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UN Advocacy Rep addresses African Commission Session

May 6, 2011, 12:12 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The United Nations advocacy representative at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Geneva office recently addressed the 49th ordinary session of the Banjul-based African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights currently underway at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, stressing her institute's concern about events in North Africa.

Laila Matar, a human rights advocate, said that the uprising taking place in North Africa took Africa and the world at large by surprise, adding that it is the logical consequences of the terrible erosion of human rights over the preceding years, particularly in 2010.

"Revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and pro-democracy protests in Algeria and Sudan is the direct result of continuous and pervasive state oppression, and the persistent lack of political will among regimes to advance human rights conditions in these nations," Laila added.

According to her, this pattern of repression extends to the brutal way in which authoritarian regimes attempted to suppress these popular calls for reform and democracy, leaving hundreds dead and thousand killed in Egypt and Tunisia, in addition to the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Libya.

"Unfortunately, violations have continued in these countries since the uprisings. In Tunisia, rights reports confirm that the political police still remain active after the revolution, detaining and compiling information on activists who are involved in the protest in the country," she added.

In Egypt, she said, the military has committed several crackdowns on citizens protesting for the fulfillment of their demands, saying that the recent methods to put down protest include the use of electric batons, beating, gas bombs, and even live ammunition, resulting in the death of at least three protesters.

She said hundreds of protesters have been arrested, and there have been several allegations of torture inside military detention facilities, noting that the numbers of civilians looking to face military trials are reported to be in the thousands, several hundreds of which were arrested from the peaceful protests.

"Algeria provides another example of the use of repression to terminate the seeds for social and political calls for reform. President Bouteflika's promises of political and constitutional reform have not in any way entailed the restoration of basic civil rights to the Algerian people.

Dozens of repressive laws and arbitrary practices are still in place, along with the continuation of torture and enforced disappearance," she further stated.

She urged the special rapporteurs on freedom of expression, and human rights defenders, to request a visit to Tunisia and Egypt to provide their expert advice and recommendations to aid the transition to democracy.

llaria Paolazzi, Africa programme adviser of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) said that APT attaches great importance and expectations in the mission of the African Commission, adding that it has committed itself to add its contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.

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