THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLE'S RIGHTS
77th REGULAR SESSION
October 20 to November 9, 2023
Intersession report :
Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa
Honourable Commissioner Marie Louise ABOMO
Working Group Chair
Country Rapporteur for Angola, Burundi, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gabon
1.I submit this Report in my capacity as Member of the Commission, Chairperson of the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa, Chairperson of the Working Group on Specific Issues, Vice-Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities and Minorities in Africa, and Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Angola, the Republic of Burundi, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Gabonese Republic, in accordance with the provisions of Rules 25 (3) and 64 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
2.This report, presented on the occasion of the 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Commission), covers the period between the 75th and 77th Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission, i.e. the period from 3 May 2023 to 19 October 2023, and summarizes my activities during the intersessional period within the framework of the various thematic and special mandates entrusted to me.
3.In as much as my schedule allowed, I took part in the activities set out in the Commission's Work Plan. During the intersessional period, I pursued the two framework objectives of my strategy at the level of the Working Group under my responsibility. Firstly, to have a clear vision of the situation of the rights of older persons and people with disabilities in Africa, and secondly, to ensure that the international legal framework for the promotion and protection of their rights on the Continent is completed as it stands, through the entry into force, as soon as possible, of the two Protocols concerning them, especially in this year dedicated to accelerating the implementation of the FTAA.
4.As in the past, my Report is divided into three parts. I will present, in turn, the activities in which I have participated in my general capacity as Commissioner of the Commission, those I have carried out under my special mandate on the rights of older persons and people with disabilities, and those of other special assignments (I). I will then provide an overview of my findings on the human
rights situation in the countries for which I am Rapporteur (II). I will then make some recommendations (III).
A.ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT IN MY GENERAL CAPACITY AS COMMISSIONER
5.This includes my participation in the statutory sessions of the Commission and the online meetings on the institutional reform of the African Union.
1.PARTICIPATION IN STATUTORY MEETINGS
6.As a member of the African Commission, I participated in the 75th and 76th Ordinary Sessions of the Commission.
7.The 75th Ordinary Session, which was open to the public, was held from 3 to 23 May 2023 in Banjul, The Gambia. I presented my intersession report.
8.The 76th Ordinary Session was held in virtual mode from 19 July to 2 August 2023, and was entirely private.
9.The Commission's activities and deliberations resulting from these sessions are contained in the final communiqués, which can be consulted by following the links below:
i.75th Ordinary session: https://achpr.au.int/fr/news/final-communiques/2023-06-01/communique-fi…
ii.76th Ordinary Session: https://achpr.au.int/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-08-21/communique….
2.ON-LINE MEETINGS ON THE REFORM (MEETING OF THE THREE BODIES, COMMISSION, COURT, COMMITTEE - MEETING OF THE THREE BODIES WITH DELOITTE)
10.The Retreat of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the African Union (AU) on the institutional reforms of the AU and Agenda 2063, held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 8 to 11 June 2023 requested, inter alia, that the consultants in charge of the reforms (i.e. Deloitte) engage in discussions with the Commission, the Court and the Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Child on the proposals submitted for the reform of these three bodies.
11.To this end, two meetings were held with the participation of the Commission. The first, an urgent meeting between the Commission, the Court and the Committee, was held on 19 June 2023. Its aim was to establish a common strategic position, prior to their meeting with Deloitte as requested by the PRC.
12.The second meeting, between the three bodies and the consultants, was held on 20 June 2023. It served as an opportunity for the three bodies to provide the cabinet with additional elements that underpin their common position on the ongoing institutional reform.
13.I endorse all the decisions resulting from these discussions, even though I was not able to contribute as fully as I would have liked to these deliberations. I hope that the advisory bodies will implement these decisions in due course so as to preserve the achievements of the African human rights system and to strengthen it with the necessary means and instruments. I hope that these will be taken into account by the deliberating bodies at the appropriate time, so that the achievements of the African human rights system can be preserved with a view to strengthening it with the necessary means and tools.
