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SADC NGO's call for adherence to African Charter
MISA-Zimbabwe
October 21, 2011

Representatives of NGO's attending the Forum on the Participation of NGO's (NGO Forum) at the 50th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People's rights lamented the continued existence of challenges against enjoyment of fundamental human rights in southern Africa.

In a report which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on Human Rights (ACHPR), delegates attending the 50th session underway in Banjul, The Gambia, attributed this to non -adherence to the Charter by their respective governments.

The report presented by Corlette Letlojane of the Human Rights Institute of Southern Africa (HURISA), noted that 30 years on, the enjoyment of human rights in the region still leaves a lot to be desired.

The lack of commitment by member states to timeous state reporting in terms of the Charter is hampering meaningful assessment of progress in the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights in the sub-region, said Letlojane.

Commending the participation by countries such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland in the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) sessions, the SADC NGO's however, said there was lack of political will by member states to ensure citizen participation in the development of their national reports. There was also the issue of rejection of some key recommendations by countries being so reviewed.

The government of Zimbabwe's rejection of the recommendations that were made by other members states of the United Nations urging it to repeal draconian laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [AIPPA], was given as an example.

The slow progress in the protective mandate of the African Commission due to delays in the determination and finalisation of communications filed before it, was also of grave concern. SADC NGO's said this left citizens exposed to rampant abuse by state actors who continue to violate fundamental rights and freedoms with impunity.

Concern was also raised on the increase in violations of a number of fundamental liberties in particular the right to liberty, protection of the law, security of the person, assembly and freedom of expression.

This has seen a spate of arbitrary arrests, unwarranted detentions and in some cases prosecution of citizens in a number of countries. Delegates noted the fatal clampdown against protestors in Malawi in July this year as well as the victimisation of peaceful protestors in Zimbabwe.

"Open attacks on media practitioners continued to be experienced in Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe and there are imminent attacks on free expression in South Africa with the pending Secrecy Bill to classify information seen as a reminiscence of the apartheid era where the media and public lived under severe state censorship," said Letlojane.

The continued threat to media freedom was attributed to the retention and use of repressive laws in some countries such as Zimbabwe in the form of AIPPA, Broadcasting Services Act, and Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. In Swaziland, the Suppression of Terrorism Act was cited as among laws that pose a threat to media freedom.

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