A. Session and Agenda
1. The Commission held the 23rd Ordinary Session held in Banjul,
from 20-29 April 1998. The agenda of the session is attached to
2. The following members of the Commission attended the 23rd ordinary session :
a. Mr. Youssoupha Ndiaye, Chairman
b. Dr. Vera V. Duarte Martins, Vice Chairman
c. Prof. Isaac Nguema, member
d. Prof. Emmanuel V.O. Dankwa, member
e. Dr. Mohamed Hatem Ben Salem , member
f. Mme Julienne Ondziel-Gnelenga, member
g. Mr. Kamel Rezzag-Bara, member
h. Dr. Nyameko Barney Pityana, member
i. Dr. Ibrahim Badawi El Sheikh , member
3. Messrs. Atsu-Koffi Amega and Alioune Blondin Beye were
absent with apologies.
4. The representatives of the following States participated in the proceedings of the 23rd session and some of them made statements : Gambia, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Namibia, the Republic of Guinea, Nigeria, Mozambique.
5. Many Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and National Institutions also took part in the proceedings of the 23rd session.
B. Adoption of the 11th Annual Activity Report
6. The Commission considered and adopted the eleventh annual activity report at its sitting of 29 April 1998.
II. ACTIVITIES OF THE COMMISSION
A. Consideration of Periodic Reports
7. Under Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Rights, each State Party undertakes to submit a report every two
years on the legislative and other measures it takes to give effect
to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter.
8. The Republic of Chad and the Republic of Seychelles sent their periodic reports to the Secretariat, but these were not considered by the Commission as there were no official delegations to present them at the 23rd Session.
9. The periodic reports of the Republic of Namibia and the Republic of Guinea were presented at the 23rd session. The Commission praised the quality of the reports and thanked the representatives for their presentation.
10. The Commission considered several proposals for improving the operation of the reporting system and examined a draft amendment of the guidelines on the preparation of the said periodic reports.
11. As at the 23rd session, thirty-three (31) State parties had not yet submitted their periodic reports .
B. Promotional Activities
12. The Chairman met with the OAU Secretary General in Addis Ababa in December 1997 and discussed with him administrative, financial and other matters. He also met with the President of the Republic of The Gambia on the 27 January 1998 and discussed with him the question of the Headquarters of the Commission.The Chairman further intervened with the Governments of Mauritania and Djibouti in emergency situations.
13. All the members reported on the human rights promotional
and/or protective activities they participated in during the intersession.
14. The Commission heard the statements of several NGOs on the human rights situation in Rwanda, Burundi, Congo (Brazzaville), Mauritania, Algeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.
15. Among the issues raised were those concerning women's rights in general, female genital mutilation, refugees, prison conditions, slavery, extrajudicial executions, restriction of the freedom of association, assembly, expression, torture, poverty, unemployment, discrimination.
16. Following the information provided by representatives of Amnesty International on the imminent execution of 23 persons in Rwanda accused of participation in the genocide of 1994, the Commission immediately requested the Rwandan government to stay this execution in order to enable it to take a position on the matter on the basis of the complaint submitted by Amnesty.
17. The Commission discussed the Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, as well as the preparation of the next Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa to be held in Luanda, Angola.
18. The Commission also discussed the distribution of States parties among its members for the purpose of promotion, organisation of seminars and conferences, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the publication of its Review and other aspects of promotional work.
19. The resolution adopted by the Commission on the International Criminal Court is attached as an annex.
III. REPORT OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON EXTRA-JUDICIAL EXECUTIONS IN AFRICA
20. At the 23rd session, Commissioner Ben Salem presented the final report on the summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial executions in Rwanda, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This report contains the names of people about whom the special rapporteur is expecting information from the States concerned.
IV. REPORT OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON PRISON AND DETENTION CONDITIONS IN AFRICA
21. At the 23d session, Commissioner Dankwa presented his
third report. In it he mentions his visits to prisons and other
places of detention, meetings with government authorities, participation
in seminars on African prisons.
22. The special rapporteur visited inter alia the prisons in Mali and studied the prison conditions of this country. His recommendations for the improvement of the Malian prison conditions will be submitted to the government. The special rapporteur expressed appreciation for the assistance rendered to him by the NGO Penal Reform International (PRI).
V. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN
23. The working group already set up for the elaboration of an additional Protocol to the African Charter on the rights of women met from 26-28 January 1998. The group was expanded to include the International Commission of Jurists and the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies. The said group prepared the terms of reference of the Special Rapporteur and presented a report at the 23rd session. Mme Julienne Ondziel-Gnelenga, member of the Commission, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the rights of women. She is expected to present an interim report at the 24th session.
VI. MISSIONS TO STATES PARTIES
24. The Commission discussed at the 23rd Session Commissioner Dankwa's report on the mission undertaken in Sudan. The report on Nigeria was deferred to the 24th Session.
VII. RELATIONS WITH OBSERVERS
25. At the 23rd session, observer status was granted to seven
Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which brings the number
of NGOs with observer status to 231.
26. On the same issue of relations between the Commission and observers, it was noticed that only thirty percent of observers complied with the obligation to submit reports on their activities to the Commission every two years. The Commission further noticed that some of these NGOs cut off all contact with it once they obtained observer status. The Commission decided to review the criteria for granting observer status.
27. With regard to the relations with National Human Rights Institutions, the Commission deferred the consideration of applications for observer status from National Human Rights Institutions.
VIII. PROTECTIVE ACTIVITIES
28. The Commission considered 69 communications at the 23rd Session and took necessary action on each of them.
IX. ADMINISTRATIVE AND FINANCIAL MATTERS
29. The Commission examined the resources at its disposal for its functioning and expressed satisfaction at the improvement of its working conditions thanks to the additional human and financial resources provided by its partners.
The Commission also expressed its appreciation for the measures taken by the Council of Ministers of the OAU at its 67th Ordinary Session with a view to implementing the decision and resolutions of the Assembly of the Head of States and Government of the OAU directing that the African Commission be provided with adequate financial, human and material resources for its efficient functioning.
30. The Commission considered proposals for improving its methods of work.