May 29, 2013, 12:52 PM
The 50th ordinary session of the Banjul-based African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) yesterday opened in Banjul, with a pronouncement by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Edward Gomez, that stability, democracy, good governance and the rule of law form the foundation for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights.
The two-week session, underway at the Sheraton Hotel in Brufut, brought together more than 300 delegates from across the African continent, including NGOs, observers, human rights defenders and advocates, as well as journalists.
The high-profile meeting is hosted by the Gambia Government in collaboration with ACHPR secretariat in Banjul, an organ of the African Union responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in the continent.
It coincides with the golden jubilee session of the African Commission, and activities marking the 30th anniversary of the coming into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The session is expected to examine the human rights situation in the African continent, the admissibility and merits of some important communications before the commission and periodic reports of some states.
Declaring the session open, Justice Minister Gomez underscored the need for a courageous, vigilant and outspoken legal fraternity and human rights defenders in many parts of the continent.
“There are positive developments that have taken place, which should give us all hope. For example, Africa and the world witnessed the emergence of democracy in the continent during the last decade. Countries took steps in adopting constitutions that nurture democratic governance, multi-party elections,” he said, adding that this signals the beginning of a new era and a new system of doing things in accordance with the expectations of society.
Noting that human rights are sacrosanct and inviolable, Gomez stated that they must not be subjected to any negotiation.
“Any system of government which not only denies, but makes the protection of human rights impossible, is clearly inviting a situation in which the use of violence is inevitable,” he added.
Lindive Mokate, representing the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions, said that the protection of human rights in Africa has greatly improved over the years, despite numerous socio-economic and political challenges that continue to wreak havoc in the region.
She urged member states to ratify, domesticate and implement international and regional instruments, adding that this will go a long way in contributing towards building and strengthening a human rights culture on the African continent.
Representing Mrs Julia Dolly Joiner, Commissioner, Political Affairs at the African Commission, was Mr Sallah Hammat, who said through the African Charter, African leaders were able to elaborate their vision and commitment to human rights, and their desire for dignity for mankind.
He stated that 30 years after the adoption of the African Charter, it is important to reflect on the lessons learnt, and one of those lessons is that respect for human rights is sine qua non towards sustainable development.
Other speakers included Reine Alapini-Gansou, chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Judge Fatsah Ouguergouz, representatives of the African court, Hon. Edouard Nduwimana, representative of the AU members states, and Hannah Forster, Executive Director of the Banjul-based African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, in her capacity as chairperson of the NGOs Forum.