#Article (Archive)

NGO forum concern over 'deteriorating human rights situation'

May 3, 2011, 1:02 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Human Rights defenders and regional delegates at the just-concluded Forum on the participation of NGOs in the 49th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the 23rd African Book Fair have raised concerns on what they said is the deteriorating human rights situation and abuses going on in the African cotinent.

They called on the African Commission to urge state parties to ratify international human rights instruments and protocols, further expressing concern that many instruments and protocols have been ratified but the challenge remains the implementation and harmonization of these treaties in order to examine its impacts.

Addressing journalists at a press conference on the recommendations, outcome and resolutions by the participants sent to the African Commission for consideration, Hannah Foster, Executive Director of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and chairperson of the NGOs forum steering committee, said participants opined that North Africa would never be the same after the tumultuous and historic demand for respect for human rights.

According to her, persistence of the challenges related to the conduct of elections have been brought alive by the stalemate in Ivory Coast, while calling on the African Commission and its partners to curb and or deal with issues in a timely manner.

She revealed that the forum highlighted the situation in most African countries, but has come out with resolutions on Burundi, Djibouti, Cote D’Ivoire, Libya, North Africa and Swaziland.

"Thematic resolutions and recommendations prepared for the attention of the African Commission include the following themes: the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the human rights of children; persons with disabilities; elections; forced disappearances; freedom of expression, opinion, assembly and press; condition of prisons and places of detention; observance of economic, social and cultural rights; HIV/AIDS and human rights; and prohibition of torture," she announced.

Noting that the forum prepared a declaration of solidarity with the people of North Africa, Forster added that the forum also requested the African Commission to express solidarity with all human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders, journalists and other marginalized groups living under extreme persecution.

She called on States to abolish repressive laws and to ensure a conductive environment for the protection of all these groups in Africa.

She asserted that it is not the intention of the forum to name, but call to action in order to address potentially deteriorating observance of human rights, rule of law and democracy in the continent.

"The forum also re-emphasized the necessity of popularizing the various documents emanating particularly from the African Union and the African Commission to ensure that the messages contained therein reach the African populace.

"The importance of human rights education was underscored and representative of the forum re-committed themselves to work towards the achievement of these goals," she added.

Ms Forster said participants at the forum recognized that while there has been some progress in the ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), there is a need for States to accelerate its entry into force.

Also speaking at the news conference was Laila Matar, UN advocacy representative at the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, who gave a brief review of the human rights situation in the continent, which she said is a concern.

Gorlett LetCosane of the Human Rights Insitute of South Africa, Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive Director East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, Voule Clement of the International Service for Human Rights based in Geneva, who are all members of the NGOs forum steering committee, spoke at length at the press conference, calling on state parties to do more in protecting and promoting human rights.