April - June 2002 (12.2)                 African Human Rights Newsletter                 What's Inside
ACDHRS, HURISA Host 10th Training Course on the
Use of International Human Rights Procedures
In pursuit of its mandate to promote and protect human rights in Africa, the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, (ACDHRS) in collaboration with the Human Rights Institute of South Africa, ( HURISA) hosted the 10th Training Course on the Use of International Human Rights Procedures for the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Africa, from April 22-27, 2002 in Pretoria, South Africa.
The Training Course, which brought together a large number of participants from over 18 African countries, provided the participants with knowledge and tools of existing international and regional human rights instruments.
In delivering her welcome address to the participants and resource persons at the Training Course, the Executive Director of the ACDHRS, Mrs. Hannah Forster, said that the main objective of the Training Course is to introduce human rights activists to the regional and international instruments and mechanisms available for the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa and to build their capacities in responding to and using these procedures in their work.
Mrs Forster further stated that International Human Rights Procedures are very central to the promotion and protection of human rights. " The process of promotion and protection of human rights invariably calls for a good knowledge of the various procedures and instruments which exists within the international and regional systems." She added that the centre has been actively involved in conducting training courses on these instruments and procedures for human rights NGOs, members of civil society as well as governments.
She also reminded participants that as a practical component to the Training Course, they would attend the public session of the 31st Session of the African Commission. This experience, she said would provide the trainees with first hand practical experience of how the Commission works.
The Director of the Human Rights Institution of South Africa, (HURISA) Mrs. Rea Simigiannis, said that the varying human rights situations in our different countries determine how great the challenges are for all human rights activists, especially those attending the Training Course. Mrs. Simigiannis emphasised that it is imperative that human rights organisations arm themselves with all the tools, skills and mechanisms which are available, in order to achieve their objectives.
She called on human rights activists to familiarise themselves with the principles which are laid down in the African Charter, as well as the Constitutions of their respective countries. She added that it is the duty of human rights defenders to know and practice these principles in their everyday life in order to defend and actively promote the Charter.
Concerning the issue of children's rights, Mrs. Simigiannis mentioned that children's rights remain one of the greatest concerns of human rights activists. Malnutrition, lack of education and housing and physical abuse remain a special concern to activists. She reiterated the fact that there has been great concern in South Africa about the abuses suffered by the girl child. According to Mrs. Simigiannis, statistics have revealed that one in every three girls between the ages of 15 -18, suffer sexual harassment in schools, while in one in every 20 schools, girls between the ages of 15-18 are raped. However, most schoolboys believe that girls who get raped "ask for it".
Mrs. Simigiannis expressed that given the importance of the need to promote and protect Human rights in Africa, attendance of the course on African Procedures should prove to be very helpful in providing additional tools in which to actively eradicate all forms of discrimination and human rights abuses. She advised participants to make full use of the Training Course and to start implementing all that they have learnt as soon as possible.
In delivering his remarks to the participants at the Training Course, Professor Shadrack Gutto, a member of the Governing Council of ACDHRS, reiterated the importance of the training Course, emphasising that the Course in meant to develop understanding of the international and regional human rights systems. This in our case is the African regional system, in terms of institutional arrangements and mechanisms as well as the substantive norms, standards and procedural requirements governing the practical use of the systems.
Professor Gutto also reminded participants that one of the major objectives of the Training Course is to develop common strategies for preparing the independent "non-state" shadow reports, in order to enable bodies that receive and access state reports to have information and explanations that they would otherwise find difficult to attain and verify.
It is hoped that
the knowledge gained by the participants will provide them with the
opportunity to develop strategies to encourage their governments to
implement the conventions that they have ratified, as well as utilising
the appropriate human rights instruments to protect Africans from the
scourge of human rights abuses.
Draft Optional Protocol to Convention Against Torture Adopted | ACDHRS, HURISA and ACHPR Hold NGO Forum and the 5th Human Rights Book Fair | African Transformative Justice ProjectLaunched in Brikama | Editorial | Documentation Page | The Gender Dimension of NEPAD: Poverty and Rights | Sahringon Report on NGo Forum Meeting and Commission Session
The Council of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, (CLA) resolved at its Annual Meeting held in London, on Friday, June 14, 2002 to condemn the arrest of the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Mr. Sternford Mayo, and its Executive Secretary, Mr. Wilbert Mapombere and their subsequent charging with offences alleging possession of "subversive documents" under the Public Order and Security Act of Zimbabwe.
According to a press release issued by the CLA, the arrest followed the Law Society's expression of concern about the current state of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. It considers that they pose a serious and continued threat to the independence of the legal profession. It is gravely concern for the safety and rights of lawyers and others advocating the rule of law and international human rights in Zimbabwe.
Recalling the Harare Declaration, the founding principles of the Commonwealth and of the CLA and the Latimer House Guidelines on Parliamentary Supremacy and the independence of the Judiciary, the Council supports the statement issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of Judges and Lawyers calling on the government of Zimbabwe to comply with its international obligations, respect the role of lawyers and to withdraw unconditionally the charges made against Sternford Mayo and Wilbert Mapombere.
