African Union restricts role of African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights; NGOs express concern over future accountability for human rights abuses

Author: Sharm El Sheikh, allAfrica, Published on: 30 April 2019

"Africa: AU - Uphold Rights Body's Independence", 26 Apr 2019

The African Union should reconsider its decision to restrict the autonomy and mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Human Rights Watch said today. The 64th Ordinary Session of the African Commission opened in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on April 24 and will conclude on May 14, 2019.

In June 2018, the AU Executive Council , consisting of foreign ministers of member states, declared that the African Commission only had “independence of a functional nature, and not independence from the same organs that created the body.” The council also decided that AU policy organs would revise the criteria for the commission to grant observer status to nongovernmental organizations in line with existing AU accreditation criteria, “which take African values and traditions into account.”...

The commission has also been a principal opponent of the use of torture on a continent where several countries lack national mechanisms to prevent it and established the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa in 2002. In 2015, for example, it condemned the torture of human rights defenders in Sudan and ordered the Sudanese government to compensate the victims in accordance with national law...

The African Commission has condemned abusive practices in the mining industry, which is thriving in many resource-rich African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2017, it found the Congolese government responsible for a 2004 military operation abetted by copper production company, Anvil Mining, that resulted in the summary execution of over 70 people, and the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of scores of others. It ordered the government to pay US$2.5 million in damages to the victims and their families, and publicly rebuked Anvil Mining...

 “The African Commission is the only instrument that we have now to protect human rights on the continent,” said Ibrahima Kane, Africa advocacy director at the Open Society Foundations and founding member of Senegalese human rights organization RADDHO. “If that system, that mechanism is under attack, it means that the human rights system itself is under attack.”...

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Related companies: Anvil Mining (part of China Minmetals)