By Momodou Jarju
Gambian human rights defender, Mrs. Hannah Foster, has raised concern about human rights violations in all parts of the world and Africa in particular amid the spread of the deadly respiratory disease called Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Mrs. Foster, who is the spokesperson of the NGOs Forum, made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 66th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which started on Monday July 13th 2020 via Zoom platform.
“We all have seen that from all parts of the world human rights violations have remained a major concern in most countries. Since late December 2019, the Coronavirus which causes Covid-19 has held the world captive with uncertainties, fear and insecurity. In most countries, we’ve seen the freedom of association and assembly remains a major cause for concern in most of the countries reviewed,” she said.
Moreover, Madam Foster said they have also seen the challenge of corruption remaining real and already adding to existing social and economic obstacles around the world and particularly in Africa.
Foster was highlighting some of the outcomes of the Forum on the participation of NGOs in the 66 Ordinary Session of the ACHPR. The webinar session was held on 9-10 July, 2020 themed on the “Impact of Covid-19 on Human Rights and Governance in Africa.”
Madam Foster said it is also a cause for concern that with Covid-19, there has been an increase of gender based violence registered in most of the countries that have been reviewed by the Forum.
She added that it was reported at the Forum that systematic harassment and targeting of human rights defenders in many countries persist and or have intensified the closing of civic space due to the existence of restrictive legislations.
“It was ascertained that a lot more needs to be done as many African countries continue to face challenges of insecurity, violence, terror attacks and the volatile situation brought about by Covid-19,” she said.
Speaking further, Madam Foster said they had raised the issue of overcrowding in prisons especially during Covid-19.
“The overcrowding of prisons due to non-observance of judicial guarantees in respect of remand detainees as well as standard minimum rules, also have created challenges. And the Forum calls on the African Commission to urge States to respect and implement all laws governing the treatment of prisoners especially in this time of Covid-19, which has brought about an extension of restricting laws that are being implemented,” Foster informed the participants.
Foster said the Forum urged more States and NGOs to use and popularize the African Commission processes and decisions and to encourage States to comply with decisions as well as consider signing Article 346 of the Protocol.
The aforementioned article was a resolution on the right to education in Africa done in The Gambia on April 2016 during the 58th Ordinary Session.
“We have challenges of Benin and Cote d’Ivoire withdrawing their signatures of Article 346. And we will like to urge the Commission to enter into dialogue with them to ensure that they encourage them to review the decision,” she said.
Foster said the forum also observed that freedom of expressions, the criminalization of bloggers and internet restrictions continue to hinder the independent and freedom of journalists and like-minded groups.
“Humanitarian access has also become very problematic. The Forum took this opportunity to call on the African Commission and all States that have not ratified pertinent treaties to speedily do so in order to enable their implementation as the enjoyment of those rights by all citizens,” she added.
Nonetheless, she said the Forum called on all stakeholders to recommit themselves and their efforts towards sustaining and strengthening the African Commission as well as safeguarding its independent.
Meanwhile, the NGOs Forum is an advocacy platform coordinated by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) to promote advocacy, lobbying and networking among and between human rights NGOs, for the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.
The 2020 webinar Forum was co-organized by the ACDHRS and Defend Defenders in collaboration with the African Commission and the objective of the NGOs Forum was mainly to foster closer collaboration between and among NGOs and with the African Commission and other African human rights mechanisms, for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.