The Council also stated that on June 9, and June 20, 2000 it was forced because of the state of the rule of law in Zimbabwe to withdraw its support for the hosting of the 13th Commonwealth Law Conference in Harare in 2002. On June 14, 2002 the Council also resolved with regret to withdraw an invitation it had extended to the Law Society of Zimbabwe to host the 14th Commonwealth Law Conference in 2005.
In this regard, the CLA urges the authorities in Zimbabwe to:
· Uphold the safety, well-being and legal rights of all persons in Zimbabwe, in particular the members of the legal profession and to ensure that the right to a fair trial is not violated.
· Ensure that Members of the judiciary and Legal Profession of Zimbabwe are able to discharge their functions independently and without impediment: and
· Meet with representatives of the legal profession, the Judiciary including but not limited to elected representatives of the Law Society of Zimbabwe in order to ensure a just solution of the present Constitutional Issues.
The CLA will:
· Actively support the Legal Profession of Zimbabwe in their efforts to uphold the Rule of Law, the independence of the judiciary and of the Legal Profession in Zimbabwe; and
· Assist within its means in providing such technical and other assistance
as the Law society of Zimbabwe may seek in those efforts.
Commemorate the Day of the African Child
The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) joined other stakeholders in the field of human rights to commemorate the Day of the African Child.
In celebrating the occasion the Child Protection Alliance, (CPA) organised a week- long programme of activities, including a symposium on the theme: The African Child has a Right to Protection from Abuse and Exploitation; who is responsible? This Symposium was co- sponsored by ACDHRS.
The Executive Director of ACDHRS, Mrs. Hannah Forster, speaking on the Perspective of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) in relation to the theme, said that many people have associated the main causes of child abuse in Africa with Poverty. She however emphasised that one major cause might be inadequate government legislation.
Mrs. Forster mentioned that the African Charter, which was adopted in 1990 at the 26th, Session of African Heads of States in Addis Ababa, had outlined some basic principles meant to protect the mental, physical and moral integrity of the child. She cited Article 21 of the Charter, which provides protection against harmful traditional practices. Mrs. Forster further cited Articles 26, 27, 28 and 29 as providing protection against apartheid and discrimination, sexual exploitation drug abuse and child trafficking and abduction respectively.
She however lamented that although all African countries have ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, CRC only 23 countries in Africa have ratified the ACRWC.
Commenting on the issue of "who is responsible?" Mrs.Forster Stated that Article 19 of the ACRWC has clearly stated that every child is entitle to parental care and protection. She however added that the State as well as Civil Society has important roles to play in protecting children. She also highlighted that there need to be a monitoring mechanism to ensure that African governments fulfil their obligations.
The ACDHRS she said is involved in increasing awareness and fostering solidarity in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Other speakers at the symposium included the UNICEF Country Representative, Mrs. Maria Treasa Hevia and the Director of the Department of Social Welfare, Mrs. Fanta Ceesay Njie. The UNICEF Country Representative, while commenting on the ACRWC, said that the African Charter is a document that guides morally the implementation of the rights of the child.The ACRWC she said is a regional instrument, which complements the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mrs. Hevia buttressed the fact there is a need for institutional and legislative reforms to fill the gaps in response to the charter.
Similarly, the Director of the Department of Social Welfare, Mrs Fanta Ceesay Njie, said that the State is responsible for the protection of the child from abuse and exploitation, since the state is a signatory to the ACRWC and the CRC. Mrs. Njie added that too often African Children are being abuse and exploited by the people whom they trust, including family members. She lamented that the Gambia is been used as a transit point for child trafficking to the United States of America and Germany.
Mrs. Ceesay emphasised that the Government of the Gambia through assistance from UNICEF had entered into a lot of agreements to ensure that children are protected. She assured the audience and other speakers at the symposium that the Gambia Government is fully committed to the protection of children.
Vieira de Mello Appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights
Brazilian born Sergio Vieira de Mello has been appointed as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to a press release issued by the UN office, the Secretary General, following consultations with the Chairmen of the five regional groups of member states, informed the General Assembly of his intention to appoint de Mello as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Mr. Vieira de Mello was until May of this year, the United Nations Transitional Administrator in East Timor. Prior to that appointment, he briefly held the position of Special Representative of the Secretary General in Kosovo, following eighteen months of service at the Headquarters as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
He has been with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since 1969, culminating in his appointment as United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees in January 1996. Mr. Vieira de Mello has extensive Headquarters and field experience in humanitarian and peace keeping operations, serving in Bangladesh, Peru, Sudan, Cyprus, Lebanon and Mozambique.
He also served as special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees for Cambodia, Director of Repatriation for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, (UNTAC) Head of Civil Affairs of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), as well as the United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Great Lakes region of Africa.
The appointment would be a four- year term, beginning on September 12, 2002.
Sierra Leone, Madagascar, and Mali
One phenomenon of instability that has continued to hunt peace and tranquillity in the African continent is the issues involved in the democratic process of electing a new leader or president. But perhaps, Africa had just witnessed one of the most turbulent, prolonged and controversial elections hosted in the continent at the beginning of this century.
