Category Archives: Human rights

EU welcomes Chad death penalty abolilition

On May 20, Chad adopted a new anti-terrorism law that no longer includes the death penalty for terrorism-related crimes, with life imprisonment as the maximum sentence. With this law, Chad has become the 22nd African state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes in law.

It is a strong signal to other countries in the world and contributes to the gradual abolition of the death penalty in Africa. 80% of the member states of the African Union are already abolitionist by law or apply a moratorium” reads the statement of the spokesperson of the European External Action Service.

“The European Union strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances.

“The Chad decision is also a step towards harmonizing the G5 Sahel’s legal framework in the fight against terrorism. In their Joint Declaration of 28 April 2020, the members of the European Council and the member states of the G5 Sahel stressed the importance of ensuring respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in the conduct of their actions”.

Image: Chad army celebrating victory of military operation

COVID19: EU supports Africa women

European Commission among the other prominent international players has been alarmed by the rising levels of violence against women and girls, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic confinement measures but also following the social-economic stress and insecurity that many families have to face.

In sub-Saharan Africa women are disproportionally more exposed to both health and economic risks, and this is linked to their roles and responsibilities in their communities or society as a whole. Unfortunately, according to available statistics the threat of child marriage is also greater when communities are affected by shocks like disease outbreak, when all the referral systems to prevent and respond to gender-based violence may underperform.

Responding to the significance attributed by the EU to gender equality and women and girls empowerment, including Africa, the European Commission currently invests in around 40 ongoing projects targeting or contributing to the elimination of violence against women and girls on the African continent amounting to approximately €310 million. The most significant one for a total amount of €250 million is the Spotlight Initiative (Africa envelope), – the largest global programme to eliminate violence against women and girls, with an initial investment of €500 million, launched in September 2017. The Initiative aims at eliminating all forms of VAWG in partner countries from five regions: Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and Pacific.

In Sub Saharan Africa the objective is to prevent, combat and prosecute sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, including the elimination of harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The programme is implemented in eight African countries (Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe) for a total amount of €220 million.

The African regional programme complements eight countries programmes with a substantive allocation of €30 million. An allocation of 10% of the overall Africa investment budget supports the women’s movement which is implemented by two existing UN Trust Funds (the UN Women Peace and Humanitarian Fund, and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women and Girls).

According to the EU officials, following the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the Commission is adapting and refocusing the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to identify risk factors related to pandemic context and to respond to critical needs. Efforts are currently focussing on ensuring swift action to counter increased domestic violence, boost prevention, support survivors and support civil society organisations.

The EU supports the scale-up of existing hotlines, shelters and equipping health, police, justice and social protection sectors for women and girls. One good example is Mozambique, where Spotlight Initiative funding is being used to strengthen the preparedness of staff working in health centres and shelters to better assist victims. Protective gear and hygiene material is being supplied in these centres and shelters. Spotlight also supports police in better responding to violence cases by providing transport and mobile phones.

Other projects are mainly implemented by Civil Society Organisations (NGO). The EU contribution to these projects is close to €60 million, and they are implemented across the African continent.

The inclusion of the prevention of and response to gender-based violence, and is aligned to COVID-19 national prevention and containment measures, is the EU ongoing mission, for example, in Uganda, a consortium led by CARE Denmark, in partnership with other three international and four national NGOs, working on empowerment, accountability and leadership for refugees and host communities, will continue to provide prevention and response services to survivors of gender-based violence and work on other protection issues.

Experiences of past epidemics lead to conclusion that intimate partner violence and sexual exploitation and abuse increase during these periods. Based on this knowledge CARE and partners have adapted the assistance: case management will be provided remotely, while social workers stationed at the health facilities will support gender-based violence screening. For high risk cases, face-to-face interactions will continue, while maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene precautions. The EU’s humanitarian contribution to this action is €2.3 million. In 2019, it is estimated that the EU allocated approximately €26 million of its humanitarian aid budget to the prevention and response to gender-based violence worldwide.

Most EU-funded projects to eliminate violence against women and girls are implemented in partnership with the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) or with international organisations. When the European Commission works with international organisations, the European civil servants also often work with CSOs. For the Spotlight Initiative it is foreseen that at country level, 30-50% should be delivered through CSOs. CSOs also play a crucial role in the design and the governance of the Spotlight Initiative, at national, regional and global level.

Following the COVID crisis, the EU is also providing flexible support to women’s organisations and grassroots organisations, including the much needed core funding. In this context, the EU in close collaboration with the UN is re-directing around €15 million to support and ensure business continuity of CSOs and mitigate challenges and risks linked to the COVID-19 crisis through two above mentioned UN Trust Funds. In the short term, the funds support activités to counter the increase of domestic violence under COVID-19 crisis, prevention, support to survivors, including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and help provide a lifeline to women’s organisations, CSOs working on gender-based violence related issues.

The Commission adopted its Communication on a global response to COVID-19 in April 2020. This “Team Europe” response is a joint effort between the European Union, its member states and European financial institutions to mobilise resources to support partner countries’ efforts in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to ensure a comprehensive response, the EU’s response includes both urgent, short-term emergency measures, and more medium to long-term measures such as research and health systems strengthening (right to health), and mitigating the economic and social impact.

The response also includes social protection actions, addressing all inequalities and non-discrimination and promotion of human rights. The Communication recalls the importance “to promote and uphold good governance, human rights, the rule of law, gender equality and non-discrimination, decent work conditions, as well as fundamental values and humanitarian principles”.

Rwanda genocide fugitive arrested in Paris

Genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga (84), who is accused of funding Rwanda militias that massacred about 800,000 people, was arrested on May 16 near Paris after being 26 years at large, the French justice ministry said.

Rwanda’s most-wanted man ($5 million U.S. reward), was living under a false identity in a flat in Asnieres-Sur-Seine, according to French authorities.

French gendarmes arrested him at 0530 GMT on May 16, the Ministry said.

Kabuga was indicted in 1997 on seven criminal counts including genocide, complicity in genocide and incitement to commit genocide, all in relation to the 1994 Rwanda tragic events, according to the UN-established International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).

Rwanda’s two main ethnic groups are the Hutus and Tutsis entered a civil war in the early 1990s.

A Hutu businessman, Kabuga is accused of funding the militias that massacred some 800,000 Tutsis and their moderate Hutu allies during 100 days in 1994.

Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, known to have been the financier of Rwanda genocide, had with impunity stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” the French ministry statement said.

Kabuga’s arrest opens the juridical procedure at Paris Appeal Court and later expected to be transferred to the custody of the international criminal court in the Hague, Netherlands and Arusha, Tanzania.

In due procedures the fugitive would then be brought before UN judges, an IRMCT spokesman said.

Soro extradition unlikely

Cote d’Ivoire Guillaume Soro (47), the presidential candidate, has been convicted in absentia of embezzlement and money laundering. Soro was once an ally of incumbent President Alessane Ouattara. He commanded a rebel force which backed Quattara in his struggle against President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to accept the results of 2010 elections.

Soro, who has been a rebel leader and Prime minister, was accused of buying a house with public money, the allegations he vehemently denied, while his lawyers boycotted the trial, announcing it politically motivated, paving the way to exclude him from October’s election.

Soro’s property in Abidjan, was confiscated and he was also barred from civic duties for five years. Soro was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, 4.5 billion FCFA (6.8 million euros) in fines, the confiscation” of his house, deprivation of his civil rights, and ordered to pay 2 billion FCFA (3 million euros) in damages to the state of Côte d’Ivoire.

The verdict was announced after a trial that lasted only a few hours. Soro was not present as he lives in exile in France.

President Alassane Ouattara “who today wears dictator’s clothes with great ease, submits justice to his boot and orders political killings against his rivals in order to exclude them from the electoral competition, embodies the worst version of the African leader,” he said.

“He quickly forgot that the justice system he is manipulating today is the same one that decreed him ineligible a few years ago (…) The rest we all know: he became president,” he added.

However the extradition of Soro is not obvious, because of poor Human rights record of Cote d’Ivoire, which i major factor taken into consideration by the French justice while considering extradition requests.

Zuma arrest warrant issued

A South African court has issued an arrest warrant for the former president Jacob Zuma after he failed to appear at hearing on the grounds of a medical treatment.

Zuma’s lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, presented a document from a “military hospital” to excuse his client absence, but the judge questioned whether the note was valid or even written by a doctor. Prosecutors said it was a criminal offence not to fully explain an absence on medical grounds. Jacob Zuma face charges in a corruption case that he has been avoiding for months, most recently by referring to health issues, preventing him to stand a trial.

“Zuma’s absence is disappointing … we want Mr Mantsha to tell us what the illness is and why Zuma can’t be here. It is a criminal offence for the accused not to be present if he has been warned in court,” said Billy Downer, representing South African the state.

According to former President lawyers, he had two operations in early January before going abroad. However the judge questioned the authenticity of a letter from a “military hospital” in the administrative capital, Pretoria, explaining Mr. Zuma’s absence.

Uganda LGBTI: MEPs express deep concern

MEPs express their deep concern at the possible resurgence of the anti-homosexuality law in the Ugandan political debate, which would, if introduced, include the death penalty for “aggravated acts of homosexuality”.

They take note of the statement made by Ugandan President Museveni’s spokesperson denying that the government has any intention to propose such a new bill, and call on the Ugandan government to stand by this statement .

The European Parliament regrets emphatically the use of the death penalty under any circumstances and reminds the Ugandan government of its obligations under international law and the Cotonou Agreement, which calls for universal human rights to be respected. MEPs also call on the EU delegation in the country to continue to monitor the situation for LGBTI people closely and to actively support civil society organisations and human rights defenders on the ground. The resolution was adopted by 521 votes in favour, 4 against and 110 abstentions and will be available here (24.10.2019).

Angola against death penalty

In October Angola became party to the Optional Protocol aiming to the abolition of the death penalty, to the Convention against Torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to the Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

The European Union welcomed Angola’s alignment with these three significant international treaties on human rights. The EU diplomacy underlined that Angola reinforces the global trend towards the abolition of the capital punishment, the eradication of torture and the elimination of all forms of racism.

“These accessions by Angola should encourage other countries to follow this example” said the statement of the European External Action Service.

“The European Union reaffirms its strong commitment to the universal abolition of the death penalty, to combatting torture and other ill-treatment worldwide as well as all forms of racism“.

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