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Democratic Republic of the Congo
Urgent Interventions

OMCT raises serious human rights concerns at the 48th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights

THE WORLD ORGANISATIONAGAINST TORTURE (OMCT) STATEMENT OMCTraises serious human rights concerns at the 48th session of theAfrican Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Geneva, 25 November 2010. The World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT) participated in the 48th session of theAfrican Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which took place from10 to 24 November 2010 in Banjul, The Gambia. During thatsession,OMCT,along with partner organisations, delivered several oral statements denouncing,among other serious violations of human rights, the occurrence of torture andill-treatment in Africa, the useof the death penalty across the continent, and the lack of adequate cooperationbetween the African Commission and the NGOs in connection with the Commission’scountry missions. OMCT also called attention to the deteriorating situation ofhuman rights defenders, activists and civil society organisations in the pastfew months in North Africa and Sudan. OMCT andFIDH, within the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, also expressed their extreme concern atthe situation of human rights defenders throughout Africa whocontinue to carry out their work in a hostile and dangerous environment andmore and more often at the risk of their own lives.
In a statement delivered by Mr. Oumar Diallo, Member of OMCT’s General Assembly,OMCT expressed deep concern about the continuous practice of torture andill-treatment in Africa despite its clear andabsolute prohibition enshrined in international and regional human rightstreaties. OMCT raised its concern that, in many countries, torture andill-treatment are not outlawed by national law; this is the case, for example,in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a draft bill criminalisingtorture has been pending since 2007. Adoption of such legislation is not onlyfundamental to prevent and sanction acts of torture and ill-treatment, but alsoto enable victims of these violations to obtain redress. OMCT also urged Statesto guarantee the safety of all persons deprived of their liberty andaccordingly, to cease practices such as incommunicado detention and enforceddisappearance. OMCT is indeed very much concerned that these practices remaincommon, for example, in Algeria. OMCTrecalled that it considers enforced disappearance as a form of torture. Finally,OMCT recalled the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture in his studyon the phenomena of torture and ill-treatment that stressed that impunity isone of the main reasons why torture is so strongly entrenched; In thatconnection, OMCT expressed concern that too often impunity persists because thepoliticalwill is lacking to fully investigate crimes of torture and ill-treatment and tobring perpetrators to justice. OMCT once again called upon the AfricanCommission to undertake all necessary efforts to ensure compliance by theStates with their obligations under international and regional instrumentsregarding the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. OMCT, inparticular, called on the Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure thatfreedom from torture, as a non-derogable human right, is enjoyed by each andevery individual on the African Continent, irrespective of his or her civil,political, economic, social or cultural status. Inconnection with the presentation of the report of the African Commission’sWorking Group on the Death Penalty, OMCT along with the Foundation forInternational Human Rights, the FIACAT, International Harm ReductionAssociation and Penal Reform International[1] welcomed the African Commission’s commitment to the abolition of thedeath penalty but raised serious concern notably about the situation in theGambia and Uganda. These human rights organisations noted with regretthat the Gambian National Assembly has extended the scope of thedeath penalty to include human trafficking, robbery, rape and drug-relatedoffences, which goes beyond the “most serious crimes” restriction and is inviolation of international human rights law and standards. The organisationsalso noted that the Ugandan Parliament is in the process of adopting a Billthat envisages capital punishment, among other penalties, for certainhomosexual acts, and recommended that the Uganda Parliament refrain fromadopting this legislation and take steps towards abolition of the deathpenalty. Theseorganisations noted, in addition, that the treatment of prisoners on death rowoften does not comply with international human rights standards and norms, andin some cases can even amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degradingtreatment. They called on all African Union States to continue to move towardsfull abolition of the death penalty. Finally,OMCT wish to reiterate the deep concern expressed by the Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders in relation to the decision of the Commission to denyobserver status to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL). That decisionconstitutes a serious impediment to the promotion and protection of humanrights for all on the continent and puts into question the capacity of theCommission to fulfill its mandate of protection and promotion of human rightsin accordance with Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’Rights. In its statement, the Observatory called on the Commission toreconsider its decision as soon as possible. Contact: Alexandra Kossin, Urgent Campaigns, Tel. +41 22 80949 39Seynabou Benga, Human Rights Defenders, Tel +41 22809 49 39 Copies of all the statements areenclosed
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