53rd Ordinary Session of the
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Agenda Item 5
Human rights situation in Africa
Banjul, 10 April 2013
The International Federation of Action by Christians against Torture (FIACAT) remains very concerned by the fact that torture is not recognised as a crime in the criminal law of many African States, and by the impunity that results from this.
If torture is not recognised as a crime in criminal law, prosecutions are rarely brought against those who carry out torture, and the absolute prohibition of torture does not have any deterrent effect.
For example, there is no definition of torture in Congolese criminal law, although Congo signed up to the United Nations Convention against Torture on 30 July 2003. Nevertheless, acts of torture are very frequently carried out in Congo and, because it is not recognised as a crime, no investigations are conducted to identify and punish the perpetrators, who enjoy total impunity. Officially, the Congolese Government maintains that allegations of torture or death are followed up by enquiries, and that those who carry out such acts are punished. But various cases identified by ACAT Congo and FIACAT cast doubt on this assertion. Moreover, the victims of acts of torture are often afraid of reprisals, which prevents them from bringing complaints to the judicial authorities.
Similarly, Chad signed up to the Convention against Torture on 9 June 1995, but the Chad Penal Code still does not include a definition of the crime of torture. Article 247 of the Chad Penal Code only mentions torture as an aggravating circumstance.
FIACAT remains convinced that, if torture is not recognised as a crime in the criminal law of member States of the African Union, the prohibition of torture enshrined in Article 5 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights cannot be achieved in Africa.
Detention conditions in Africa are catastrophic and often tantamount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This situation is exacerbated by chronic prison overcrowding, often up to 300% in African prisons. Excessive use of pre-trial detention is one of the main causes of this overcrowding, accounting on average for 65% of the prison population.
This situation arises, among other causes, from administrative difficulties such as not having enough magistrates, lack of facilities, and organisational difficulties such as records of people entering and leaving prisons being kept manually, files being lost and lack of cooperation between prison staff, magistrates and civil society organisations. Despite the existence of legal provisions on pre-trial detention, the lack of human and financial resources is holding back the fight against torture and other ill-treatment in prison.
FIACAT would therefore like to congratulate the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on having adopted, on 22 October 2012, Resolution 228 on the need to develop Guideline on the Conditions of Police Custody and Pre-trial Detention in Africa. These guidelines will be very useful to support African civil society in the action it takes to advocate monitoring the length of periods of police custody and pre-trial detention. They will complement the Robben Island Guidelines adopted by the African Commission in October 2002.
FIACAT is greatly concerned by the restriction in Niger of the right to demonstrate. Marches followed by meetings organised by trade unions and human rights organisations are often banned. In this regard, we note that the police did not allow the CPRASE march in March 2013. FIACAT therefore calls on the Nigerien authorities to respect the right to demonstrate which is recognised by the Constitution of the 7th Republic of Niger.
FIACAT is particularly concerned by the situation in the Central African Republic since Seleka took Bangui on Sunday 24 March and overthrew the Bozize Government.
ACAT CAR has witnessed many acts of pillage and violence, as members of Seleka went from house to house in Bangui, taking the inhabitants’ possessions away. Some of the victims of pillage were threatened with rape.
Several people were killed on 6 April following peaceful demonstrations organised by the people of Berberati against the acts of violence committed by Seleka rebels. In addition, several people were injured when some Seleka members opened fire on the demonstrators.
FIACAT is particularly concerned at the establishment, on 6 April, of a transitional council. A decree will give this body the task of electing the President of the Republic for an 18-month term, drawing up a preliminary draft constitution and assuming legislative prerogatives. FIACAT regrets that the composition of the transitional council is not in line with the spirit of the January 2013 Libreville Agreement and the Recommendations resulting from the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the ECCAS held in N’Djamena on 3 April 2013.
Thank you, Madam Chair.