
HIV status are the order of the day, or where the most basic of
fundamental freedoms are muzzled, where journalists disappear for
having accomplished their mission, where women are excluded from the
decision making processes.
She urged that each stakeholder must be obligated to respect
scrupulously the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Human rights and development are closely linked, and are at the
crossroads of any kind of sustainable development, she pointed out.
The Attorney General and Minster of Justice, Edward Gomez, said that
rights are God-given, and they are stated in the holy books. He added
that rights are also in our constitution, which guarantees us to move
freely in our various countries. At the home front, he said, The
Gambia respects human rights and will continue to uphold and defend
the rights of all.
According to him, in the 1997 constitution’s Section 72 is about
rights that are the entitlement of all peoples. “In the 1997
Constitution, it is stipulated that every person shall enjoy his/her
rights regardless of race, tribe, social status, religion, belief,
gender etc”.
He told the session that he is a human rights defender, attributing
this to his radio programme on City Limits radio funded by the United
Embassy in Banjul, for a period of two years. He explained that this
programme is geared towards enlightening citizens about their rights.
He denied that there is gross violation of human rights in The
Gambia, saying that, “the rights of groups or institutions cannot
override the pubic interest or of an entire nation”.
Mr. Gomez went on to state that, as Minister, he can declare that
The Gambia upholds and defends the rights of individuals”.
He then thanked the commission for having the session in the Gambia.
Commissioner Julia Joiner, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs,
said that since the establishment of the AU, member states have placed
a strong emphasis on “African ownership”.
“As Africans continue to grapple with challenges, and as we seek to
build a more consolidated human rights path into the future, it is
imperative that we build on that which we have succeeded in putting in
place, the most significant of which are the ACHPR and the African
Court on Human and Peoples Rights”.
Making a statement behalf of NGOs Forum, Hannah Forster, said the
situation of human rights defenders on the continent continues to be
precarious, and “we are heartened by steps taken the African
Commission to address this challenge”. She reiterated their readiness
to work in partnership with the commission.

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