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Respect for human rights indispensable to democracy – Justice Minister

Nov 9, 2011, 11:15 AM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The attorney general and minister of Justice, Edward Anthony Gomez, has told regional delegates, human rights defenders and experts that respect for human rights is indispensable to sustainable development, democracy, rule of law and peaceful co-existence.

“Sustainable development is what is needed most, and the commission has an important role to play in the pursuit of a better life for our people. The realization of economic, social, and cultural rights provided for in the African Charter continues to be an elusive goal for millions in our continent,” Gomez added.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 50th ordinary session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel, Gomez welcomed the launch of the guidelines on the implementation of economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as guidelines on reporting by state parties on the economic, social and cultural rights, in the course of the session.

According to him, these guidelines will enhance the efforts of the state parties to ameliorate the quality of life of their peoples.

Describing the 50th ordinary session as a landmark, Gomez told delegates that this was a clear indication that the charter and the commission have come of age, and having come of age, there was need to reflect on the progress, lessons learnt, challenges encountered and ways and means of overcoming those challenges in order to cultivate and sustain a culture of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Africa.

“Thirty years after the charter was adopted and twenty-five years since the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, enormous strides have been made in the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent,” he said.

In his view, the past 25 years of the commission’s existence have been replete with challenges, and that statements made during the session revealed that state parties still face enormous challenges in effectively implementing the charter, which he stressed explained why massive violations of human rights still persist in most parts of Africa.

Also speaking at the closing ceremony was Commissioner Catherine Dupe Atoki, the new chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, who commended member states for striving to make the charter a living document, but stressed that there are still areas in need of action to make the charter a vibrant document.

According to her, despite the many challenges, the implementation of the charter remains sacrosanct, noting that daunting as this task may be, it does not exonerate the continuing violations of these rights guaranteed in the charter.

“We do not need to look far to see many conflicts which have led to wars whilst the attendant human rights violations, virtually stares us in the face. The situation in the North and Horns of Africa, the Great Lakes region, Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile state of Sudan readily come to mind,” she added.