The initial election results announced in Madagasca by the High Constitutional Court, were rejected by the Ratsiraka " loyalists" which created a turmoil in the country as the oppositions supporters took to the streets of the Capital, setting up a parallel government with the opposition leader, Marc Ravalomanana, as President. Today, approximately six months after the electorates had casted their votes, the situation in the country remains tense, as the country have been divided, bridges bombed and the dead toll of party loyalists and innocent civilians continue to rise.
The international community on their part had rejected Ravalomanana's move of "taking power outside the democratic and constitutional provisions, thus backing Ratsiraka's proposal for a re-election. However, The Ravalomanana camp had rejected any form of a re- election, claiming that they had scored 50% of the votes cast.
In the ensuring stalemate, the fragile Ratsiraka government had been confronted with a defiant "people's power movement" despite the declaration of martial law. The introduction of martial law had only worsened the tense situation in the capital, where Ravalomanana had appointed a 17-member cabinet to take over complete control of the country.
Considering the difficult political situation in the country and the increasing dead toll, the Senegalese President, Matire Abdoulaye Wade, invited the two to the Senegalese Capital, Dakar in order to mediate on the political impasse. In April 2002, incumbent president Ratsiraka and the opposition leader, Marc Ravalomanana, met in Dakar, and agreed that there should be a re- count of the votes. They also agreed on a referendum, if the re-counted result cannot clearly bring out a winner.
Following this important meeting in Dakar, the Madagascar Constitutional Court in May 2002, declared the opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana the winner of the December 2001 presidential elections, giving him 52% of the votes as oppose to President Ratsiraka's 32%. Marc Ravalomanana had since been sworn in May this year. However, the country is still divided as Ratsiraka and his loyalists had refused to accept the results.
Unlike Madagascar, Sierra Leone had witnessed peaceful elections, despite earlier predictions that the elections might be "bloody and unruly". May 14, 2002 witnessed a dramatic turning point in the country's uncompromising move towards democracy and the rule of law.
The incumbent president and presidential candidate of the ruling party, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah recorded an overwhelming victory against his opposition rivals, to be elected into office for a second term. Dr. Kabbah and his SLPP secured 76% of the total number of votes cast, as well as capturing 83 parliamentary seats out of a total number of 124.
The All People's Congress (APC) lead by Mr. Ernest Koroma, Secured 22% while the former military strong man, Johnny Paul Koroma and his People's Liberation Congress, secures only 3% in the presidential race. The infamous RUFP, noted for their brutality and the numerous amputations and mutilations that they had inflicted on the Sierra Leonean people, scored a disgraceful 1.73%. This despicable and disgraceful result, slammed on the face of the RUFP and their presidential candidate Mr. Pollo Bangura, emphasised that the people of Sierra Leone wants to be govern by democracy and the rule of law.
In a similar vein, Mali also went through the election hurdles, and jumped off clearly without any political violence or insurrection. In an election in which nothing less than twenty- five presidential candidates registered, Mr. Amadou Toumani Toure, (ATT) the former military general who handed over power to the civilians back in 1992, emerged as the winner of the Malian presidential elections out spacing the much talked about ruling party candidate, Soumaila Cisse.
Both Toure and Cisse, the two political giants in the Malian Presidential elections scored 28.7% and 21.3% respectively, during the first round of the elections, edging out the remaining 23 other candidates from the second, who were offered no other choice, but to pitch tents with one of the two camps.
In an election characterised by low voter turn out, ATT outvoted his main rival Soumaila Cisse by capturing 64.35% of the votes, leaving Cisse with only35.65% in a tense second round of voting on May 12, 2002.
Political analysts believed that ATT's success is tied to his handing over power to a civilian regime in 1992, after ousting the former dictator, Moussa Traore, a feat that is indeed very remarkable.
Despite the outcry of electoral fraud from some members of the Electoral Commission, the Constitutional Court validated the results of the entire process, even after cancelling more than half a million votes.
Convention Against Torture Adopted
A momentous vote at the Commission of Human Rights had seen the adoption of the Draft Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
According to a press release issued by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) on Monday April 22, 2002 " This crucial vote by the members of the Commission, marked a big step towards the prevention of torture worldwide." The Commission voted by a majority of 29 votes for the resolution proposed by Costa Rica, which called for the adoption of the Draft Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
In responding to this outstanding development, the Secretary General of APT, Mr. Mark Thomson, said, " This is a historic break through in the struggle against torture and one of the most positive outcomes of this yea's UN Human Rights Commission. The voting procedure became tense when Cuba proposed to amend the Costa Rican Resolution, in order to renew the Working Group, mandated to draft the Optional Protocol, for a minimum of one year. After this was challenged, Cuba quickly withdrew their amendments and in an unprecedented move, proposed a "No Action Motion". The "No Action Motion" would have effectively stopped any further consideration of a Draft Optional Protocol. Fortunately, this procedural motion was defeated by 28 votes. After a highly charged debate, voting took place on the Costa Rican Resolution, which eventually succeeded by a majority of 29 votes in favour of the Resolution.
The Draft Optional to the Convention Against Torture is of great importance in the prevention of torture and ill treatment worldwide, as it proposes a system of periodic visits to places of detention in order to prevent these forms of abuse. It will establish an international committee of 10 independent and multidisciplinary experts enabled to visit any place of detention under the jurisdiction of the state that ratifies the Protocol, in order to monitor the treatment and conditions of detention of the persons deprived of their liberty.
