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Joint statement on Cooperation between NGOs and ACHPR

November 2010

[English] [français]

Banjul, November 2010

Madam the President,

Ladies and Gentlemen the Commissioners,

Our organizations: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), African Association for the Defense of Human Rights ( ASADHO), Collective of Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA), East and Horn of Africa – Human Rights Defenders Network, International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT), The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), The Burundian League of Humans Rights (ITEKA), African Meeting for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), wish first to offer their sincere condolences to Madam the President, Reine Alapini-Gansou.

Our organizations wish to emphasize here the importance of the work that the Commission has accomplished in favor of the protection of human rights in Africa and the effective implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Our organizations wish to acknowledge the place accorded to NGOs during the ordinary sessions of the Commission and are pleased that the Commission will take heed of the situation of human rights in light of the expertise of civil society actors working on the African, regional, and international levels. Indeed, civil society plays an essential role in the promotion and the protection of human rights, both as an observer and as a source of information and proposals.

The speaking time allotted to the NGOs in the framework of the sessions is even more significant given that many of the organizations are deprived of freedom of expression in their own countries.

In addition, our organizations were pleased to have the chance to present their remarks with respect to the relations between the Commission and the NGOs, with the sole objective of participating in the reinforcement of the work of the Commission towards the promotion and the protection of human rights in Africa.

Madam the President,

Our organizations first wish to share some of their concerns relating to the manner in which country visits are prepared.

These visits are a fundamental activity of the commission that aims to concretely evaluate the situation of human rights and to see the work of national mechanisms working to protect human rights. Those NGOs which cooperate regularly with the commission should be able to facilitate access to information between the Commissioners and Rapporteurs and to contribute to the effectiveness of the country visit.

Nevertheless, our organizations have been particularly surprised to have learned retrospectively of certain country visits and thus not have the opportunity to be informed or consulted in the preparation until the very moment of the visit. Our organizations feel that the NGOs should be considered as real partners and be fully associated with the country visits.

In addition, our organizations suggest that the NGOs of the country being visited, in close collaboration with the commission, should be individually contacted in advance of each scheduled visit. The NGOs are indeed very important points of contact and sources of information. Furthermore, the report of the visit should be distributed to the NGOs of the country in order to facilitate their work before the Commission.

Madam the President,

Our organizations also feel that the website of the Commission should be regularly updated and that the calendar, the referrals, the concluding observations, the individual decisions, the activity reports and the reports of country visits should be readily available in their totality, in both working languages and with minimal delay.
The greatest possible distribution of the concluding observations and the individual decisions is fundamental to encourage the States to implement these recommendations and to permit the NGOs to monitor the progress.

Another point was raised by our organizations during the 48th session. The NGOs which come from afar to effectively contribute to the work of the Commission regret certain gaps in the distribution of information at the time of the session. As a concrete example, we wish that the daily schedule of the session and the parallel events would be posted in the hall and, as much as possible, be strictly respected. In the case that a change should be necessary, all changes in the program should be clearly announced to the participants.

Considering the major difficulties our organizations have confronted with respect to the access to information, it proves in particular that the secretariat, the point of centralization of contacts and of the transmission of information, should be reinforced and have access to human, financial, and organizational resources to play its role.
Madam the President,
In conclusion, our organizations regret that some states used their ‘right to reply’ by employing a language of disparagement, to the point of insult, with regard to some NGOS in a place dedicated to the respect of Human Rights.

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