B.ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF SPECIAL MECHANISMS
1.ACTIVITIES OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE RIGHTS OF OLDER PERSONS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN AFRICA
These include webinars to raise awareness among States of the need to ratify the protocols of the relevant vulnerable groups, in accordance with the Working Group's 2023 Plan of Action, and the process of finalizing the draft initial report on older persons and people with disabilities in Africa. In addition to these activities, urgent circumstantial actions/responses were made, as well as the usual welcome statements to mark International Day celebrations, and timely awareness-raising activities.
a)AWARENESS-RAISING WEBINARS IN THE WORKING GROUP'S 2023 ACTION PLAN
14.The Working Group's 2023 Work Plan, which I presented in my last intersession report, mentions three webinars to raise awareness among States Parties to the Charter with a view to ratifying the Protocols on the rights of older persons and on the rights of people with disabilities. These webinars were grouped according to the official languages of the States Parties. A first webinar was scheduled for countries using Arabic, a second for those using French, Portuguese and Spanish, and a third for countries whose official language is English.
15.I am pleased to report that the first two webinars were indeed held during the intersession period. The third for English-speaking countries is scheduled for 5 December 2023.
16.Allow me to outline the concept and objectives of these webinars. They are addressed to Member States of the African Union, in particular to their Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Technical Ministries in charge of disability and elderly issues, and Parliaments. States are requested to designate at least one representative each to take part in this activity.
17.More specifically, the Webinars are intended for institutions in States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights that have not yet ratified either of the two Protocols in question, or have ratified only one of them. They aim to raise awareness of the existence of the two Protocols and of the urgent need to ensure their entry into force. More specifically, they intend to :
⮚Introduce the Protocols to participants, providing an overview of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Protocols and explaining how these instruments contribute to the protection of the target groups;
⮚Raise awareness among Member States to encourage them to commit to ratifying the Protocols;
⮚Identify challenges and solutions to the ratification of the two Protocols; and
⮚Enable participants to be well-equipped to activate the levers within the decision-making bodies of their respective countries in favor of ratifying the Protocols and promoting the rights enshrined therein; etc.
✔WEBINAR TO RAISE AWARENESS AMONG ARABIC-SPEAKING MEMBER STATES OF THE AFRICAN UNION ABOUT THE NEED TO RATIFY THE TWO PROTOCOLS ON THE RIGHTS OF OLDER PERSONS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN AFRICA, 13 JULY 2023
18.This activity, scheduled for 27 June was held on 13 July 2023, after adjusting our initial schedule to take into account the Tabaski celebration (27 June 2023).
19.The following countries participated: Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, out of a total of 11 countries formally invited to participate in the event.
20.All[ The Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa currently comprises 8 members, including three Commissioners and 5 Independent Experts. The 3 Commissioners are the Honourable Commissioner Marie-Louise Abomo (Chair of the WG), the Honourable Commissioner Mudford Zachariah (Vice-Chair) and the Honourable Commissioner Sow (member). The Independent Experts appointed by sub-region are Mr.. Dube Kudakwashe (expert member for Southern Africa); Maître Saddam Hussein Meddeber (expert member for North Africa); Mr.. Patrick Laurent Badugue (expert member for Central Africa); Ms Rigbe Gebrehawaria Hagos (expert member for East Africa); and Ms Jennifer Suoyo Aga (expert member for West Africa). ] members of the Working Group participated, with the exception of Commissioner Sow, who sent his apologies.
21.We were able to have highly fruitful discussions with the representatives of these States. These exchanges provided us with vital information on the realities of the vulnerable people covered by our special mandate, as well as on the situation of these States with regard to the Protocols in question.
22.After taking note of this information, steps were taken to finalize the ratification processes in the respective countries.
23.This is the case, for example, of the Note Verbale sent to the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic inviting the competent authorities of that country to effectively deposit their instruments of ratification with the Commission of the African Union. This follows the information provided by the distinguished delegates of that country indicating that the two protocols had been ratified since 2019 and that only this formality remained to be accomplished.
24.We respectfully remind this Member State of the contents of this Note Verbale on this solemn occasion of possible direct dialogue with the States Parties to the Charter.
✔WEBINAR TO RAISE AWARENESS AMONG FRANCOPHONE AND LUSOPHONE MEMBER STATES OF THE AFRICAN UNION ABOUT THE NEED TO RATIFY THE TWO PROTOCOLS ON THE RIGHTS OF OLDER PERSONS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN AFRICA; 3 OCTOBER 2023
25.The event took place on 3 October 2023, and was attended by the following countries: Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo out of a total of 14 countries formally invited to take part in the activity.
