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septembre 2003

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Final declaration


We, the participants from 33 countries1, meeting in Dakar (Senegal) from 29 July to 1 August 2002, in the FI.ACAT seminar on ’African cultures and the fight against torture’,


- That torture and inhuman and degrading treatment are still widespread the world over, and on the continent of Africa in particular, the main victims being the populations themselves who all too often live in fear of arbitrary policies (e.g. repression, police intimidation, inhuman conditions of detention), and that this is a problem of the utmost urgency ;

- That the political leaders of these countries bear the main responsibility for such practices, which are contrary to respect for human dignity and are prohibited by international law ; that it is therefore their responsibility to ensure that the total ban on torture is enforced, to punish the perpetrators, and to make reparations to the victims ;

- That foreign political leaders, who actively or passively support such regimes, and economic powers which allow financial interests to be given priority over respect for human beings, also carry their share of responsibility for the practice of torture in Africa ;

- That the problem of torture often also includes a cultural dimension and that acceptance of certain forms of discrimination by populations who are often unaware of the inhuman nature of such acts of violence contributes to the maintenance of torture (e.g. lynching of thieves, ill-treatment of widows and of people allegedly practising witchcraft, excision) ;

- That many groups, including the ACATs, are working on the ground, showing great courage, often in precarious and dangerous circumstances, with the aim of driving back this practice ;


- That African cultures also embrace values that promote respect for human dignity, and that in-depth education drawing on these values is required in order to eradicate torture in Africa and enable this cultural wealth to feed into the worldwide struggle for human rights ;

- That, for reasons of solidarity and because of the universal ban on torture, the fight against torture in Africa is not a purely African preoccupation, but is a major concern to all ACATs and a cause to which we can all make a contribution ;

- That faith in the tortured, executed and risen Christ commits all Christians to share in the fight against torture and the death penalty, as stated in the FI.ACAT Charter ;

In the face of this serious problem, and in response to the Gospel’s call to show the deepest respect for each human being,


1. To give priority consideration to Africa, work together and hand-in-hand with other partners in order to rid that continent of torture, and pool our experiences with a view to strengthening our actions ;

2. To develop our ability to take joint action and be vigilant within our ACAT network with a view to lodging complaints with political and military authorities directly or indirectly responsible for acts of torture and ill-treatment and, to the same end, to step up our lobbying of regional and international human rights institutions ;

3. To be vigilant and identify violent aspects of our cultures which lead directly or indirectly to torture, and to take action against the underlying (cultural, economic and political) causes of torture ;

4. To promote the customs and cultural traditions peculiar to Africa, such as a sense of hospitality and community, which serve to acknowledge the dignity of and respect for every human being ;

5. To involve Christian communities in awareness-raising measures in towns and in rural communities ;

6. To organise and support human rights training and education, seeking, in particular, the cooperation of local communities and traditional chiefs, so as to change mindsets and promote non-violent behaviour.


1. Other groups and associations within civil society in our countries - in Africa and elsewhere - to join us in this action in order to increase the effectiveness of our campaign for the abolition of torture ;

2. Leaders of the Churches and local Christian communities to state clearly that torture and any cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are incompatible with the Gospel message, and to act accordingly ;

3. African governments and the African Union to provide greater resources and independence to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights ;

4. African governments to ratify the Treaty establishing the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights ;

5. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, at its next session, to adopt the guidelines on the abolition and prevention of torture in Africa (Robben Island Guidelines of 14 February 2002) ;

6. Political authorities in non-African countries with special relations with African countries, and in particular in Western countries, given their dominant role on the international scene, to support efforts by African countries to respect human rights ;

7. The European Union to pursue a consistent human rights policy based on its guidelines in respect of third countries which practise torture and the death penalty, especially in its relations with African countries, and call on the countries concerned to ratify the ACP-EU Partnership Agreements (Cotonou Agreements) at the earliest opportunity and to enforce strictly the human rights provisions contained therein ;

8. Those States which have not yet done so to sign or ratify the Treaty establishing the International Criminal Court and avail themselves of the means required to cooperate with it effectively ;

9. All governments worldwide to approve, at the next General Assembly of the United Nations, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which provides for a procedure involving preventive visits to prisons and detention centres, and to ratify it promptly.

Dakar, 1 August 2002

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