ADDRESS DELIVERED ON THE OCCASSION OF THE CLOSING OF THE 50 TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS
COMMISSIONER CATHERINE DUPE ATOKI ,
African Commission on Human and Peoples ’ Rights
BANJUL, THE GAMBIA, 05 NOVEMBER 2011
Excellency Mr. Edward Gomez Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of The Gambia;
Distinguished Delegates of the African Union Member States;
Honourable Members of the Government of the Republic of The Gambia;
Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;
Distinguished Representatives of International Organisations;
Distinguished Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions;
Distinguished Representatives of Non-governmental Organisations;
Honourable Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
On this occasion of the closing ceremony of the 50 th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples ’ Rights , I feel very humble to make my first statement in my capacity as the Chairperson of the Commission .
Before I go further permit me to take a few minutes to acknowledge the visionary leadership of my predecessor , Commissioner Reine Alapini Gansou , in steering the course of the commission for the last two years . Commissioner Gansou , let me on behalf of my colleagues , myself and the Secretariat , Thank You for the good work already done and hope that you will continue to avail the Commission of your expertise . I will be remiss at this point if I do not thank my colleagues who have reposed confidence in me by passing on to the responsibility of piloting the affairs of this Commission for the next two years
Dear colleagues your corporation cannot be over emphasised . Your professionalism , dedication and sacrifice are the building blocks of the African human rights edifice .
This Session witnessed many activities marking the 30 th Anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples ’ Rights ; from the International Colloqium to the Moot Court Competition . Indeed there is cause for celebration and commendation .
Africans most recognise and pay tribute to their visionary leaders and experts who committed themselves to give to future generations a Charter on Human and Peoples ’ Rights .
Member States most also be commended for striving to make the African Charter a living document in responding to obvious lacuna , by adopting the additional protocol relating to the establishment of the Court and on the Rights of Women in Africa .
We most also pat ourselves in the back by acknowledging the rich contribution of the African Commission to the Jurisprudence on human and peoples ’ rights in the continent especially the bold interpretation of the Charter and for giving effect to the rights that are implied by the provisions of the Charter .
As we draw the curtain on the 30 years since the adoption of the Charter ; it is a dawn of a new era . A time to continue with the good works already done and a time to pick up the challenges and proactively engage them . There are still areas in need of action to make the charter a vibrant document ; areas such as the gross and massive violations of human rights , the funding of the African Human Rights Systems and the implementation of decisions of the different bodies created therein to name a few .
Despite these and many more challenges, the implementation of the Charter remains sacrosanct. Daunting as this task may be, it does not exonerate the continues violations of the rights guaranteed in the Charter.
We do not need to look far to see many conflicts which have led to wars whilst the attendant human rights violations , virtually stares us in the face . The situation in North and Horn of Africa , the Great Lakes Region , Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile States of Sudan readily come to mind .
Arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders , unduly long period of pre - trail detention and high levels of overcrowding in places of detention , the use of torture and ill - treatment on suspects and prison inmates are but a few affront on the dignity of Africans .
Discrimination against women and other vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, indigenous population/communities, refugees, internally displace persons and migrants to name a few continue to abound.
The Charter has come to stay , it remains new for its interpretation in our minds and spirits . Its implementation is our collective responsibility . I will therefore first and foremost call on State Parties as the primary guarantors of the enjoyments of the human rights enshrined in the Charter , to arise and show exemplary leadership in complying with their commitment to take all measures to ensure their citizen ’ s enjoy the human rights guaranteed in the Charter .
While State Parties take this lead , the success story cannot be achieved without the contribution of all stakeholders involving in the promotion and protection of human rights , an important component of which is the Civil Society Organisations . It is appropriate at this point to underscore their vital role in the overall realisation of the visions of the founding fathers as enshrined in the Charter . I therefore wish to thank members of the civil society who diligently participate in the sessions of the Commission , who away from the Commission , tenaciously pursue albeit in difficult terrain , the noble fight for humanity .
I urge them to continue to support and collaborate with the African Commission and indeed all African human rights bodies .
Your Excellencies , Distinguished ladies and gentlemen , as the 50 th Ordinary Session draws to a close , I would like to reiterate that the Commission is mindful of the enormity of the assignment it has . We are aware that the work of defending human dignity may never be over , so that we do not underestimate the work ahead . But as we dare to match ahead , it is my hope that with the contributions of all stakeholders , our collective will and resolve will take us to a new level .
Let me express my profound thanks to the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia for yet again hosting another Session of the African Commission . In that regard , allow me Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of The Gambia , to personally express through you , to His Excellency , The President of the Republic of The Gambia , Sheikh Professor , Dr Alhaji Yahya J . J . Jammeh , and his Government , our sincere gratitude for the warm hospitality which was accorded to the Commission and all its partners who attended the 50 thOrdinary Session .
Before I take my leave , I would like to say it gives me immense pleasure to welcome my colleagues , the new Commissioners who were elected as Members of the African Commission and sworn in here in Banjul , The Gambia in November 2011. Commissioners Maya Sahli - Fadel , Med Kaggwa , and Pacifique Manirakiza , welcome to the family of the African Commission . I am equally pleased to welcome back into the Commission , two valuable members - Commissioner Reine Alapini Gansou , former Chairperson of the Commission and Commissioner Faith Pansy Tlakula , whose re - election is testimony of the immense commitment they have , not only to the African Commission , but to the African human rights system as a whole .
Please allow me also to congratulate the former Commissioners whose terms had expired - for their valuable contributions to the work of the African commission . They are Commissioner Mumba Malila and Commissioner Musa Ngary Bitaye . To both of them , I say a big thank you . You will be missed .
I also want to thank all the delegates of State Parties, intergovernmental and international organizations, the National Human Rights Institutions, and nongovernmental organizations who continue to demonstrate their willingness to contribute to the success and richness of our deliberations.
To the Interpreters and Translators, I say thank you. Without you we would have had to develop expertise in sign language.
To the drivers , the escort s , the hostesses , the caterers , the technical and administrative staff who have been locally recruited or placed at our disposal , and all those who have been working with us for the past two weeks , I extend the African Commission ’ s gratitude .
May I reiterate the Commissions ’ profound gratitude to the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia , for all the facilities put at the disposal of the Commission enabling a successful 50 th Ordinary Session of the Commission .
Thank You and God Bless you and bless Africa.