Angola, 8 May 2014: ARTICLE 19 urges the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to begin a series of multi-stakeholder initiatives to support and advise on the implementation of the African Union (AU)’s Human Rights Strategy.
The four-year strategy was adopted in 2012. It aims to address the slow pace at which African countries have ratified, incorporated into their domestic laws and implemented regional and international human rights instruments and decisions.
“As we move towards adopting the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is imperative for African human rights bodies to assess and implement their regional, goal-oriented approach to human rights. Freedom of expression is an essential component of any human rights roadmap and should be at the heart of the AU Human Rights Strategy,” said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Regional Director.
The AU Human Rights Strategy for Africa outlines a framework for the African Union, its member states and the five Regional Economic Communities (RECs) for implementing human rights objectives. It is envisaged that the African Governance Platform will coordinate the strategy’s implementation. “Fundamentally, the full realisation and enjoyment of all human rights cannot be achieved without elements of free expression: transparency, participation and access to information,” added Maina.
During the NGO forum before the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa organized a panel to generate recommendations about the implementation of the AU Human Rights Strategy. The panel looked especially at Output 4 of the Strategy, which focuses on the effective implementation of human rights instruments and decisions. The forum was attended by more than 50 representatives of civil society organisations across the continent.
Participants stressed that freedom of expression is an essential component of any human rights roadmap. In the light of Africa’s critical human rights situation, they agreed to make the following ten recommendations to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights:
- Begin a series of multi-stakeholder initiatives to advise on the implementation of Output 4 (4A) of the AU Human Rights Strategy. This aims at the development and implementation of advocacy and technical support initiatives in 2014 in order to encourage the implementation of outstanding human rights instruments, decisions and recommendations.
- Urge member states to extend a standing invitation to the AU Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information to undertake country missions. The aim of these will be to review media regulation systems, laws on access to information and other laws that are relevant to the enabling and protection of these rights.
- Hold member states accountable regarding two aspects of Resolution 169:
- States Parties should repeal criminal defamation or insult laws which impede freedom of speech;
- States Parties should not impose general restrictions that violate the right to freedom of expression.
- Adopt minimum standards in criminal defamation laws to limit the negative impact of criminalising free speech, and recommend these standards to member states.
- Adopt a resolution protecting online privacy and communication.
- Use a multi stakeholder approach to address concerns that have been identified in the draft AU Cyber Security Convention
- Adopt an Optional Protocol to the African Charter protecting the right to privacy in all contexts, including digital communications.
- Hold member states accountable for impunity relating to those who violate freedom of expression.
- Engage directly with member states to ensure that they adopt access to information laws in line with the AU’s model law on access to information.
- 10. Initiate more effective engagement and liaison with RECs under the African Governance Platform to ensure the proper and effective implementation of the AU Human Rights Strategy.
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