26.With the exception of the Honourable Commissioner Mudford Zacharias (excused) and the Central and Southern African experts who were unable to attend, all the other members of the Working Group participated in this webinar, during which Honourable Sow demonstrated his usual exemplary dynamism on any issue requiring his input.
b)EFFORTS TO FINALIZE THE DRAFT INITIAL REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF THE RIGHTS OF OLDER PERSONS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN AFRICA
27.The Working Group continues the process of finalizing the Draft Initial Report on the Situation of the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa. To this end, the following activities were undertaken:
i.Monitoring the situation on the continent of the two categories of people covered by the report;
ii.Maintaining contact with the independent researchers who wrote the first draft of the report;
iii.Gathering information and new elements relevant to the aforementioned report from the countries of their respective sub-regions by the expert members of the Working Group;
iv.Preparation of Notes Verbales to be sent to the States Parties to the Charter to consolidate the contents of the report; and
v.Planned distribution of the physical document of the draft report to each State Party at the present 77th Session.
28.As mentioned in my last intersession report, our draft 2024 Programme includes a tripartite face-to-face meeting to produce the final consolidated version of this Initial Report, which is of vital importance. Indeed, the Commission will then have its scoreboard which will enable it to advise States and stakeholders on the best measures to be taken for the optimal promotion and protection of the rights of older persons and people with disabilities in Africa.
29.Once again, I would like to thank all those who have participated in this project, despite the lack of financial resources and, in particular, those who are working voluntarily to make it a reality. Nevertheless, I would like to appeal to all people of good will to provide financial resources for the completion of this project.
30.Furthermore, and above all, I invite the States Parties to the Charter to respond as soon as possible and in detail to the Working Group's request for their contributions to the report. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Republic of Egypt for submitting a contribution suo moto in this regard, even before receiving our request. This has already been shared with the expert member of the Working Group responsible for North Africa so that he can consolidate the parts of the report under his responsibility, before the validation scheduled for 2024.
c)URGENT CIRCUMSTANTIAL ACTIONS/REACTIONS, PRESS RELEASES AND WORKING GROUP STATEMENTS
31.During the intersession period, the Working Group, together with other special mandates, issued an urgent appeal to Zambia concerning the decision of Mr. MOYO, a severely disabled person, to have himself euthanized out of spite. At the time of writing this intersession report, Zambia has not yet responded to the joint urgent appeal letter dated 16 August 2023. I respectfully invite the authorities of this State Party to respond to this correspondence.
32.The Group has also published two Press Releases and three Declarations, as listed below with the internet links to access them:
i.Press release on the effective deposit by Namibia of its instruments of ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of People with Disabilities in Africa (8 June 2023) https://achpr.au.int/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-06-08/communique…
ii.Declaration of the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa on the occasion of the Celebration of International Albinism Awareness Day – 13 June 2023 - https://achpr.au.int/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-06-13/declaratio…
iii.Press release on the effective deposit by Cameroon of its instruments of ratification of the Protocols to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa – 22 September 2023 https://achpr.au.int/index.php/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-09-22/…
iv. International Sign Language Day and World Deaf Day celebrations - 23 and 28 September 2023 – 02 October 2023 https://achpr.au.int/index.php/en/news/press-releases/2023-10-02/celebr…
v. Celebration of the International Day of Older Persons – 1 October 2023 – 02 October 2023 https://achpr.au.int/index.php/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-10-02/…
d) ACTIVITIES DESIGNED TO PROMOTE THE RATIFICATION OF THE TWO PROTOCOLS
✔PRC MEETING: PRESENTATION OF PROTOCOL RATIFICATION INITIATIVES, 1ST SEPTEMBER 2023
33.Although I did not personally participate, as it was the responsibility of the Commission's technical branch (the Secretariat) to interact with the PRC on this issue, I did oversee the process that led to the presentation, on September 1st 2023, of the ACHPR's briefing note on advocacy initiatives for the ratification of the Protocols on the Rights of Older Persons and on the Rights of People with Disabilities in Africa. The presentation was made to the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, Democracy and Governance of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC).
