A CONCERN FOR ECOWAS HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK
The ECOWAS Commission has expressed concern over reports of grave violations of human rights in The Gambia, Guinea and Niger.
This is contained in the final Communiqué of the meeting of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions of ECOWAS Member States after successfully completing a three day meeting in Banjul. The main objective of the meeting, amongst others, was to consolidate on the achievements of the February 2009 meeting of the Network held in Cotonou, Benin.
The Network also recognised and called on the government of The Gambia to be more tolerant of human rights activities and opposition groups in the country.
The communiqué also stressed the need for the Gambia government to ensure the protection of media practitioners in the practice of their profession.
On Guinea, the report called on ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Governments to immediately organise an election in which serving members of the ruling military junta, the CNDD, will not participate and that will usher in a credible civilian and democratic government. It also stated that the upcoming summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Governments should facilitate the imposition of sanctions targeted at the military Junta.
On Niger, the Network recommended their immediate suspension from ECOWAS until democratic structures and the rule of law are restored in the country. It also called for the release of journalists and other political prisoners being held by the government in Niger. The Network also called on ECOWAS to encourage dialogue among political stakeholders in Benin and Togo in their preparation for the forthcoming elections in their respective countries.
According to the final Communiqué, the National Institutions of Human Rights during their presentation highlighted some of the challenges that the National Networks are confronted with. These include inadequate financial resources for the institutions to perform their roles effectively, the inability of governments of Member States to safeguard citizens, social, economic and cultural rights due to inadequate resources and corruption, slow dispensation of justice and prison congestion, inadequate judicial personnel in some Member States, were mentioned as challenges. The other challenges highlighted also include mariginalisation of women in the political space and violence against women, and coordination with the Ministry of Justice.
In order to avert such challenges, the Network stressed the need for a provision to ensure annual evaluation of country’s human rights report in the region by the ECOWAS Commission and the Network.
The need for human rights institutions for information exchange among the commission was also mentioned.
They also called on governments to establish and strengthen Human Rights Institutions in accordance with the Paris Principe.
The final communiqué also stressed the need for the Network to be involved in ECOWAS Election Observation Missions and that civil society involvement in the network’s activities should be enhanced.
The following Member States were represented at the meeting. Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’ Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Submitted by FC Malang