Saturday, November 5, 2011

Special Coverage: 50th Session of African Commission

Justice Hassan Jallow projects more Egypt-type uprisings in Africa
Justice Hassan B. Jallow, ICTR Prosecutor
Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, the Chief Prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has projected that there will emerge more Tahrir Squares in Africa “if the economic progress is not translated in better quality of life and respect for citizens’ rights.”
“We must face up the challenge of translating the gains of economic growth into better health, education, housing, a safe and satisfactory environment of our people,” the Gambian ICTR prosecutor stressed while speaking at a Colloquium during celebrations marking the “30th Anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights” (ACHPR) on October 22, held at a local hotel, west of the Gambian capital, Banjul.

The draft African (Banjul) Charter was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Nairobi, Kenya on June 28, 1981, following by the adoption of a Resolution by the United Nations (UN) and the OAU in 1979 at the OAU Summit in Monrovia, Liberia.

“The Squares of Cairo, of Tunis, and Tripoli hold important lessons for Africa, indeed for the whole world. In a relatively short period, three long standing and seemingly impregnable governments in three prosperous African States ranked amongst the highest in the Human Development Index of 2010 have all been brought down by popular demand for respect of human rights and dignity.”

Governmental authority unchecked by constitutional term limits and manipulations of electoral processes, heavy-handed and draconian security measures can only stem the tide of popular discontent for a while, said Justice Jallow, who is one of the main drafters of the African Charter (Banjul Charter).

“People’s demand for justice will prevail and when all else fail, the people will exercise their ultimate right of rebellion,” he said. “As we commemorate three decades of the African Human Rights System, we should seize the opportunity to review the Charter to ensure that its substantive provisions and procedures as well as the capacity of the African Commission are better equipped to deal with the old challenges and rise to the new ones we face in the promotion and protection of human rights.” 

He added that the Charter was in many ways ahead of its time, it was also a product of some compromises which were relevant at the time. Times have however moved on, so should we.

The adoption of the Banjul Charter held out a promise to African’s greater respect for human rights and human dignity and socio-economic progress, and noted this to be “truly significant” but argued that it had nevertheless been a challenging process, made more difficult by the diversity of political ideologies on the continent, despite our common African tradition and culture, as well as by the ongoing interstate conflicts and excessive sensitivity to the protection of national sovereignty, all of which tended to impact on the process.

But in the end, Africa and the African people won a great victory in devising a continental system for the promotion and protection of human rights within an instrument that was unique in it reflection of African traditions even whilst respecting universally accepted human rights norms.

The drafters of the Charter integrate in one instrument with one mechanism for enforcement of both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights together with third generation of rights to development, environmental protection and to national and international peace.

There remains challenges (old and new), but the struggle for the protection of human rights, combating impunity and ensuring accountability is a continuous one, we must be prepared for that continuous struggle, Justice Jallow said.

“With Africa being the theater of so many of the conflicts which engender egregious human rights violations, it is thus incumbent on all African States, with the assistance of the African Commission to design and implement effective preventive strategies for the avoidance of such conflicts and the resulting mass violation,” he warn. “The indispensable elements of such a strategy should surely be respect for individual human rights, social justice and integrity in public life with governance architecture providing for effective, independent and transparent electoral, judicial and accountability institutions.”

  • Source: The Voice

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