It also requests the state parties to create or maintain visiting mechanisms, having access without prior consent, to any place of detention with the same objective to protect people deprived of their liberty.
It could be recalled that this project was initiated by the founder of APT, Mr. Jean Jacques Gautier, 25 years ago. Finally, after 10 years of negotiation at the United Nations, with the support of international and national NGOs, the project has now been approved by the majority of states of the Commission of Human Rights.
However, this vote is the first step towards the adoption of a new international mechanism. In order for the Optional Protocol to become operational, it must now be adopted by the UN Economic and Social Council and the UN General Assembly. Once adopted by the General Assembly, it will enter into force after twenty states have ratified it.
and the 5th Human Rights Book Fair
The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, (ACDHRS) in collaboration with the Human Rights Institution of South Africa (HURISA) and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, held its biannual NGO Forum and the 5th Human Rights Book Fair, in preparation for the sitting of the 31st Ordinary Session of the African Commission, from April 29- May 1, 2002 at the Burgers Park Hotel in Pretoria, South Africa.
The Forum, like the one that preceded it, was aimed at bringing African NGOs and Civil Society together to deliberate on pertinent human rights issues affecting the continent and to suggest ways of overcoming these issues. The Forum discussed issues concerning the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the African Union (AU) and the Role of the African Commission and the Human Rights Dimension of HIV/AIDS, as well as the communication procedures of the African Commission.
More than 100 participants and observers, representing NGOs across the Continent and beyond participated in the Forum.
The Executive Director of the ACDHRS mentioned that the Forum and the African Commission were coming to South Africa for the first time. She highlighted that the Forum offers NGOs the opportunity to initiate and maintain networking with each other, update themselves on trends and developments in the human rights arena and most importantly, prepare NGOs to take an active part in the Commission's meetings.
Mrs. Forster made mention of the intensive sessions that will discuss the human rights situations in their respective countries and to plan ways forward in addressing the shortcomings of NGOs as well as governments in implementing the provision of treaties and covenants agreed to. She urged participants to visit the book forum in order to learn about each other's organisation and to share publications with other NGOs.
The Executive Director of HURISA, Ms. Rea Simigiannis , in her turn, expressed that the NGO Forum, is an important extension of the training course. She urged participants to share their experiences in gender, socio-economic rights and information on how best to lead the campaign against human rights abuses. She called for a dynamic relationship between NGOs and Governments.
The Vice Chairperson of the Governing Council of the ACDHRS, Mr. Sidiki Kaba, in his statement gave an overview of the current situation in the world, ranging from the Israeli incursion into Palestine, the September 11 attacks on the United States and the consequent retaliation on Al Queda and the French elections.
Mr. Kaba stressed that there has been a general regression of human rights and democracy in the world. He pointed out that while Africa has registered some very encouraging signs and democratic changes in several countries, there have been problems associated with extension of terms of leadership in office and elections conducted in terror as typified by the situation in Madagascar.
Mr. Kaba further stated that the record of human rights worldwide is far form pleasant. 'We must defend the rights of people and to change the reality that has made this the bloodiest century of all. This is what NGOs are committed to, especially the Africa Centre. He finally called on the South African government to ratify the Optional Protocol and to join other countries in signing to bring the International Criminal Court into force.
The South African Minister of Justice, Honourable P. M. Maduna, in delivering the keynote address to the participant at the Forum, said that NGOs helped to bring about a constitutional order in South Africa. He poised NGOs for converting the hearts of many people and creating a link that was very critical to the situation of independence today in South Africa. 'Our liberation', he said, 'was not only in the hearts of politicians. Our liberation was brought about by the many formations and organisations without which Apartheid would still hold sway in this country.'
Dr. Maduna stated that government guarantees NGOs that they will not go jail for their views. He said that as a government, they are trying to develop a tolerant society that respect's people's views, because 'an uninformed people will be an apathetic people'.
Similarly, Dr. Barney Pityana, a member of the Africa Commission in his remarks, said that a large number of the negative things happening in Africa is as a result of the poor human rights situation in Africa. Despite the improvement on the human rights landscape in Africa, NGOs have not held down their governments to honour the signatures, in relation to the conventions that they have signed. He lamented that so far, there are only five signatories to the Protocol to establish the African Court.
He emphasised that there must be cooperation across the board with international and national institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa. The African Commission, he said could never achieve this on its own. 'The African Commission can only be made to be effective when the public recognised its role in the implementation of the Charter'. This, he said, is the importance of the Forum, and NGOs are a critical part of the mission.
At the end of the Forum, participants expressed their gratitude to the Commission, HURISA and the African Centre for the versatile topics discussed during the Forum, especially on issue relating to the Communication Procedures of the African Commission. Ms. Fatou Jagne of Article 19, in her vote of thanks thanked the Centre and HURISA for their kind cooperation, which allow NGOs to participate effectively in the work of the Commission. She urged all participants to ensure that civil society and government comply with human rights standards and provisions.
