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Open letter from FIACAT to the European Union Council Presidency on the eve of the EU-Africa Summit

December 2007

[English] [français]

José Sócrates

José Sócrates

President of the European Union Concil

Prime Minister

Rua da Imprensa à Estrela, 4 - 1200-888 Lisboa

 

Fax : 213 951 616

 

Paris, 4 December 2007

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

FIACAT and the ACATs of België-Vlaanderen, Belgium (French speaking section), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon (Kumbo branch), Canada, Central African Republic, Czech Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa branch), France, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Philippines, United Kingdom are deeply concerned about the general human rights situation in Africa. Our associations are convinced that a stand by Portugal and the Member States of the European Union on this subject will be crucial if the second EU-Africa summit, scheduled to take place in Lisbon on 8 and 9 December 2007, is to live up to the expectations of European policy on the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world.

On this occasion, our associations are hoping that the Presidency and the EU Member States will make serious efforts to improve the image of human rights defenders in the African countries and to encourage those countries to commit themselves fully to the fight against the death penalty, torture and the failure to punish criminals.

 

Recommendations on human rights defenders

Human rights defenders are key figures in the development of the African continent, making a major contribution in fields such as good governance, peace and conflict resolution.

There is no doubt that, since the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders were adopted in June 2004, the EU and its Member States have made efforts to support and protect human rights defenders in Africa, and we welcome this. However, their support remains limited. Few instructions have been sent to the EU delegations to prompt them to take specific action to implement the provisions of the June 2004 Guidelines. Thus the EU's main diplomatic instruments have not been systematically used to draw attention to the situation of human rights defenders, particularly when they are under threat.

On the occasion of the second EU-Africa summit, FIACAT and the ACATs therefore wish to urge the EU and its Member States to:

-         implement more systematically and forcefully the June 2004 Guidelines supporting and protecting human rights defenders;

-         ensure that procedures and methods enabling the Guidelines to be implemented in practice, in full and effectively are adopted;

-         ensure that the EU Guidelines become an integral part of the foreign policy of the EU Member States.

 

Recommendations on the death penalty

FIACAT the ACATs of France (…) welcome the backing of the Member States of the European Union (EU) and numerous African countries for the adoption on 15 November 2007 of the Resolution (A/C.3/62/L.29)[1] of the United Nations calling for the establishment of a moratorium on executions.

On the occasion of the second EU-Africa summit, FIACAT and the ACATs urge the EU and its Member States, in pursuance of Resolution (A/C.3/62/L.29), to call upon "all [African] States that still maintain the death penalty to […] establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty".

 

Recommendations on torture

FIACAT and the ACATs of France (…) welcome the EU's leading rôle in combating torture in Africa, in particular its efforts to promote ratification of the international instruments aiming to protect individuals against the use of torture.

Our associations, like the European Union, are firmly convinced that "the absolute ban on torture is one of the cornerstones of the universal human rights framework and […] no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, be they a state of war, acts of terrorism, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture or any other form of ill-treatment."[2]

Our associations, like the European Union, warmly welcome "the entry into force in 2006 of the Optional Protocol [to the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment] which provides for a mechanism for independent, international visits to places of detention.

On the occasion of the second EU-Africa summit, FIACAT and the ACATs call on the EU and its Member States to:

-         urge all African States which are not yet parties to the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment[3] and to its Optional Protocol to accede without further delay;

-         remind the African States that they should cooperate in good faith with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and the other international monitoring mechanisms.

 

Concerning the fight against impunity

On the occasion of the second EU-Africa summit, FIACAT and the ACATs urge the EU and its Member States to:

-         make combating impunity a priority when laying down conditions for granting European aid to African States emerging from a crisis or conflict;

-         strengthen the legal orders and systems of justice in the African States, along with the mechanisms for democratic monitoring of those orders and systems, so that those countries may be in a position to judge in Africa those accused of committing crimes under international law;

-         urge the African States to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;

-         provide technical assistance for preparation of the necessary legislative and constitutional changes enabling the States in question to accede to the Rome Statute and put it into practice.

 

We thank you for your attention and consideration of our letter.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Sylvie Bukhari-de Pontual

Présidente de la FIACAT

 



[1] Resolution (A/C.3/62/L.29), entitled "Moratorium on the use of the death penalty" 

[2] Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the EU on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June 2007

[3] Angola, Comoros, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. (Updated to 2 October 2007)


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