34.At this annual gathering of members of the African Governance Platform, to which the Commission is a party, the information note provided the background to the instruments under review and highlighted their importance, as well as the status of signature and ratification of the Protocols. It revealed the awareness-raising and advocacy initiatives undertaken by the Commission under the auspices of the Working Group with a view to their ratification and entry into force. It highlighted some of the successes achieved as well as the challenges, and suggested ways of speeding up ratification. Finally, she drew particular attention to the support that could be provided by the Honourable Sub-Committee of the PRC in this regard.
35.I would like to thank the Secretariat of the African Commission, under the leadership of Mrs. Abiola Idowu-Ojo (Acting Secretary), for making this interaction effective, and for presenting to the PRC all the work in progress towards the goal of bringing the two Protocols into force.
36.I must express my gratitude and that of the entire Commission to the PRC for this opportunity. It is undeniable that the achievements of this working session are already tangible, with the effective deposit of the instruments of ratification by Cameroon, one week after the said session, i.e. on 8 September 2023. I congratulate this country once again, as I already did in an official press release issued on 22 September 2023, after the African Union officially informed the Commission of this positive development.
37.So, as usual, this is the place to take stock of the ratifications of the two Protocols to date and note the progress made in this respect since my last intersession report, in order to see the evolving curve with regard to this issue and the impact of our concerted actions to achieve the objective of bringing these texts into force.
38. As a result, the number of ratifications of the Protocol on Older Persons has increased from 11 to 12, while the number of signatures has remained unchanged since the last intersession report. The most recent ratification is that of Cameroon. Consequently, for the Protocol to become effective, 3 ratifications still need to be obtained through the actual deposit of instruments of ratification.
39.The Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities received two new ratifications. They are those of Namibia (5 June 2023 following its signature on 16 May 2023) and Cameroon (deposit of instrument of ratification on 8 September 2023). These new elements increase the number of ratifications communicated in my previous report, from 8 to 10. The number of signatures increased from 15 to 16, on the understanding that only Namibia is a new signature, Cameroon's having already been counted in my previous report.
40.The Protocol on the Rights of People with Disabilities therefore requires 5 ratifications to enter into force.
✔PARTICIPATION IN THE PARLIAMENTARY CONFERENCE IN CHAD
41.The Secretariat of the Commission participated in the Regional Parliamentary Conference on Governance and the Promotion of the Ratification, Acceptance and Implementation of African Union Legal Instruments on Shared Values. The title of the activity is self-explanatory.
42.The event was jointly organized from 25 to 27 September in N'Djamena, Chad, by the Pan-African Parliament and Chad's Conseil National de Transition (acting as the country's parliament during the transition period). The event brought together parliamentarians from Central Africa and African Union bodies that are members of the AGA platform, as well as AfCFTA.
43.As the two Protocols for which the Working Group I lead is responsible are among the African Union's legal instruments in question, I was able to provide specific guidance to the Secretariat attending the meeting to further the advocacy work of my Working Group. Parliamentarians and other stakeholders at the meeting were sensitized about the existence of these instruments, the status of ratifications and short and medium term objectives. I was told that parliamentarians were highly interested and promised to do their part to bring about the entry into force of the two Protocols.
44.The proposals made by the Secretariat during the adoption of the Final Communiqué of this activity emphasized the need to list the major instruments dealt with by the Conference, and therefore necessarily the two Protocols, among others, and the need to define or agree on a follow-up activity to this meeting which should, at least, be of the same scope as the said Parliamentary Conference.
✔DEBRIEFING FOR AFRICAN NDHIs ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF OLDER PERSONS: OPPORTUNITIES FOR NHRI ENGAGEMENT TO STRENGTHEN THE RIGHTS OF OLDER PERSONS GLOBALLY AND REGIONALLY; 6 OCTOBER 2023
45.On 6 October 2023, I participated as a speaker in the above-mentioned activity. My presentation was on "Opportunities for engagement by national human rights institutions to strengthen the rights of older persons globally and regionally".
46.The event also aimed to build the capacity and commitment of NHRIs in Africa to defend the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Older Persons and to protect the international framework for the promotion and protection of these rights.