During the course of the Forum, participants had the opportunity to visit the Book Fair, learning and exchanging ideas with other participants, as well as selecting various reading materials published by the African Centre, HURISA, the ACHPR and other NGOs. A total number of 15 NGOs displayed their publications during the 5th, Human Rights Book Fair.
FOCUS ON NGOs HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA (HURISA)
The Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) has been an NGO involved in human rights work since its establishment in 1993. At first HURISA acted as an information and documentation office and service provider for the Commission of Inquiry into Public Violence (Goldstone Commission).
Since 1994 HURISA has been running training course to a wide number of individuals ranging from NGO's, communities, students and government officials. Quite significantly, HURISA has expanded into African human rights training and hosts the African Human Rights Camp, which is an annual three- week training course for African human rights activists from the continent.
HURISA has undertaken intensive human rights training courses focusing not only on the meaning and understanding of human rights but also accessing justice, rights and responsibilities and finding viable ways of accessing rights. A major new component of HURISA's training is a far stronger focus on training the trainers in specific skills of human rights and making plans with recipients to implement the courses. The objective is to enable participants to become trainers themselves, thus achieving a "multiplier effect".
HURISA is an NGO that offers professional services towards the promotion of a human rights culture and peace in South Africa and beyond its borders.
HURISA's staff is committed to provide training in human rights theory and practice, and the documentation of both human rights violations and advancements, from a global as well as a national perspective.
HURISA provides efficient, specialised and unique databases as well as documentation, using appropriate technology for the dissemination of information.
It also aims to raise awareness of human rights issues through focussed research, the media and public events.
LONG TERM GOALS ·
Create a human rights culture in South Africa where people know of their rights, understand their rights and know how to access them. ·
For South Africans and other Africans on the continent to have internalised the notion of human rights with efforts to apply it in their every day lives in terms of respecting themselves and others. ·
Have an educated civil society and general population on human rights issues. · Have governments and its agencies pursuing a human rights philosophy.
SHORT TERM GOALS
Train as many people and constituencies in human rights issues including government, communities and NGO's. · Help create understanding, awareness and methods of accessing human rights mechanisms. · Provide skills in how to train others in human rights. · Capacitate communities especially youth in terms of leadership and human rights skills.
Launched in Brikama
On Saturday, June 15, 2002 the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, (PRAWA) of Nigeria, in collaboration with the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, (ACDHRS) launched the African Transformative Justice Project in Brikama, some 30 Km, south of the Gambian capital, Banjul.
The aim of the project (which had already been launched in Nigeria) is to implement as alternatives to the courts and imprisonment, Mediation Centres in order to provide avenues for support and conflict resolution to those community members who do not want to or cannot afford to go through the criminal justice system's process and institution.
In delivering his opening address, the Commissioner, Western Division, Mr. Ebrima K. Sarr, on behalf of the Government of the Gambia and the people o Brikama, thanked the ACDHRS for identifying Brikama for this pilot project. He said that mediation, as a mechanism in resolving justice is an old initiative in the African traditional system.
Commissioner Sarr further stated that before the arrival of the colonial masters, there were no prisons or police stations, yet still, our fore fathers have managed to resolve their conflicts. This act of resolving conflicts through mediation, he emphasised, is one good aspect of our culture that we must preserved.
Mr. Sarr assured the gathering that his office together with the people of Brikama would do everything humanly possible to ensure that this pilot project becomes successful, so that western Division will be seen by everybody as the " pace setters".
In her turn, the Executive Director of ACDHRS, Mrs. Hannah Forster, said that the African Centre is very proud to be associated with this historic occasion. She congratulated the Mediators who had showed so much commitment after their training, in order to ensure that the project becomes successful. Mrs. Forster emphasised that this project is indeed a laudable initiative. She said that often, things do not go on well after serving a jail term. Family feuds are common in some instances.
However, the Executive Director of the Centre stressed that Transformative justice offers a framework for the implementation of a form of justice that offers healing. She further added that most justice systems inmost countries falls within the retributive justice, which is dominated by punishment, revenge and deterrence. This framework however does not help peace neither does it helps to resolve conflicts.
She assured the people of Brikama that the Mediators would sign a bond with the Centre to keep all proceedings confidential and apolitical. She said the people who need counselling could demand to see anyone of the Mediators. Mrs. Forster also called on the Mediators to be apolitical, neutral and independent in carrying out their duties. She also told the people of Brikama to always report to the Centre, if they feel that the proceedings of the mediations are not confidential.
In a similar vein, the Acting Solicitor General, Mrs. Fola Allen, in her key note address stated that the African Transformative Justice Project will serve as an avenue for victims and offenders to resolve their differences amicably. She added that this type of initiative is not new in Africa and the system is basically aimed at healing rather than retribution, and it is not meant to look back deeply at the root causes of the problem. Mrs. Allen reiterated the fact that this project will surely reduce the over burden Law Courts. Cases that do not require the intervention of the Law Courts, She said, will be directed to the Mediation centre. She reaffirmed the commitment of the Department of State for Justice to render full support to the project, while expecting that the project will take root in other divisions of The Gambia.
In delivering his vote of thanks, Mr. Momodou Gassama, a member of the mediation team, expressed gratitude to PRAWA and ACDHRS for making Gambia a beneficiary in this project. He assured the delegates and the people present that the Mediators will do everything possible to ensure the maintenance of peace.
