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AU Commission ‘concerned’ about violence in North Africa, says ACHPR Commissioner Bittaye

Mar 10, 2011, 2:22 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Gambian-born Commissioner for Human Rights of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) of the African Union has spoken of the Commission’s concern over the situation in North Africa.

Commissioner Musa Ngary Bittaye, responsible for Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mauritius and Zimbabwe, who was speaking in an interview with this reporter yesterday, said the situation is of great concern to the Commission.

“All organs of the AU are monitoring the situation in North Africa and other countries very closely in terms of human rights and the right to peaceful assembly and protest. We very much regret the use of violence or force in any peaceful demonstration in any of the state parties to the African Union,” Bittaye told this reporter in the interview held in Banjul.

According to Commissioner Bittaye, the African Commission is an organ of the African Union, which he said has condemned the use of violence against protesters in those countries.

In his view, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and access to information are all rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which all African countries are state parties.

“The mandate that the African Commission is given under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights is a promotion and protection mandate; promotion in the sense that we go to various states. For example, I am responsible for Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Sierra Leone. We go to these states and try to remind them of their obligations, discuss with them on any challenges they have in terms of protection,” he added.

He noted that rule of law and democracy are very crucial fundamental pillars in any society, adding that state parties have subscribed to protect these fundamental rights and freedoms, which they signed 30 years ago.

“Progress has been made to the extent that under the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the instrument which forms the AU specifically states that human rights are one of the ambitions or pillars on which the African states has come together, and it has to be respected at all costs,” Mr. Bittaye, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, further stated.

He added: “The Commission is a quasi-judicial body, and we act as a court and any person can bring complaints to us and we sit as a court and the states come and defend themselves. We look at it against best practices and then come to a conclusion, and make recommendations to the AU.”

States, he went on, act on their recommendations and things are now progressing because they have the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and they make decisions not just recommendations.

“All the state parties that have ratified the protocol are obliged to implement the decision of the court,” he concluded.