47.I was pleased to share this discussion framework with a number of eminent figures engaged in the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons. These included the alter ego of the Working Group at the UN level, the Independent Expert on the promotion and protection of the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Ms. Claudia Mahler; Mr. Rio Hada - Head of the Division for Gender, Development and the Rule of Law, OHCHR Office in New York; Mr.Gilbert Sebihogo, Executive Director of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions; Ms. Yookyong Park - Human Rights Officer, National Human Rights Commission of Korea, GANHRI Working Group on Ageing and Human Rights of Older Persons; Mr. Bernard Mogesa, Executive Director of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission; Ms. Emem Omokaro, Director General of the National Agency on Ageing, Nigeria.
48.Naturally, I was very proud to see that Ms. Hagos, the expert for East Africa and a member of my Working Group, was chosen to moderate this event. I congratulate her and note that this once again demonstrates the very high standard of membership of our Working Group.
49.The question of the need to ratify the protocol was raised. The participants agreed on possible solutions to this problem and, at the same time, joined the solidarity movement in the drive to draw up a universal treaty on the rights of the elderly.
50.My participation in this important global discussion is an important breakthrough for the Working Group, which has achieved optimum visibility at this stage. This visibility must be maintained by following up the various projects underway and by maintaining contacts with the relevant actors, i.e. the organizers of this activity and the participants.
51.The event was organized by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), to whom I would like to express my gratitude for associating the Working Group with this event. We owe it to them to reciprocate at the level of the Working Group, and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so in the future.
2.ACTIVITIES OF THE WORKING GROUP ON SPECIFIC ISSUES RELATING TO THE WORK OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION
52.During the intersession period, I took note of the activities to be carried out by this Working Group, which I chair, in particular the preparation of the forthcoming meeting on the issues referred by the plenary of the Commission during its deliberations at the 76th ordinary private session.
53.The Working Group is ready to hold the meeting on these issues during this session. As a reminder, these issues mainly concern the development of a framework and guidelines for the Commissioners' intersessional activities, the project to establish a global framework for the follow-up of the Commission's recommendations and decisions, and a strategy to improve the implementation by States of those decisions and recommendations. These projects are under the technical responsibility of Ms. Eunice Refiloe Malotha, the expert made available to the Commission by the Republic of Botswana, to whom we extend our warmest gratitude.
3.ACTIVITIES OF THE WORKING GROUP ON COMMUNICATIONS
⮚MEETINGS OF WORKING GROUP ON COMMUNICATIONS
54.I chaired all the intersession meetings of this Working Group. The separate report I am presenting in this capacity gives a full account of these activities.
4.MEMBER OF THE WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS/COMMUNITIES AND MINORITIES IN AFRICA
55.This Working Group, of which I am Vice-Chairman, has held two meetings, as indicated below. I participated in all these activities.
a)INTERNAL WORKING GROUP MEETING, 28 JULY 2023
56. The purpose of the meeting, which was held virtually, was to describe the mandate and activities of the Working Group and to summarize its activities for the year 2023. It focused in particular on the continental workshop on the rights and status of indigenous peoples and the planned validation of the study on the impact of Covid-19 on indigenous peoples in Africa, as well as on the division of tasks.
b)CONTINENTAL WORKSHOP ON THE STATUS OF INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS/COMMUNITIES IN AFRICA - 25 AND 26 AUGUST 2023
57.During this event, I chaired a roundtable discussion on various issues related to the human rights of indigenous peoples/communities, including indigenous practices and knowledge in natural resource management, environmental protection and climate resilience, human rights violations and the impact of development finance institutions (DFIs) on indigenous populations, as well as development options for indigenous communities.
II.HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN MY PORTFOLIO COUNTRIES
As mentioned above, these are the following countries: Angola, Burundi, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.
A.REPUBLIC OF ANGOLA
1.General protection of human rights
58.general human rights situation is relatively tense due to disagreements between the government and part of the population on various issues, including the cost of living.
59.Thus, until early October 2023, anti-cost-of-living protests continued to punctuate life in the country, with allegations of loss of life, arrests and detentions, ill-treatment and other possible violations in such a context of social crisis.
60.In my previous report, I reported on the situation of Angolan citizen Eugenio Quintas, who is reportedly being held with his family by immigration authorities in Mozambique (Maputo). He fled to Mozambique to escape persecution for having denounced the involvement of authorities in drug trafficking in Angola. I had called on the authorities of both countries to find a human rights solution to this situation within a reasonable timeframe, and would welcome an update on this situation, which I hope will have been dealt with in accordance with the human rights obligations of both countries.
61.I was also questioned on the alleged fact that on May 25, the Angolan National Assembly approved the draft law on the status of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which critics claim limits the right of association and gives the executive excessive powers to interfere in NGO activities.
62.However, I must point out one positive aspect of the tension between the government and a section of the population, which has been catalyzed by certain human rights NGOs. The release of activist Gilson da Silva Morreira (alias Tanaice Neutro) on 23 June 2023, after 18 months in detention. This release was facilitated by the Minister of Justice. It is to be hoped that the Angolan authorities will take similar steps to reduce social tension. Furthermore, all players should give priority to dialogue and peaceful action to settle differences of opinion in the common and higher interests of the people.
63.On this last recommendation, my role as country rapporteur for Angola is ready to contribute all the Commission's expertise, in accordance with its mandate and mission, to help bring the parties together and find the most appropriate solutions, in line with the country's human and peoples' rights obligations.
64.I therefore reiterate my request to carry out a promotional mission to Angola, in accordance with the solemn verbal invitation extended to me by the country's delegation at the 73rd last ordinary session.
65.I cannot conclude these observations on the general human rights situation in Angola during the intersession under review without congratulating this country on the exemption from tourist visas, for a stay of up to 30 days per entry and up to 90 days per year, granted by Presidential Decree number 189/23 of September 29, 2023 to 14 African countries. This initiative is fully in line with the right to free movement enshrined in the Charter, and more generally with the path to African Unity, the ultimate goal of the entire African Union, whose Commission is the primary body for human and peoples' rights.
66.The Republic of Angola has signed, ratified and deposited the instruments of ratification of the two Protocols concerning older persons and people with disabilities, as reported in my previous intersessional reports. It is thus positioned as one of the countries that will be a champion in my vision of intervention once the Protocols in question enter into force in the very near future, as we expect.
B.REPUBLIC OF BURUNDI
1.General protection of human rights
67.As noted in my previous report, Burundi faces many challenges in terms of the protection of human rights, in particular of human rights defenders, despite the general calm observed following the emergence of a new Government and its proclaimed openness to external partners.
68.The human rights defenders arrested and detained since 14 February 2002 have not yet been released. Of particular note is the case of journalist Floriane Irangabiye, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence following her conviction in January 2023 for undermining Burundi's national integrity, a charge linked to her work with the online media Radio Igicaniro.
69. Indeed, his health is reported to be in irreparable danger if no action is taken. As stated in my previous report, prison conditions are said to be incompatible with standard requirements; overcrowding is said to have reached a level where prisons are holding three times their normal maximum capacity.
70.. In the run-up to the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, which will take place in May 2023, I had called on the Burundian authorities to use the framework of the UPR as a lever and catalyst for the positive changes sought by all stakeholders, so that the country complies with its international human rights obligations.
71.I can say that my call has been heard, as Burundi has accepted 204 recommendations and has achieved 83 out of all the recommendations made in this cycle of the UPR.
72. We note that none of the recommendations has been denounced or rejected. This demonstrates Burundi's willingness to cooperate in a transparent and dynamic manner in order to improve the human rights situation on its territory, so as to put an end to the worrying narrative that has long prevailed in this area, and so that this country can regain a place of choice on the international scene.
73.The context is therefore conducive to continued engagement with the Burundian authorities at the highest level, urging them to resume full dialogue with the Commission through its Country Rapporteur.
74.Burundi has ratified the Protocols on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities and deposited the instruments of ratification on 4 July 2002. The considerations mentioned for the Republic of Angola also apply to the Republic of Burundi. This is particularly so in light of the speech in support of persons with disabilities delivered by His Excellency Évariste Ndayishimiye, President of the Republic of Burundi, on August 2, 2023, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union Peace and Security Council for the month of August 2023 and African Union Champion for the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda. This was on the occasion of the opening of the Consultative Workshop on the Inclusion of Youth with Disabilities in the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
C. REPUBLIC OF CONGO
1.General protection of human rights
75.In my previous report, I noted that the human rights situation in the Republic of the Congo was relatively calm, as in any country where there is no security crisis. However, the Commission has received information from local actors alleging various human rights violations that are taking place in silence and without the mechanisms for countering, monitoring or even sanctioning these violations being able to function effectively because of the general discourse of the absence of a violent crisis.
