Thursday, April 19, 2012

Belhassen laments ‘pitiable’ ratification of African Charter on Democracy…

Ms. Souhayr Belhasse, FIDH President
The President of the International Federation ofHuman Rights, FIDH, Ms. Souhayr Belhassen on Saturday lament the pitiable pace at which governments are ratifying the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Only 15 countries ratified the Charter which was adopted by the 8th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2007.

Ms. Belhassen was presenting a paper on an overview of the situation of human rights and democracy in Africa at the opening of the NGOsForum (April 14-16, 2012), preceding the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR in Banjul.

Of recent, elections in Africa become a breeding ground for conflicts and wide spread violations of human rights, as have been witnessed in Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.

Per country violations

 “The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, missed the opportunity to embrace democracy when it denied local citizens from exercising their right to elect a leader,” Ms. Belhassen said, citing political repressions during the last presidential election in that country.

Highlighting human rights violations in African Arab countries, she said Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans still have a long way to reaping the benefits of deposing the dictatorial regimes of Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Mummar Gaddafi. This is because repressions of civil protests are still extant in these countries, she said.

In Sudan, she said the African Union, AU, should urge the Sudan army and the forces of the Sudan Liberation Movement to immediately stop the violence and the human rights violations in that part of Africa.
“It’s business and has been like business as usual in Darfur,” she said of a region beleaguered by renewed fighting, displacements and unacceptable human rights violations. 

She laments that all the disregard for peoples’ rights are happening when Sudan president, Omar Al Bashir and others indicted by the international criminal court (ICC) continue to walk freely on the streets.

The AU general assembly, who believes the ICC, is out to “witch-hunt” African leaders decided to defy the court’s international arrest warrant against Al Bashir. That was the status quo for Gaddafi prior to his killing. 
Angolans, inspired by the Arab spring, as the demonstrations are fondly called, also protested against poverty and a dictatorial regime that has been there for 30 years, explains Ms. Belhassen. She added. 

“What they get is harassments, arrests, detention, torture and killings which are unacceptable.”
Commenting on the recent rebellion by the military in Mali which resulted in the ousting of President Amadu Toumani Tore, she commend the sub-regional bloc, ECOWAS, for efforts it has taken to restore constitutional democracy in that country. 

She said of recent, Mali turned into a country where killings, arrests, and rape have forced an estimated 90, 000 people to be displaced. 

In Nigeria, where bombings by the Boko Haram sect claims many lives, Ms. Belhassen notes that the conflict is now taking a religious dimension.

While calling for justice for the victims of Chad, she stressed that former president Hissene Habre should be held responsible for the crimes he allegedly committed. The FIDH president exhort the newly elected President of Senegal, Makey Sall to ensure Habre is tried. 

Habre has been living in exile in Senegal since 1992, the year a truth commission report in Chad said he presided over up to 40,000 political and ethnic-related murders.

In her long presentation, she also rubbishes legislations by African governments who criminalize homosexuality. “These legislations are baseless,” she said, while urging those countries to adopt social reforms.

Her tell off came in time with the arrest, charge and detention of 17 Gambians on Tuesday alleged to have been involved in acts of homosexuality. 

Honoured Floribert

Ms. Souhayr Belhassen concluded by honoring Floribert Chebeya, a DRC human rights defender murdered in that country in 2010. On whose murder a film entitled “The Chebeya Affair: A State Crime?” was screened at the Forum.

The Film by the Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, a formation of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture, OMCT, retraces the steps of Chebeya, an internationally renown human rights activist.

“Over a period of 8 months, Thierry Michel filmed the extraordinary trial where military officers judged chiefs of police,” the Observatory explains of the political-tragicomedy as the “chronicle of an exceptional trial and fascinating political thriller.”

Written by Modou S. Joof

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