The 50th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights will be held in Banjul from 24 October to 7 November 2011. At that session, the Commission will consider the reports on Burundi and Togo. FIACAT, ACAT Burundi and ACAT Togo will attend the session to express their concerns over torture and the death penalty in those countries.
Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty in April and June 2009 respectively, but neither of the two states have signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty. Accession to that international treaty is extremely important as it is the only overarching text that sets out to abolish the death penalty. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights pointed to this in 2008 when it called on the ’States [Member of the African Union] which have not already done so to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on abolition of the death penalty’. It is for this reason that FIACAT is calling on the Commission to recommend that the two states in question accede to that convention.
In Togo, none of the current provisions of the Criminal Code explicitly defines torture or criminalizes it. The absence of any such definition makes the complete ban on torture meaningless and means that torture cannot be prevented or effectively punished. FIACAT and ACAT Togo welcome the bill amending the Togolese Criminal Code which would incorporate into this a definition of torture and ill-treatment. However, that draft act has been awaiting adoption in the parliament for over two years. FIACAT hopes that the consideration of the report on Togo by the African Commission will help accelerate adoption of the legislation.
In Burundi, detention conditions are disastrous and often tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The ‘dungeon’ buildings in which prisoners are held are old, insalubrious and overcrowded. There is often no lighting or ventilation, and any toilets are unusable. Prisoners do not always have access to drinking water or food. In some prisons, there are no separate cells for women and children and adult men.
Although, under the Burundi Code of Criminal Procedure, periods of custody cannot exceed 14 days, ACAT Burundi has often found that people are kept in custody for over five months. ACAT has also reported the imprisonment of mentally ill people who have committed no crime but have been held in handcuffs on no legal grounds. Such open-ended and unwarranted periods of detention constitute arbitrary detentions.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is the African Union body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It consists of 11 elected members and has as its mission to promote, protect and interpret the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
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