76.According to these sources, the most salient areas of concern are "the prevalence of impunity, forced disappearances, restrictions on freedoms, prison conditions that do not meet the required standards, the State's growing difficulties in meeting minimum standards in terms of people's socio-economic rights, etc.".
77.The situation has remained largely unchanged, except that during this inter-sessional period I have noted positive developments that give me hope that steps are being taken to redress the balance. This is precisely the fight against impunity. This is borne out by reports that the Brazzaville Court of Appeal, in criminal session since 31 August, has just sentenced five police officers to prison for criminal conspiracy, arbitrary detention, extortion, trafficking in stolen goods and abuse of authority.
78.I encourage the authorities to maintain this momentum in order to increase the confidence of stakeholders in the institutions in their respective royal roles.
79.I would like to reiterate that it is more necessary than ever to work towards granting the Commission a fact-finding mission on the ground so that it can objectively establish the reality of the situation and formulate recommendations to help the Congo comply with its international human rights obligations.
80.An example of an issue that could benefit from the Commission's expertise at the An example of an issue that could benefit from the Commission's expertise at the end of such a promotion mission would be the objective support provided to this country in its draft law on sustainable environmental management, which was approved by both chambers of parliament during the plenary sessions held on 12 and 13 August. This text does not seem to have the approval of the civil society actors concerned, who claim that it does not respect certain fundamental human rights.
81.I'm also pleased that we are continuing to make contact with them and to encourage them to accept a promotional mission to strengthen relations between the Commission and them.
82. In this regard, I am pleased with the exchanges in this direction that I have instructed the Secretariat to hold with Mr. Cyr Maixent Tiba, Director General for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms at the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Promotion of Indigenous Peoples of the Republic of the Congo. I am sure that this will allow us to renew our cooperation and collaboration with this country, as provided for in the Charter..
2.On the specific rights of PAPHs
83.The Republic of Congo has not signed the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons or the Protocol on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Nor has it ratified them.
84.I reiterate my appeal to this country to ratify these two Protocols, all the more so as the legal guarantee for elderly and disabled people in this country is constitutional.
85.In fact, Article 31 of the Constitution of the Republic of Congo states that "Elderly people and people living with disabilities have the right to protective measures in line with their physical, moral or other needs, with a view to their full development under the conditions determined by law". "The State has a duty to promote the presence of people living with disabilities within national and local institutions and administrations."
C.DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
1.General protection of human rights
86.I would like to note the Government's efforts to put an end to impunity for acts of violence committed by the security forces. In fact, 63 convictions have been handed down as a result of the proceedings promptly instituted following the deadly repression of demonstrators against the presence of the United Nations peacekeeping mission on 1 September.
87.In my capacity as Rapporteur of the Commission on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I issued a press release on this massacre, entitled "Communiqué de Presse sur le massacre de manifestants civils contre la MONUSCO en République Démocratique du Congo", dated 1 September 2023, which can be accessed at https://achpr.au.int/index.php/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-09-01/….
88. I'm sure that adequate reparations are an important issue for the Government and that preventive measures, such as adequate training of security forces in event management, are a matter of utmost importance for the competent authorities.
89. I also welcome the enactment of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of 17 October 2023, as well as the measure of free maternity and newborn care adopted and implemented on 5 September 2023.
90.However, reports of acts that seriously undermine the effectiveness of human rights, in particular due to the security situation, continue to reach my Country Rapporteur.
91. The conflict with the M23 rebellion and the difficulties encountered by the DRC in putting an end to large-scale attacks against civilians, despite coordinated efforts with other countries in the region, mean that the country is among those facing a humanitarian crisis in the areas affected by these murderous antagonists..
92.The situation in the DRC in the run-up to the December 2023 elections deserves special attention, given the prevailing social climate..
93. I urge the Government, which bears the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights under the Charter, to work to maintain peace and security in the country so that the people can benefit from the many efforts being made for their well-being.
94. I also reaffirm the need for a firm and holistic approach to the serious security and humanitarian crisis in the eastern part of the DRC. I renew my appeal to the armed groups to put an immediate end to all forms of violence and to participate definitively and unconditionally in the disarmament, demobilization, community rehabilitation and stabilization programme.
95.In addition, the fact-finding mission that I continue to request has become essential, since it would enable us to assess the situation in concrete terms and to make appropriate recommendations to the country to help it respect its human rights obligations, especially in this already tense pre-electoral context, against a background of insecurity due to renewed conflict in certain parts of the DRC.
96.In addition, In addition, contacts have been made with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) to discuss the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I'm sure I'll be able to report on the outcome of this meeting, which is scheduled to take place at the end of this 77th session, in my next intersessional report.
97.I couldn't end this review of the general human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without mentioning my press release on the floods and landslides that have plunged the country into mourning. This press release, dated May 11, 2002, and available at https://achpr.au.int/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-05-11/communique…, highlights the natural and man-made disasters that have plunged the people of the DRC into mourning and that need to be addressed in depth because of their highly negative impact on human rights in the country.
98.In my previous report, I referred to this type of tragedy and called for appropriate measures to be taken by the competent authorities.
99. I note that, according to recent information, concrete measures have been taken to establish responsibility and punish those responsible for the disasters in question.
100.The authorities are to be congratulated on initiatives such as the judicial investigation that will be launched to establish responsibility for the sinking of the HB Mapamboli on 14 October, which claimed at least 40 lives and, according to the authorities, brought the total number of such accidents in 2023 to eighty-eight on various rivers in the country..
101.The Democratic Republic of the Congo has not signed either the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons or the Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and as indicated in my previous report, the country's legal framework for these two categories of vulnerable persons is more than conducive to the ratification of the relevant protocols. I am therefore confident that this country will be receptive to our intensive advocacy for its early inclusion in the list of States parties to these two treaties..
1.General protection of human rights
102.My last comment on Gabon in my previous report on the general human rights situation was an appeal to avoid a repetition and aggravation of the crises linked to the electoral processes in that country, with their harmful effects on human rights. Was I heard? It's up to the observers to draw their own conclusions from the current situation.
103.103. The current situation following the presidential, parliamentary and local elections gave rise to my press release of August 30, which is available at https://achpr.au.int/fr/news/communique-de-presse/2023-08-30/communique…. It is the result of my continuous monitoring of developments affecting the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights in the country.
104.104. At this point, I can only reiterate the principle of continuity of the State and the responsibility of any Government to comply strictly with applicable international obligations.
105.I therefore urge the new authorities to take all measures to ensure that no exceptional circumstances can adversely affect the respect and protection of human and peoples' rights in their country under their government.
106.I'm also confident that a framework for discussion can be found to further materialize the promotional visit that the Commission had agreed with that country.
107.As I mentioned in my previous report, Gabon has signed the two protocols concerning the elderly and the disabled. Ratification is still pending.
108. My recommendations below are for the most part similar to those formulated in my previous report, and I therefore invite the Member States of the African Union and the States Parties to the African Charter to consider them:
i. Ratify, for those who have not yet done so, the two protocols on the rights of older persons and persons with disabilities, in order to ensure their entry into force;
ii. Respond positively to invitations to participate in the webinar to raise awareness among the English-speaking member states of the African Union about the ratification of the two Protocols on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities in Africa;
iii. Kindly contribute to the first report on the situation of the rights of older persons and persons with disabilities in Africa that is being prepared by my Working Group;
iv. In the case of the countries for which I am Rapporteur, to authorize and facilitate the Commission's visit to their territories on a promotional mission;
v. I would also like to invite the countries for which I am Rapporteur and whose human rights situations have been identified in this report to provide their version and reading of these analyses so that we can work closely together to improve their human rights performance and share their best practices in this area;
vi. I urge the African Union to provide the Commission with an adequate budget to enable it to carry out its mission effectively and fulfil its mandate;
vii. I urge partners and donors to intensify their multifaceted support to the Commission in the effective implementation of its mandate to achieve the Africa we want.
109. I'd like to seize this opportunity to thank all the people and structures who spare no effort to support the Commission in its mission in general, and the GTPAPH in implementing its mandate in particular.
110. I urge all these actors to continue in this spirit of collaboration to achieve our common goal of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa, but with a short-term goal dear to the heart of my special mechanism, the achievement of the 15 ratifications required for each of the Protocols by the end of 2023.
111. Thank you for your kind attention.