African Commission launches new principles on the Promotion of Human and Peoples’ Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has launched new Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa (Principles and Guidelines).
In the current environment, acts of terrorism and associated human rights abuses can touch almost every walk and facet of life and impact all types of rights, whether civil and political; economic, social and cultural; or group rights.
In light of those considerations, the Principles and Guidelines were formulated in response to grave acts of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa and to assist States implement their human rights obligations this while countering terrorism.
The Principles and Guidelines serve to assist State Parties to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights to protect life and human dignity even in the most troubled times. The Principles and Guidelines provide a set of fourteen General Principles, including the obligation of non-discrimination, the obligation to provide reparations and others.
The Principles and Guidelines also set out to meet four specific objectives:
Focus on Victims: The Commission recognized that victims of terrorism are too often marginalized from the discussions that States and intergovernmental organizations have to prevent and combat terrorism. For this reason, the Principles and Guidelines devote considerable time to the need to prevent and punish acts of terrorism, and to provide assistance to the victims of terrorism.
Contextualization of the Phenomenon of Terrorism: the Principles and Guidelines reflect the reality that acts of terrorism and associated human rights abuses do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, an effective strategy requires institutional and structural reforms that address their root causes.
This is in keeping with the Communiqué of the Peace and Security Council’s 455th meeting on terrorism and violent extremism in Africa on 2 September 2014, in which it was agreed that States need to “address all conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism, including prolonged unresolved conflicts, lack of rule of law and violations of human rights, discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization and poor governance,” and that poverty eradication, job creation and development may be key components to a successful strategy.
Responding to Emerging Issues: the Principles and Guidelines address a broad set of human rights issues, including emerging issues that are unfortunately commonly associated with preventing and combating terrorism and violent extremism.
To this end, the Principles and Guidelines contain both general and specific rules that apply to the right to life; deprivation of liberty, humane treatment, and fair trials; rendition and transfers; anti-terrorism laws and “watch lists;” interstate cooperation; private security contractors; statelessness and citizenship; human rights defenders; the right to privacy and access to information; and human security.
Underlining the Importance of Cooperation and Implementation of these Principles and Guidelines: Cooperation amongst African Union member States and other international and national institutions to respect human rights while combating terrorism and the need to implement the content of the Principles and Guidelines constitute the last pillar. The success of the Principles and Guidelines will be measured by the extent to which they are known and implemented by States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The Principles and Guidelines also contain “Explanatory Notes” which point the reader to the source of authority on which they are based. These include African regional treaty law; the case law, standards, and resolutions of this Commission; and international human rights treaty law and U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The Principles and Guidelines also give consideration to other international and regional human rights decisions and special mechanisms, U.N. General Assembly resolutions, including the U.N. Global Counter- Terrorism Strategy of 2006, and the views of the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Principles and Guidelines were adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during its 56th Ordinary Session in Banjul, Gambia (21 April to 7 May 2015) and were developed on the basis of Article 45(1) (b) of the African Charter, which mandates the Commission to formulate standards,principles, and rules on which African governments can base their legislation.
The Principles and Guidelines are available online in Arabic, English, French and Portuguese: