77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Intersession Activity Report
Honourable Commissioner Litha Musyime-Ogana
Chairperson of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV), Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV
20 October – 9 November 2023
1.This Report is submitted in accordance with Rules 25(3) and 64 of the Rules of Procedure (2020) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right (“the Commission”). It provides an update of activities carried out during the intersession period following the 75th Ordinary Session of the Commission, which was held from 3 to 23 May 2023 in The Gambia.
2.The Report consists of four (4) parts. The first part deals with intersessional activities carried out in my capacity as Commissioner; the second part covers activities undertaken as Chairperson of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV (“Committee on HIV”); the third part elaborates on my work as Country Rapporteur; the fourth part elaborates on the Situation of HIV in the context of ICASA: part five makes recommendations on the basis of the analysis in part 4.
PART I: ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT IN MY CAPACITY AS COMMISSIONER
Retreat on African Union Institutional Reforms and Agenda 2063
3.From June 8-12 2023, I participated in the Retreat on African Union Institutional reforms as part of the ACHPR delegation, attended by AU permanent representatives Committee, various AU Organs, and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The retreat sought to review and strengthen the mandates of the various African Union (AU) organs, Permanent Representatives Offices, specialized technical agencies and liaison offices of the African Union. It aimed to strengthen the working methods of the Peace and Security Council, as well as the Council’s role in conflict prevention and crisis management.
4.From October 1-3, I attended the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Retreat in Kigali on AU Agenda 2063, as part of the ACHPR delegation. The deliberations at the retreat resulted in the development of the second ten-year strategy of Agenda 2063, spanning 2024 to 2033, which focuses on accelerating development in the continent.
Webinar on Popularization of Soft laws under the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
5.I participated in a webinar commemorating 20years of the Maputo Protocol, convened by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (SRRWA). The primary objective of the webinar was to disseminate knowledge and engender a heightened awareness of the soft laws intrinsic to the Special Mechanism, and was attended by stakeholders from civil society, national human rights institutions, and government agencies from various Member States. The event aimed at fostering collective comprehension and domestication of the Maputo Protocol, and sought to ensure the widespread recognition and active utilization of these legal frameworks, in pursuit of safeguarding the rights of women and girls in the African continent.
46th Permanent Representatives Committee Session
6.I attended and took part in the 46th PRC Session. The session, attended by ambassadors/permanent representatives of the AU member states, aimed to prepare for the 43rd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, as well as the 5th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting between the Africa Union, Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms. The session considered reports on various topics, including the budget, the Peace Fund and partnership strategies.
AU Mid-Year Coordination Meeting
7.At the direction of the Chairperson of the Commission, I participated in the African Union Coordination meeting. This meeting replaces the traditional June/July summits. It brings together RECs, Regional Mechanisms, African Union Member States. The meeting was convened to clearly set out division of labour and effective collaboration among attendee institutions, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. It further creates an opportunity for strategic coordination between the Bureau of the AU Assembly, RECs, Chairpersons of RECs, AUC, and Regional Mechanisms.
8.AGA Report Launch was carried out in the margins of this meeting. In my opening statement, I emphasized the role of various AU organs in promoting good governance, calling for greater dissemination of the report. The report serves as a guide to stakeholders, for a better understanding of root causes and impact of unconstitutional changes of government on Africa’s governance system.
9.I also participated in an inter-organ meeting, convened by the Her Excellency Deputy Chairperson together with the Chairperson of the ACHPR, and the Acting Secretary to the Commission.
76th Ordinary Session
19July - 2 August
10.From 19 July – 2 August, I participated in the Private Session of the Commission where we considered Communications, Resolutions, Concluding Observations and Reports of the Commission.
Conference on Africa Free of Hepatitis
11.On the invitation of the AU scientific, Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC), I attended the Conference on Africa Free of Hepatitis, convened in Egypt, both in my capacity as Chairperson of the Committee on HIV, and as Country Rapporteur for the Arab Republic of Egypt. My interventions as Country Rapporteur are addressed earlier in this report. The conference brought together chairpersons of parliamentarian committees of health from AU Member States, Health professionals, experts, AU stakeholders in the AUC, and AU Organ Specialized institutions, RECs and International partners involved in communicable diseases including hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Discussions on the ASRIC framework on Hepatitis, as well as the flagship project on Africa Free of Hepatitis, were conducted. In my address, I spoke about the impact of hepatitis on the African society and economy and the critical need to strategically explore funding and technical cooperation opportunities for hepatitis elimination.
Conference on Implementation and Domestic Impact of the Decisions of the African Commission
(Pretoria, South Africa)
13to 15 September
12.From 13 to 15 September, I participated in the Conference on Implementation and Domestic Impact of the Decisions of the African Commission, convened in Pretoria, South Africa. The conference provided a platform for intellectual engagement between stakeholders and the Commission on improving compliance and implementation of the Commission’s decisions. It looked at the broader influence of the decisions of the Commission, analysing the role of the Commission, as well as its practices, including recommendations in the Dakar and Zanzibar reports. My participation in the conference included the delivery of opening remarks.
Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue for HR75
11 October 2023
13.On 11 October, at the direction of the Chairperson, I attended the Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue for HR75. The high-level conference, attended by Member States, regional inter-governmental organizations, NHRIs, UN Agencies, Special Procedure Mandate Holders, CSO and human rights defenders, celebrated 10 years of the UDHR, demonstrating how the UDHR can meet the needs of the time and advance its promise of equality, freedom and justice for all. I delivered a keynote address and participated in a panel discussion, sharing best practices of the ACHPR, in protecting and promoting human rights, through handling Communications, conducting Promotion and Fact-Finding Missions, authoring letters of commendation, concern and urgent appeal, as well as considering State Reports and providing Concluding Observations.
Participation in CSO activities ahead of the 77th Ordinary Session
14.Between 13 and 15 October, at the margins of the 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission, I participated in a two-day training, in my capacity Civil Society Liaison in the Commission. The training had objectives to provide an overview of the international human rights system and consider the African space within it. It also aimed at enhancing the ability of human rights defenders to engage strategically with the ACHOR as well as to develop civil society networks and explore and compare the benefits of engagement with the mechanisms and tools. I had the privilege to represent the Chairperson of the Commission in giving a closing remark. In doing so, I encouraged and gave assurance to the Commission on continued support for the promotion of engaging all.
15.From 16-19 October 2023, in my capacity as the ACDHRS NGO Liaison for 77OS, I participated in the NGO forum preceding the Public Session of the Commission and made several interventions in the panels.
PART II: ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT IN MY CAPACITY AS CHAIRPERSON OF THE COMMITTEE ON HIV
Resources mobilization meetings with Bill & Melinda Gates
On 23 May 2023, 6 June 2023 and 8 June 2023
16.Member States will recall that in my last report of the 75th Ordinary Session, I mentioned the initiative of the Application for People Living with HIV/AIDS that my Committee is championing.
17.Between May and June, I led and facilitated several technical and high-level meetings with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in connection with the HIV/AIDS App and Digitisation Project to secure financial and material support for the App and digitization project. These meetings were convened in continued efforts to secure financial and material support from the Foundation, and are still ongoing.
IPAS 50th Anniversary
18.In July 2023, I had the opportunity to participate in IPAS @50, an event celebrating 50 years of IPAS's dedication to supporting communities worldwide, at the margins of the Women Deliver Conference. What was most important to me during this event was the chance to connect with IPAS and kickstart conversations about developing a mobile application aimed at managing HIV/AIDS in Africa. I was eager to explore potential avenues for collaboration on this important project.
Collaboration meeting on the mobile application (app) with the AUC Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development (HHS) for the HIV/AIDS APP
19.In July, I convened a meeting with my team and the Health Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development Department team of the African Union Commission, to iron out ways of collaboration between the ACHPR and HHS regarding the HIV/AIDS App Projects.
Internal meeting of the Working Group on PLWHIV
20.On 24th July, I convened a virtual Internal Meeting of the Committee. The Committee held an internal meeting to meet all its members alone at zero cost. The Committee discussed the nexus between HIV and COVID-19 among indigenous communities. The Committee has now proposed to hold the Internal meeting in the last quarter of the year when the current research study on the impact of HIV/AIDS on Indigenous Populations in Africa has been finalized.
The Study on the Impact of HIV/AIDS on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa
21.The Committee has initiated a study on the Impact of HIV/AIDS on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa, with the objective of developing culturally sensitive interventions and policies for addressing the unique challenges faced by indigenous populations in managing HIV/AIDS. The study is expected to be completed by 30 October 2023
PART III: MY WORK AS COUNTRY RAPPORTEUR
June 2023 - October 2023
22.In accordance with the Commission’s mandate under Article 45 of the African Charter, the Commission has an important role in monitoring the implementation of the Charter by State Parties. In particular, Members of the Commission have responsibilities to monitor the state of human rights in selected countries and address human and peoples’ rights concerns wherever necessary. In doing so, State Parties and indeed other stakeholders are encouraged “to cooperate and consult the Country Rapporteurs of the Commission in the design, planning, implementation and review of Human Rights mandate in their country.”
23.Based on the above, I have responsibility for monitoring the state of human rights as Country Rapporteur in five (5) State Parties on the continent, namely: -
(a)the Arab Republic of Egypt;
(b)the State of Eritrea;
(c)the Kingdom of Eswatini;
(d)the Republic of The Gambia; and
(e)the Republic of Sierra Leone.
The Arab Republic of Egypt
24.During my visit to attend the AU Scientific Research and Innovation Centre, on 21st to 22nd August 2023, and in my capacity as the Country Rapporteur for the Arab Republic of Egypt and this being my first time to Egypt since becoming a Country Rapporteur, I made arrangements to meet with the National Human Rights Council at the margins of the Hepatitis conference. My meeting with Ambassador Khaled, the CEO of the Human Rights body, was crucial in giving me an overview of Human Rights situation in the country and discussing on my official visit to the country in 2024
The Kingdom of Eswatini
25.On the occasion of the Commission’s 75th Ordinary Session, Resolution 554 (LXXV) of 2023 was adopted, expressing deep concern over Eswatini’s failure to implement previous decisions and recommendations. The Resolution can be found on the Commission’s website at https://achpr.au.int/en/adopted-resolutions/554-resolution-situation-hu…;
26.The Resolution strongly condemned the murder of prominent human rights lawyer and activist, Thulani Maseko, and calls for an end to violence against human rights defenders. We called on the Government to withdraw politically motivated charges, and to release political prisoners.
27.During the intersession period, however, the Commission learned of the conviction of Members of Parliament Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube in June 2023, nearly two years after their arrest. The two were convicted for inciting demonstrations and now face possible sentencing of up to twenty (20) years. Mabuza and Dube were arrested for reforms in the election system, which currently limits political party participation. Their advocacy took place during a period of widespread protests, calling for democratic reforms, which were met with harsh suppression by the regime’s police, resulting in numerous protestor fatalities.
28.This conviction is particularly concerning and is reflective of the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in The Kingdom of Eswatini, and evokes limited faith in the Eswatini political landscape. The continued disregard for the principles of democracy, and the rule of law are is worrying. The current circumstances stifle progress in human rights, and raise serious concerns about fairness and impartiality. The Commission remains committed to monitoring the protection of human rights in Eswatini, and condemns the injustices that are unfolding.
29.It is further noted that during the intersession period, and specifically on 29 September, that the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini held it’s elections, successfully. 51 male and 8 female Members of Parliament were elected to the lower house of the parliament.
The Republic of The Gambia
Report on Truth and Reconciliation and Reparations Committee (TRRC) Recommendations
30.Article 45(1)(c) of the African Charter requires the Commission to co-operate with other African institutions concerned with the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights. As part of my deliberate effort to engage with State Parties to the African Charter on the implementation of their human rights obligation to monitor situation of human rights, during the intersession period, I observed and monitored the Report to the National Assembly of the Implementation of the Government White Paper on the Truth and Reconciliation and Reparations Committee (TRRC) Recommendations, delivered by the National Human Rights Commission. I noted, with great interest, the progress which that the country has made, in advancing human rights.
UN 75 consultations on UDHR
29.On 24 August 2023, we met with the Human Rights Adviser of the UN Country Coordinator for the Gambia to present a proposal for Promotion Roadshow in the Gambia to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. The meeting was a follow-up to previous consultations held in April 2023 for collaboration between the UN Office and the ACHPR to commemorate the UDHR at 75.
Expression of concerns over Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) parliamentary debate
30.During the intersession period, the Commission learned that a Magistrate’s Court in Kaur/Kuntaur, The Gambia, in a landmark decision, commendably convicting three individuals for their involvement in the performance and complicity of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), actions that directly contravene the provisions of section 32(a) and (b) of the amended Women's Act of 2015. This was the first time a conviction and sentencing under the legislation have been secured. In September 2023, and in direct reaction to the conviction and sentencing, national parliamentary debates advocating for the repeal of laws that prohibit Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) ensued. Collaborating with Honourable Hermine Kembo, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights of a Child’s Country Rapporteur, joint measures to engage His Excellency Adama Barrow, President of The Gambia, with respect to the parliamentary debates, were embarked upon, with great emphasis placed on the need for the government to uphold the principle of non-discrimination, and respect the rights of women and girls to dignity through continuing to make concerted efforts to eradicate harmful cultural practices, as guided by the Maputo Protocol, and the Children’s Charter. A joint press release can be found on the Commission’s website
https://t.co/zIb0hfrB3G - English
https://twitter.com/achpr_cadhp/status/1702353688780546437 - Tweet
The Republic of Sierra Leone
31.During the intersession period, the Commission learned with much delight that the Republic of Sierra Leone successfully held general elections on 24 June 2023, pursuant to the national Constitution of 1991. The elections were declared free and fair by the African Union, as well as other regional observers including ECOWAS. The Commission continues to monitor the situation on the ground. I am pleased to report that the impasse between the ruling party and the opposition has been resolved through a national dialogue.
The Republic of Eritrea
32.In the intercession period, the Commission received a draft report and noticed issues of indigenous peoples had not been adequately addressed, and brought this to the attention of the Eritrean delegation in the form of questions.
PART IV: SITUATION OF HIV ON THE CONTINENT IN THE CONTEXT OF INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON AIDS AND SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES
33.As Member States are aware the advent of COVID-19 in many ways eclipsed attention to diseases and particularly HIV/AIDS. This section is devoted to the highlighting renewed focus on HIV/AIDS situation in the post-COVID area and in the context of the ICASA conference scheduled for December 4-9 in Harare, Zimbabwe.
34.Twenty years ago, the global AIDS epidemic appeared to be an insurmountable crisis, with over 2.5 million new HIV infections and 2 million AIDS-related deaths every year. Although some effective treatments existed, they were prohibitively expensive, leaving them out of reach for most individuals. Since then, however, access to HIV treatment has since prevented millions of AIDS-related deaths, marking a 69% reduction in overall AIDS-related fatalities since the peak in 2004 [The Path that Ends AIDS 2023 UNAIDS Global AIDS Update https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/2023-unaids-glob… accessed 18 September 2023].
35.Several countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, including Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, have successfully achieved the 95-95-95 targets for HIV treatment coverage. These achievements are linked to strong political commitment, human rights-based approaches, as well as efforts to eliminate societal factors endangering people's health. Evidence-based policies and expanded responses have led to significant reductions in new infections and AIDS related deaths, in some areas. The use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in other countries across the continent has surged, some countries are progressing toward their goals while addressing stigma and discrimination.
36.In terms of the work of the path to eliminating mother-to-child transmission, over 16 countries across the globe have been certified. Of all of these, and as an exemplar to the rest of the continent, Botswana is commendably the first high burden country to be certified. This is a big step towards an AIDS-free generation.
37.The positive impacts of the global HIV response go beyond public health, helping alleviate poverty, improve food security, support education, and reduce child and maternal mortality. However, not everyone benefits equally, with adolescent girls, young women, and key populations still facing exceptionally high risks.
38.In 2022, women and girls accounted for 63% of new HIV infections in the African continent. Many areas lack prevention programs, perpetuating the risk. Efforts targeted towards these populations have to be upscaled. We commend the recent launch of the #ChoiceManifesto in Eastern and Southern Africa, which is about expanding choices, for prevention tools that women and girls want, in their own hands. The Manifesto is about women and girl’s ability to choose what works best for them, specifically related to decisions about their own bodies.
39.Many countries still criminalize key populations' behaviours and HIV exposure, perpetuating higher HIV prevalence among them. Protecting these populations is essential to ending the pandemic, but gaps persist. Decriminalisation, and reforming harmful and discriminatory laws remain crucial to strengthening HIV response while upholding human rights.
40.Despite progress, AIDS claimed a life every minute in 2022. Millions of people are reportedly living with HIV, and lack treatment, and millions more who are receiving treatment are not virally suppressed. Men in certain regions face disparities in treatment access. Children and adolescents also continue to lag in treatment coverage.
41.However, the HIV disease burden is disproportionately distributed in the continent with 9 out of 10 top HIV/AIDS prevalent countries being concentrated in the SADC region, which calls for special attention in this region, and the need to have an HIV champion at the Head of State level in the SADC region, to start with, which can be replicated in other regions.
42.One of the major challenges that continue to impact the fight against HIV in Africa, is the widening funding gap. This problem does not just affect the continent. It is a problem which has greatly impacted global HIV response. Last year (2022), at global level, funding fell short of the required amount, hindering progress, especially in regions such as North Africa, with significant funding gaps. Countries such as Togo, where HIV incidence is declining, are commendably putting between 3% and 16% of HIV spending towards prevention programmes for key populations. This is still not enough, and is not done by enough countries. Increased prevention funding correlated with lower HIV incidence, emphasizing the need for more funding, especially for key populations.
43.To address these challenges, more funding for prevention programs and smarter, cost-effective allocation of resources are crucial, as well as concerted efforts.
PART IV: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
44.Considering the foregoing, the Committee, makes the following recommendations to the various stakeholders:
To States and Governments
45.There is a need to critically address disparities in HIV treatment access, and to ensure that everyone living with HIV has access to treatment and support.
46.We urge Member States to support the APP by sharing this information with Ministries of Health and the National Health Committees at the national level, as we mobilise resources to roll out the first phase of the APP, and the second phase on the Digitization.
47.We further urge the AUCDC and Member States to prioritize HIV vaccine, diverting COVID-19 funding and allocating adequate resources to support comprehensive HIV response programs, by committing to meeting funding targets and to ensuring that no region faces detrimental or significant funding gaps.
48.Emphasise a human rights-based approach in HIV response efforts, including decriminalising laws which create greater vulnerability for at risk populations; and reforming harmful and discriminatory practices, in order to protect marginalised persons and key populations.
49.Continue to demonstrate strong political commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS, in efforts to achieve and reach 95-95-95 (the target to end HIV epidemic is for 95% of people living with HIV to know their status by 2025) particularly through the Heads of State Regional Champions Initiative.
50.Ensure that health facilities are accessible to all members of the society
51.Ensure inclusion of key aspects of community-led service delivery to essential services to avoid future interruption of services;
To National Human Rights Institutions
52.advocate for the protection of human rights, especially for key populations, in the context of HIV/AIDS. This includes monitoring and reporting on human rights violations related to HIV/AIDS.
53.Work towards legal reforms to decriminalize key populations' behaviors and HIV exposure, ensuring that HIV laws are non-discriminatory and protective of individual rights.
54.Collaborate with civil society organizations and affected communities to ensure that their voices and rights are respected in HIV response efforts.
55.Promote awareness and education campaigns on HIV-related rights and discrimination, targeting both the general population and policymakers.
To Civil Society Organizations
56.Implement community-based programs for prevention, care, and support. These programs should target key populations and vulnerable groups.
57.Conduct outreach and education campaigns to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. Promote comprehensive sex education and HIV prevention tools, such as PrEP, among at-risk populations.
58.Collect and disseminate data on HIV prevalence, treatment coverage, and human rights violations to inform evidence-based advocacy and policy development.
59.Collaborate with NHRIs, state parties, and international organizations to ensure a coordinated and rights-based approach to HIV/AIDS response.
60.continue advocating for the rights of marginalized populations and those affected by HIV/AIDS. Lobby for policy changes, increased funding, and improved access to healthcare services.