Africa Human Rights Commission Opens Session in Banjul Concerns over increased reprisals against journalists and human rights defenders

By Kebba Jeffang

The two weeks forum of 57th session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has opened in Banjul-The Africa Human Rights CommissionGambia on Wednesday, November 04, 2015.

The fortnight event that succeeded the 57th NGO Forum has brought together state parties representatives, NGOs and civil society organizations to discuss the human rights situation on the continent.

Meanwhile, Honourable Kayitesi Zainabo Sylvie, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a statement welcomed the participants to the human rights forum.

She said although there have been some progress, however, the year 2015 is challenging in terms of human rights protection and promotion on the continent. She said there are still many human rights issues confronting the continent which demand more efforts in order to effectively address them.

“The twin challenge of conflict and terror continues to undermine human rights work in proportions never seen before. The Commission continues to monitor the situation in the Republic of Burundi, and is indeed in the process of preparing to conduct a fact-finding mission to this country, further to the request of the AU Peace and Security Council contained in their communiqué on the situation of human rights in Burundi of 17 October 2015,” she said.

Sylvie said they are also monitoring the volatile situation in Congo Brazzavile as well as student fees-related unrest in South Africa. She said the Commission is also keeping an eye on trends on South Sudan, CAR, Mali, Somalia and Libya as they continue to work out long term solutions to the conflict situation in their respective countries. She said the commission joins the governments of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon in condemning the recent terror attacks in their territories.

On freedom of expression, she said it is a challenging right in Africa. She said the Commission is seeing an increase in reprisals against journalists and human rights defenders for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“We all need to encourage a culture of tolerance and respect for fundamental human rights of everyone. The recent targeting of journalists in several countries during times of political crisis is indeed a concern and should be addressed by all and other stakeholders as a matter of urgency. The commission has issued a press release in this regard and continues to monitor this issue through its special mechanisms and complaints’ mechanisms,” said ACHPR Chairperson.

On migration, the Chairwoman tasked the states parties to address the condition of socio-economic conditions of people to stop the illegal migration issue on the continent. She said many young people are needlessly losing their lives in the Mediterranean sea which she said has turned to be a burial ground for Africans fleeing their own countries for better opportunities elsewhere.

On the rights of women and albinos, Madam Sylvie described them as a major concern in Africa which need state parties’ intervention.

For his part, Mr. Lamin Nyabally, the minister of presidential affairs and head of civil servant called upon all the state parties of the commission to help in making their work easier by promoting and respecting the concerns of peoples’ rights.

However, on the home front, the secretary general said Gambia is one country that has really valued the rights of its people. Mr. Nyabally further stated that it is due to government’s respect for human rights that government has released over 300 prisoners which he said is done on every major feast in the country.