Ban wants African leaders to ratify commitments on human rights

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has urged member states of the African Union (AU) to ratify commitments on human and women’s rights.

These, he said, include the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Protocol creating the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

Ban made the call in his remarks at 26th African Union Summit, “2016: African Year of Human Rights”, in Addis Ababa on Saturday.

His speech was made available to reporters in New York.

The UN scribe encouraged African leaders to make these real by ratifying them where necessary.

“I urge you to move on from setting standards to what I call ‘the three Is’: Implementation, Institution-building and Investment, I repeat again; Implementation, Institution-building and Investment in real change.

“This will be a fitting legacy of the African Year of Human Rights. The AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan was a particularly significant step.

“I urge all parties to act on its recommendations and to make greater use of these inquiries to address abuses,’’ he said.

Ban added that the trial of Hissène Habré in Senegal is a landmark for African justice.

He said African governments were instrumental in establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC), the ultimate guarantor of accountability for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The ICC, he said, was an ally for African victims of these most heinous crimes.

He also commended those nations that were actively supporting the court’s vital work, and urge all to maintain their commitment to the Rome Statute.

Ban said that strengthening the court would ensure accountability for victims in Africa and around the world.

“Leaders should never use undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes to cling to power. We have all seen the tragic consequences when they do.

“Leaders must protect their people, not themselves. I commend those leaders who stepped aside and respect constitutional term limits. I call on all to follow their example,’’ he said.

Ban added that the 2030 Agenda promises to leave no one behind and to help those farthest behind first.

The UN scribe said that there were more than 100 million people who were displaced, dispossessed, and in humanitarian crisis.

Many, he said, live here on the African continent, struggling to survive without the most basic necessities.

He said that the World Humanitarian Summit meeting that would be held in Istanbul on May 23 and May 24, aimed to restore hope and dignity for the most vulnerable.

Ban said the summit would also address issues from the protection of civilians to humanitarian financing.

He said the UN highly values the AU’s greater involvement in mediation and conflict resolution.

On Somalia, he applauded the efforts of the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to stabilise the country and support peaceful elections.

On the Lake Chad Basin, he welcomed the leaders’ support for the collaboration between countries affected by Boko Haram’s campaign of terror.

“Here and elsewhere, we count on our strong rights-based partnership with African governments to tackle the spread of violent extremism.

“Counter-terrorism strategies that lack due process and respect for the rule of law will be counter-productive.

“Extremism flourishes when rights are violated, political space shrinks, and people are marginalised and excluded,’’ he said.

Ban said that dialogue between the UN and AU Security Councils secretariats and troop and police contributing countries was critical.

“There must be a common understanding of the human rights standards under which peace and security operations are carried out.

“I encourage everyone involved to build awareness and capacity from the start.

“We are all deeply ashamed and horrified over the damage that has been done when peacekeepers exploit and abuse vulnerable people.

“The appalling acts of a few undermine the dedicated work of many.

“The UN has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation. We must all work together to ensure accountability and transparency.

“This is my last visit as Secretary-General of the UN to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

“I have seen the wonders of Africa, natural and human, from the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia to the champions of democracy in Tunisia.

“I have seen the bravery of African peacekeepers and the success of democratically elected African leaders,’’ he said. (NAN)