During a conducted tour of the Mediation Centre, the Executive Director of ACDHRS, Mrs. Hannah Forster, said that the Mediation Centre belongs to the people of Western Division, and not ACDHRS. She emphasised that the ACDHRS is just facilitating the project, in order to ensure that procedures are followed. She further stated that the ACDHRS would give free legal advice to victims, but not legal representation.
The former Master of the Supreme Court, Mr. Ousman Janneh, (a trained Mediator) called on the members of the community to inform them of their cases, before it gets to the courts. This he said would make their work much easier.
The mediation Centre was declared opened by the Acting Solicitor General, Mrs. Fola Allen, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Justice, Mr. Joseph Henry Joof.
The introduction of the African Transformative Justice Project (ATJP) is indeed a welcome development in Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia. Mediation to resolve conflicts is an old phenomenon in traditional African society. In West Africa in particular, we have often heard about the "council of elders" or the "clans head committee". These traditional settings were basically set up to give advise in difficult circumstances facing the community, or to settle disputes between individuals and between communities.
This is probably what had gained prominence in Africa before the advent of the Europeans and colonial rule, which introduced the institutions of police and courts.
However, today in Africa, despite the effective functionality of the police and courts, there are numerous cases pending before these institutions. In almost every country in Africa and in the Third world in general, the courts are overburden with cases, some of which have been there for the last ten years. At various instances, lawyers have even advised their clients to settle their matters outside the established courts through mediation.
The African Transformative Justice Project (ATJP) therefore seeks to encourage the use of alternative methods in resolving disputes, both at the individual and community levels. It could be said that such initiatives are not only meant to settle disputes, but also to harmonise relations between the individuals members of the community, in order to control crime and to ensure that every individual within the community have access to justice, irrespective of your financial capabilities.
Thus, this initiative which is not new in Africa should be given the support that it deserves both from governments and civil society alike since it has been revealed that mediations sometimes offers the best solutions to resolving conflicts between victims and offenders.
The following Titles are available in the African Centre's Library
Women/ abused women/ traditional practices affecting women/ reproductive rights/ discrimination based on health/ HIV-infected persons/ people with AIDS
This book gives relevant information on HIV/AIDS, women and reproductive health. It brings together existing knowledge and experience of HIV/AIDS from a women-centered perspective.
Part of this book summarises factual information and explore medical and social issues and dilemmas. There are also a selection of local, national, regional and international groups and organisations involved in the work on women and HIV/AIDS.
This publication aims to provide policy makers, planners and programme implementors with information and ideas on how to incorporate a gender-based response to HIV/AIDS and STDs in their policies and programmes.
After outlining the global epidemiology of HIV infection, AIDS and STDs, it explores the concepts of gender and a gender based response.
Discrimination based on health/ HIV-infected persons/ people with AIDS/ public health/ right to health/ right to medical care.
The guidelines in this document are the product of the second international consultation on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, organised jointly by the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). They provide an important means for supporting both human rights and public health, emphasising the synergy between these two areas. These guidelines offer concrete measures that could be taken to protect human rights and health where HIV/AIDS is concerned.
Discrimination based on health/ HIV-infected persons/ people with AIDS/ rights health/ international human rights protection mechanisms.
This publication is an occasional paper, no. 3 by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS). It outlines the nature, extent and effect of Aids in Africa, which has devastated some communities, especially those in the Central and Eastern part of the continent.
The publication also introduces the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and reviews some of its provisions which are relevant in the context of Aids, such as the articles dealing with discrimination and the rights to life, health, liberty, freedom of movement, rights to work and education.
Right to development/ discrimination based on health/ HIV-infected persons/ people with AIDS. This publication is a background paper by Ms. Elizabeth Delport of WILDAF, during the NGO Forum held in Pretoria, South Africa from April 29th - May1 2002.
The paper highlights the problems of poverty confronting mankind, particularly in Africa from a gender perspective. It also pinpoints the position of NEPAD in poverty eradication and sustainable development. NEPAD represents a pledge by African leaders, acknowledging their duty to eradicate poverty. The paper also cited how AIDS affects most part of Sub-Saharan Africa and its impact on social and economic development, and how it prove to be the biggest single obstacle to reaching the national poverty eradication.
Discrimination based on health/ HIV-infected persons/ people with AIDS/ rights to health The contents of this document comprise of the findings of a WHO (AFRO) and UNAID co-sponsored regional technical consultation on notification, confidentiality and HIV/AIDS, held in Windhoek, Namibia, in August 1999.
POVERTY AND RIGHTS
For the past three decades, Africa had witnessed some unceremonious and unprecedented crises, which had improvised half the population of the continent. Civil wars and other politically motivated crises had torn the continent apart, dragging it toward self-destruction. The economies of the states from Algeria to Zimbabwe are characterised by 'inflation and depreciation' making access to basic commodities a nightmare for ordinary citizens. Agriculture, the major employer in the continent had collapsed as cattle died and machinery rusted, allowing the continent to be gripped by starvation. Industries and factories had grounded to a halt, forcing African to be an importing continent. The continent is indeed on its last lap of economic and social genocide.
