10 January 2017, Brussels – The 12th African Union (AU) – European Union (EU) Human Rights Dialogue took place on 10 January 2017 in Brussels, Belgium
- The Dialogue was led by Dr Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, and Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights. The AU participants included Hon. Justice Sylvain ORE, President of the AfCHPR; Hon Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson the ACERWC, Hon. Maya Sahli-Fadel, Commissioner of the ACHPR; Mr. Omar Farouq, ECOSOCC as well as staff from the AUC and other AU organs. On the EU side the participants included Amb. Mara Marinaki, EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender and on Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 Women, Peace and Security; Ms. Birgitte Markussen, Deputy Managing Director Africa, EEAS, as well as EU staff working on human rights-related issues. Both sides reaffirmed their joint commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights on both continents and to collaborate on the effective implementation of continental and international human rights instruments.
- Both parties discussed recent developments in Africa and Europe in the area of human rights, notably the work of the AU organs with a human rights mandate and the implementation of Project 2016 to celebrate 2016 as the year of human rights in Africa with particular focus on the rights of women.
- The AU and EU welcomed the Declaration of the Human and Peoples’ Decade in Africa and the launch of the drafting of the African Human Rights Action and Implementation Plan 2017–26. The two parties agreed that it is a unique opportunity for concrete and tangible improvements in the protection and promotion of the fundamental rights. The EU agreed to support the AU with its plan to ensure the ratification and implementation of international and continental human rights instruments at the national level.
- The AU acknowledged with appreciation the EU 10 million euros support to the African Human Rights system under the EU Panafrican Programme. Both sides also welcomed the High-Level Dialogue on Democratic Governance focusing on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Africa, which was held in November 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania. They also welcomed the exchange of experiences during the High Level Meeting of Chief (Election) Observers organised by the AU in the margins of the Declaration of Principles on International Election Observation (DOP) meeting in Johannesburg in October 2016 and agreed on the importance of regularly repeating the event.
- Both sides recalled the outcomes of the Kigali Joint Communique in which they reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights on both continents and to collaborate on the effective implementation of continental and international human rights instruments.
- It was also noted that many countries are making progress in the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, in particular the participation of women in politics and representation in decision making structures, ownership of land and the right to inheritance, measures to address sexual and gender-based violence against women and harmful traditional practices. Yet, notwithstanding achievements, too many women are still at risk. The parties also welcomed the adoption of the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
- On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, both parties welcomed the adoption of the Draft Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in February 2016. In order for the Protocol to come into force, the EU expressed its full support to the AU efforts in obtaining its swift adoption.
- On Human Rights and Business, the parties welcomed the efforts of the AU to develop an AU Policy Framework for the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Africa. The AU welcomed with appreciation the support of the EU to assist with this process.
- The AU and the EU followed up on the previous recommendations made within this context. On the abolition of death penalty, both parties recalled that the Draft Additional Protocol on the Abolition of Death Penalty in Africa was adopted at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in April 2015. In order for the Protocol to come into force, they called for the AU Member States to adopt the Protocol.
- Both institutions reiterated their commitment to fighting impunity of all sorts and to holding perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses accountable. The EU welcomed the AU decision to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and encouraged the AU to move forward as quickly as possible with the implementation of the justice and accountability measures in the 2015 peace agreement. The EU also committed to continue its support to the AU efforts to develop a Policy on Transitional Justice in Africa to enhance cooperation on justice, truth and reconciliation mechanisms.
- The EU and AU are committed to international justice and rules-based international order. Both parties committed to fighting impunity, promoting justice at all levels and placing special emphasis on the importance of reinforcing national judiciaries. The EU reiterated its staunch support for the ICC and strongly encouraged those African countries who have not done so to ratify the Rome Statute. Both sides emphasised that ICC is the Court of last resort. The AU reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of complementarity of the justice system from the national, regional, continental levels with the apex (specific) continental body being the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
- The EU commended the renewed efforts of the AU to deploy human rights observers to monitor human rights in conflict situations and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The AU welcomed the ongoing EU support for the AU Human Rights Observer mission in Burundi. Both sides committed to working together to develop a robust roster for African Human Rights Observers as well as developing a training manual with a view to institutionalise the AU Human Rights Observation in the long run.
- The parties reiterated their outstanding cooperation in the area of election observation. They welcomed the deployment of first core teams as integral part of AU Electoral Observation Missions in 2016. The parties also welcomed the progress achieved in improving the AU capacity and methodology through EU support in 2016. The parties agreed to further strengthen the methodology, including through strengthened coordination on the ground.
- In preparation for the Africa-EU Summit in 2017, the EU welcomed the AU Youth Engagement Strategy for the Promotion of Democratic Governance and Human Rights in Africa and committed itself to support this initiative.
- Both sides committed to promoting and protecting freedom of expression and the right of access to information in the digital age. They welcomed the ACHPR 2016 Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa, and emphasised that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.
- The question of a shrinking space for civil society organizations and human rights defenders was discussed. Both sides reiterated their commitment to jointly support a Continental Conference on Freedom of Expression in 2017 in Africa as agreed in 2015. Both sides are looking forward to the adoption of the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa by the ACHPR and agreed to organize a seminar on the implementation on these guidelines.
- The AU and the EU commended the work of Civil Society Steering Committees in organizing the 6th AU-EU Civil Society Seminar on Democratic Governance and Human Rights on 9 January 2017 in Brussels. The seminar focussed on counter-terrorism and human rights. The parties welcomed and took note of the recommendations, including an initiative on human rights and counter-terrorism in Africa. They also welcomed the adoption of the Mandate and Terms of Reference of the Steering Committee of the AU-EU Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights and Democratic Governance. They also jointly reaffirmed the need for greater space for civil society within this partnership in order to fulfill their obligations without undue interference and called on the civil society to inclusively and meaningfully contribute to the implementation of activities and programmes of the AU-EU Partnership on Democratic Governance and Human Rights, including on the preparation of the Africa-EU Summit.
The AU and the EU agreed to hold the next round of the Human Rights Dialogue in Africa in 2017/18.
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