By Modou S. Joof
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) should go beyond mere condemnation [of human rights violations in Africa], a coalition of African Human Rights Defenders, AHRDs, said on Wednesday.
They encourage the Commission to take concrete steps to prevent and ensure redress for reprisals by designating a focal point to receive information, and to monitor and follow up on [rights violation] cases.
“It is vital that the Commission acts decisively to protect defenders in their all important role engaging with this Commission,” said Clement Voule, Manager, Regional and National Human Rights Defenders.
The African Union (formally OAU) is 50 this year and despite the progress made in recent years in the promotion and protection of human rights, the defenders said the continent still faces critical and serious human rights challenges.
And Mr Voule said democracy, the rule of law, and good governance remain “fragile or non-existent” in many African countries while human rights defenders working to promote these values and raise the voices of victims are, in many cases, subjected to attacks and reprisals.
“We are deeply concerned about gross violation against human right defenders, including torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, disappearances, and even death,” he said.
Rights defenders are now encouraging States parties to the African Charter to investigate, prosecute, and ensure accountability, and remedy for such violations. They urge the Commission (ACHPR) to follow up with states in this regard.
“We urge States to avoid the use or misuse of laws, malicious prosecutions, and unfair trials and judicial harassment to criminalise the legitimate and important work of any legal or other restrictions on the work of human rights defenders, including journalists,” they said.
The coalition also wants African governments to protect the friends, families, organizations and associates of human rights defenders from harassment, intimidation, threats and reprisals in connection with the work of defenders.