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‘Struggle for human rights and impunity a continuous one’

Oct 25, 2011, 11:29 AM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Challenges do remain - some old, others new, but the struggle for the promotion of human rights, combating impunity and ensuring accountability is a continuous one without end, and we must be prepared for that continuous struggle, Gambian-born Hassan Baboucarr Jallow, chief prosecutor at the United Nations Tribunal for Rwanda, has said.

Jallow, a former attorney general and minister of justice in the first republic, was speaking at the weekend at Sheraton Hotel at the opening of a two-day commemorative colloquium held on the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also known as the Banjul Charter.

“The adoption of the Banjul Charter held out a promise of greater respect for human rights, human dignity and socio-economic progress for our people,” he told the gathering of mainly human rights experts and defenders, and government representatives.

According to him, 30 years on, we need to ask whether that promise is being fulfilled, or whether that dream is being realized.

“I believe the consensus will be that the African Charter and the work of the commission over the past decades have impacted positively on the African governance environment in the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law, in a number of ways,” he said.

These achievements, he added, include the further development of human rights norms and fostering greater respect by African governments for fundamental rights and freedoms.

He told the gathering that the high quality of work of the African Commission has encouraged the judges of the ICTR to appoint the commission to monitor the trial of the first case referred by the tribunal for trial in Rwanda.

He recalled that some three decades ago, Africa took the decisive step to turn a new page in governance, a page that was intended – after decades of successful struggle for self-determination for the African people against colonialism and foreign occupation - to provide the script for the liberation of the African people from post- colonial mal-governance and for progress into the era of respect for rights, the rule of law and democracy.

However, Jallow noted, a major concern is the poor rate of implementation of the recommendations of the African Commission by state parties, and he went on to describe the situation as unfortunate and unacceptable.

“State parties must respect their obligations under the Charter, including abiding by the decisions and recommendations of the commission that they have. There is little point in having a charter or a commission if state parties to cases before the commission do not implement such decisions or recommendations,” he opined.

In his view, some of the old challenges such as unconstitutional changes of government by military means have become relatively a thing of the past; but old challenges to civil and political rights remain, he continued, citing torture, violation of freedom of speech, of liberty, incommunicado detentions, disappearance, extra judicial killings, among others, as examples.