60th Ordinary Session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Item 4: Human Rights Situation in Africa
Delivered by Mr. Hassan Shire.
Madame Chairperson, distinguished Commissioners, State Delegates, representatives of NHRIs and NGOs.
Madame Chairperson, DefendDefenders would like to congratulate the African Commission on its 30 years of existence, which is a remarkable milestone. In order to keep this up, we would like to invite the secretariat of the African Commission to improve communication with victims or representative of victims on cases pending before the African Commission.
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.
The citizens of South Sudan continue to be victims of rampant human rights violations, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity. Over the past ten months, the government has led coordinated attacks on civilians along ethnic lines, and as the threat of famine grows, humanitarian workers have been attacked and killed while trying to deliver aid to civilians trapped in conflict areas.
In Eritrea, a UN Commission of Inquiry accused the government of crimes against humanity and yet, no significant steps have been taken to bring the government to account as it continues to flout its obligations under the African Charter.
In Burundi, we are particularly concerned by accounts of enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence emanating from the country and as of late April 2017, nearly half a million Burundians have fled the country.
Since the State of Emergency was declared in Ethiopia in October last year, local groups report tens of thousands of arbitrary detentions and the government continues to ignore calls for an independent, international and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive and unnecessary lethal force by security to disperse and suppress peaceful protests.
The new Government of Somalia is confronted with a widespread humanitarian crisis as famine looms across the East and Horn of Africa, and widespread violations against independent media and civil society continue to escalate in complete impunity. In Sudan, local monitoring groups continue to report civilian casualties, injuries, the destruction of crops and infrastructure, as well as mass forced displacement in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states as a result of government bombing campaigns in those areas.
In Rwanda, members of the opposition, civil society, and the media continue to be exposed to threats, intimidation and enforced disappearances, and we are particularly concerned that these may escalate ahead of the 2018 presidential election.
In Uganda, violent clashes between the military and royal guards in Kasese, police detained the opposition leader without charge reportedly led to over 100 deaths and have yet to be thoroughly and transparently investigated.
In Kenya civic space has become increasingly restricted ahead of the August 2017 general elections, and in Tanzania the government has continued to restrict freedom of assembly, particularly regarding gatherings planned by the opposition and the media.
In light of these updates and observations, we recommend to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:
- Call on the African Union Commission to ensure the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, to prioritise the prompt establishment of the investigative branch of the HCSS, and call on the Government of South Sudan, which recently ratified the African Charter to cooperate fully with this process;
- Refer Eritrea to the African Union Executive Council for the consistent failure to comply with the decisions and recommendations of the African Commission; and urge the African Union to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea;
- Carry out a Commission of Inquiry into serious violations of the Charter and international humanitarian law in the regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan, and call on the government of Sudan to instruct forces under State control to immediately end all deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians;
- Renew calls for the Ethiopian government to allow access to an international, independent and impartial investigation into protests taking place since November 2015;
- Renew its call on the Government of Burundi to allow the Commission access for a follow up mission, as per Res. 357(LIX) on Burundi.