Confronted by these vexed and agitating factors, African Heads of State meeting in the Nigeria Capital Abuja in October 2001 called for a 'sustainable solution' to the issue of poverty, which reigns supreme in the continent.
Since the 1970s, Africa leaders had been concentrating on numerous economic structural adjustment strategies, which had mostly failed to yield the desired results. As a result of these past failures, a 'new voice' now calls out from the wilderness, introducing a new development policy framework that is designed by African to uplift the living standards of Africans.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD intends ' to place Africa on the path of sustainable growth and development'. The policy objectives of NEPAD is aimed to set 'An agenda for the renewal of the continent in order to eradicate poverty in African and to place African countries both individually and collectively on the path of sustainable growth and development'. It is in this context that we try to access how NEPAD will be able to address the gender inequalities as related to poverty and rights in Africa.
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Copenhagen held in March 1995, it was acknowledged 'that social and economic development cannot be secured in a sustainable way without the full participation of women and that equality and equity between men and women is a priority for the international community, and as such must be at the centre of economic and social development'.
Logically, it is then virtually impossible to develop the continent socially and economically while leaving more than half of the continent's population, who are women and girls to live in abject poverty.
Hence NEPAD must be able to address the existing gender disparities as relate to the feminisation of poverty in Africa, in order to achieve its goal of eradicating poverty and putting Africa on a path of sustainable growth and development. However, despite its good intension outlined for African women and Africans in general, the modalities employed in creating NEPAD are till a mystery to most people in the continent. Gender activists have argued that most Africans, especially women, are not aware of the circumstance in which NEPAD came into being. They are of the believe that NEPAD had only received approval and publicity at the Heads of State and Ministerial levels, while the majority of African at the grassroots, those that NEPAD have to 'salvage' are still yet not aware of this 'new partnership for development'.
According to Zo Randriamaro, 'the participation of the mass of African people is not valued by NEPAD." The only explicit reference to the participation of the mass of African people is about the implementation of the plan, in line with a patronising concept of participation that has been consistently denounced by women and gender activists'. Activists have further criticised the origin, concept and adoption of NEPAD by African Heads of States by arguing that there has been no prior consultations with the masses in Africa.
This lack of prior consultation is envisioned to be problematic not only for 'assuring future commitments to the visions highlighted on behalf of the African masses, but may also have influenced the content and priorities established already in the documents. This reflects that public participation in the conception and formulation of the plan has not been envisioned by the initiators of NEPAD. In other words, they know what the priorities are and could choose and decide what is good or bad for the lot of Africans living in poverty.
Thus the ordinary citizens in Africa, the majority of who are women, have been denied the right to have a voice in the decisions that confronts thier lives, by their Heads of Governments.
Apart from the lack of awareness that it has already created, NEPAD promise in its long-term objectives 'to promote the role of women in all activities'. This is further elucidated through 'promoting the role of women in social and economic development by reinforcing their capacity in the domains of education and training, by the development of revenue generating activities through the facilitation of access to credit, and by assuring their participation in the political and economic life of African countries.
From these commitments, it is evident that despite the 'good intensions' that NEPAD has for African women, there are serious limitations associated with its approach to gender equity issues. NEPAD sees gender equality to be achieved by 'micro women's specific projects, as opposed to tackling the fundamental structural cases of women's poverty and inequalities such as discriminating laws', stereotyped cultural norms and bias customary land rights and inheritance laws.
It must be noted that Africa is still largely rural. The majority of the African population still live in the rural areas. Moreover, traditional African societies have existing gender hierarchies, expressed through decent, kingship and to some extent religion, all of which discriminates against women. In most instances in Africa, women work on lands that they do not own, neither do they obtain full benefits of their work.
Women's access to credit as proposed by NEPAD should be highly revisited. Without doubt, access to credit in the long run would be determined by collateral and it is evident that most women in traditional African societies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, do not own property. All that they 'seem to have' belong to their husbands or the clan heads. Secondly, the majority of African women are mostly engaged in small ruminant farming and the cottage industry type of business and hence cannot surely compete in a 'globalised market' against the network of multinational corporations.
According to the Deputy Secretary General of the ICFTU, Mamounata Cisse 'Government needs to take into account the concerns expressed by the African people about the negative effects of globalisation'. During the last two decades, 'many Africans have experienced impoverishment and the lost of livelihood due to the premature opening of their economies and tier integration in the global economy as purveyors of cheep primary commodities'.
This suggests that only a few African women will be able to benefit from greater integration into the global economy. Therefore, NEPAD must do away with any form of globalised trade that force weaker countries to 'sacrifice' women who work in small local industries. Thus, what NEPAD needs to make clear is 'How women and the large majority of small producers who operate largely outside of mainstream markets can benefit from the people-centre development'.
Concerning women's rights, it is still unclear, how NEPAD will relate to the existing instruments of women's rights. These instruments include: the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW; the Beijing Platform of Action, the Dakar Platform of Action, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and probably the Additional Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.
The violation of women's rights in African is a source of great concern that has been continuously echoed by gender activists. Most gender activists believed that these violations of women's rights are a 'systematic result of a framework based on biased policies and stereotyped cultural norms' that are designed to degrade women and to treat them as 'property' belonging to men. In this regards, NEPAD needs to established and integrated system of social protection for women and vulnerable groups, which is required for ensuring the realisation of their fundamental rights as citizens. In addition to these provisions, NEPAD must establish the necessary mechanisms for the democratic participation of women in the political process, economic policies and above all decision making.
Until this is done, women will continue to be seriously marginalised, even in this new partnership for development.
SAHRINGON REPORT ON NGO FORUM MEETING AND SESSIONS OF THE AFRICAN COMMISION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS HELD AT PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA 29 APRIL -7 MAY 2002 PREPARED BY YVONNE DAUSAB (REGIONAL PROJECT COORDINATOR)
In terms Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights ('the Charter') the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) has a responsibility to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa. Within the frame and spirit of this provision it 'cooperates with other African and international institutions and organisations concerned with the protection and promotion of human rights.
The Southern African Human Rights NGO Network (SAHRINGON), a project set up within the Inter African Network for Human Rights and Development (Afronet) is one such co-operating human rights organisation. A network consisting of African human rights organisations in Southern Africa with the broad aim of effectively responding to human rights issues in the region. This will be done based on principles of an activity driven plan with broad involvement from affiliates.
In keeping with this relationship and the need to provide and be part of a platform where human rights situations are stated and assessed, the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA ) and the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) organised an NGO forum prior to the African Commission sessions . As a regional network, SAHRINGON provided the umbrella for the Southern African human rights organisations to organise and rally for action. Although in existence since 1998, the network has been under the coordination of Afronet and as such needed exposure to the work of the Commission with specific reference to aspects of states reporting, communications, interventions and networking. The experiences will be shared with network members and other likeminded organisations and institutions with specific emphasise on how to make use of the system to report human rights violations and encourage its promotion.
The primary objective of this report is to highlight some of the issues discussed at the forum of NGOs . More significantly the report will make reference to some of the major areas that the network can turn into actionable objectives at least within the Southern African region. In our quest for more impact and visibility we identified activities that will possibly raise profile of the network and increase impact in our response to human rights in the region.
2.0 SUMMARY OF ISSUES AT THE NGO FORUM
An overview of the human rights situation in Africa is rather worrying. We are faced with enormous challenges ranging from issues of poverty , the HIV/AIDS pandemic , conflict and peace , freedom of expression, torture, police and civil society, the impact of globalisation on Africa and the general deterioration of other human rights issues. Some of the causes are the culture of impunity in Africa , meagre resources , political conflicts characterised by absence or lack of integrity of the electoral processes and the definition of what are human rights on the continent. There has been a de facto and de jure concentration on civil and political rights thus excluding socio-economic rights from the realm of activism both on the part of governments and the civil society. Amid what appears to be a murky picture of the content are windows of opportunity for civil society to be more pro-active when responding to human rights issues in the region and on the continent.
First, the distinction between the civil and political, socio-economic and third generation rights is unacceptable and needs to be articulated as indivisible and interdependent. Second, civil society has a responsibility to exploit the opportunities provided by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative, the establishment of the African Union (AU) and the creativity of the African Commission On Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), to intervene on human rights questions. It requires us to conceptualise, implement and evaluate our actions so that we not only sustain momentum but that it brings about change.
3.0 SUMMARY OF ISSUES AT THE SESSIONS OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION
The sessions of the ACHPR are relatively flexible. First, it provides considerable access to Commissioners, particularly those responsible for the different regions during session breaks and after hours. Second, it is a platform for NGOs and other institutions, including governments to interact both formally and informally. It is a large breeding ground for networking and collective activity. Third, and perhaps more importantly, it provides human rights NGOs with a collective and individual opportunity to make interventions on behalf of those they represent. During the consideration of the state reports, civil society has another opportunity to provide an alternative or shadow report. Fourth, the state reporting sessions also provide the audience a chance to listen in on the " constructive dialogue between states and the Commissioners". The questions and responses gives us a chance to get a sense of government attitudes and willingness to improve the human rights situation in their countries and therefore on the continent.
4.0 THE CHALLENGES IDENTIFIED FOR CIVIL SOCIETY
The following issues are ripe for civil society action
5.0 ACTIVITIES IDENTIFIED FOR THE SAHRINGON PROJECT
Within the text of what was generally identified and agreed for possible action, the following activities are suggested for the network. These should be undertaken within the broad and specific objectives of the network as set out in the new phase of the project.
6 .0 SUMMARY OBSERVATION
The role that human rights organisations play in the promotion and protection of human rights is undisputed. Equally, the effectiveness of the work we do as NGOs and civil society organisations is largely dependent on the political will of government leaders. It further requires a substantial amount of human and financial resources. The challenge on us as civil society is how we can pull together the meagre resources to adequately address human rights concerns. In this regard, we need to address questions of gender imbalances at organisational level, lack of national and regional coordination and collaboration, undemocratic organisational structures, access to funding, and clarity on the definition of human rights and our goals and objectives. The activities identified above should lay the foundation for raising profile with membership organisations, and other human rights and inter-government institutions for the purpose of promoting human rights in the region.