Nov 182014

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — United Nations and African independent human rights experts today hailed a key judgment by the High Court of Botswana asserting that the organisation ‘Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana’ (LEGABIBO) should be legally registered as a society by the authorities.

The Court rejected last Friday the arguments put forward by the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana to refuse legal registration to LEGABIBO, by decreeing that ‘it is not a crime for one to be attracted to people of one’s own sex’ and that ‘advocacy for legislative reforms to decriminalize homosexuality is lawful.’

“This seminal judgment by the High Court of Botswana reaffirms that everyone is entitled to the fundamental right to peacefully assemble and associate,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, said.

“Other countries should follow and allow the registration of organisations advocating for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people,” the human rights expert stressed.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, reiterated that “both the United Nations and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights have called on States on numerous occasions to ensure that human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBT people can do their critical work without interference.”

“We salute this ground-breaking judgment and hope that it will lead to more recognition and protection for LGBT human rights defenders in Africa and beyond,” the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission, Reine Alapini-Gansou, further added.

“This welcome ruling emphasises that there can be no justification for restricting the freedom of expression on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said. “I hope other States take note of this important judgment and do away such discriminatory restrictions.”

The UN and African human rights experts called on the authorities of Botswana to implement this judgment and urged all countries to remove discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

Nov 182014

BAMAKO, Mali, November 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — At the initiative of the Special Envoy of the Secretary- General of the United Nations for the Sahel, Mrs. Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, the Special Envoys and Representatives for the Sahel of the United Nations (UN ), the African Union (AU) , European Union ( EU), the Representatives of the World Bank (WB), the African development Bank ( ADB) held a meeting today in Bamako, to mark the first anniversary of the joint high-level visit conducted November 5, 2013 by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and officials of these institutions.

The meeting, which was held on the eve of the third meeting of the Ministerial Coordination Platform of the Sahel Strategies, was an opportunity for representatives of these institutions, which are among the key partners in the Sahel region, to have an update on the political, security and humanitarian situation in the Sahel region, and to reaffirm their commitment to the region.

The Participants at the meeting were pleased that the Sahel is at the center of the international community’s attention, as evidenced by the proliferation of strategies and initiatives for the region. They called for a rapid implementation of these strategies and initiatives as well as for an implementation of the commitments by financial and material support taken vis-à- vis the Sahel countries.

They called for the strengthening of coordination and coherence in the implementation of strategies and initiatives for the Sahel. As such, while affirming their commitment to work with all organizations and sub-regional and regional mechanisms, they emphasized the central role of the Ministerial Coordination Platform of the Sahel strategies as the main mechanism for coordinating all strategies and initiatives as well as all actors involved in the Sahel.

They stressed the need to ensure a regional anchoring of the different strategies and initiatives for the Sahel. In this regard, they welcomed the establishment of the G5 Sahel by Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad, as a manifestation of the will of Sahel countries to play a greater role in setting priorities of their region and ensure a regional and national ownership of the interventions in the Sahel. In this spirit of regional and national ownership, the Special Envoys and Representatives reiterated the responsibility of the states of the region to undertake necessary structural reforms to create the conditions for the implementation of the various strategies and initiatives for the Sahel.

The issue of Northern Mali was also discussed by the participants who expressed their support for the inter-Malian negotiations of Algiers. They stressed that negotiation and dialogue are essential to resolve, in a sustainable way, the problems of northern Mali.

The situation in Burkina Faso was also discussed by the Envoys and Special Representatives. They welcomed the sense of responsibility and the efforts of the people of Burkina Faso to preserve the unity, peace and security. They encouraged all parties to keep their commitments for a civil and democratic transition, which should lead to free, fair and credible elections that will build the foundations of a democratic, stable and prosperous society. In this regard, they welcomed the adoption of the Transitional Charter and the designation of an interim president of the transition.

The Participants at the meeting expressed great concern over the adverse consequences of the deteriorating political and security situation in Libya on peace and security in the Sahel region. They also expressed their serious concerns about the security situation in Nigeria following the abuse of the terrorist group Boko Haram.

They also expressed their concerns about the spread of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa, including the Sahel. They urged bilateral and multilateral partners in West Africa to continue to support efforts to fight against the epidemic.

Finally, they renewed their commitment to support the efforts and initiatives of the countries of the region, to improve living conditions and ensure a better future for the people of the Sahel. To this end, the Special Envoys and Representatives have agreed to meet regularly as part of a Contact Group of international partners for the Sahel.

Nov 182014

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — December 15th will mark the one-year anniversary of renewed fighting in South Sudan. The conflict has resulted in the displacement of over 1.8 million people, over 102,000 of whom have sought shelter in UN bases throughout the country.

One of the largest of these so-called Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites is in Malakal, Upper Nile State. The site provides emergency shelter and protection to over 17,000 people and internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to trickle in.

Fighting in the area is ongoing and it is unlikely that residents will be able to leave in the near future. Conditions on the site, which floods during South Sudan’s long rainy season, are congested and unsanitary.

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has now stepped in with a contribution of GBP 1.6 million to help IOM and its humanitarian partners in the Camp Coordination Camp Management Cluster to expand the Malakal site to house an additional 6,000 people.

IOM is taking advantage of the onset of South Sudan’s dry season to complete the Malakal PoC expansion. Site planners and water/sanitation teams are currently digging drainage trenches, expanding the berm and raising the foundation of the site to provide a developed and dry base for emergency shelters. These improvements will ensure appropriate drainage and reduce the risk of future flooding.

IOM is also providing primary health services at an IOM clinic and delivering clean water to IDPs at the site through water and sanitation programmes.

DFID will also contribute GBP 2 million to the IOM-coordinated Shelter Cluster’s continued provision of tents and non-food relief items for IDPs throughout South Sudan. IOM procures these supplies in bulk, ensures that they are standardized, maintains a supply pipeline and delivers them for distribution to the most vulnerable displaced people across the country.

“This is the first time IOM South Sudan has received bi-lateral funding from DFID since the country’s independence in 2011. This contribution in the last quarter of 2014 has come at a critical moment and is enabling us to directly address vital gaps,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission David Derthick.

“The funding will allow the Shelter Cluster to pre-position items across the country as part of its overall dry season response planning and reduce the risk of a break in the supply pipeline. It will also allow IOM to procure and preposition items through the end of 2014 and into the beginning of 2015, while the Cluster secures more funding for the rest of 2015,” he added.

To see a video of life in the Malakal PoC site, please go to:

Nov 182014

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo summarily killed at least 51 youth and forcibly disappeared 33 others during an anti-crime campaign that began a year ago, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. “Operation Likofi,” which lasted from November 2013 to February 2014, targeted alleged gang members in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.

The 57-page report, “Operation Likofi: Police Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Kinshasa,” details how uniformed police, often wearing masks, dragged kuluna, or suspected gang members, from their homes at night and executed them. The police shot and killed the unarmed young men and boys outside their homes, in the open markets where they slept or worked, and in nearby fields or empty lots. Many others were taken without warrants to unknown locations and forcibly disappeared.

“Operation Likofi was a brutal police campaign that left a trail of cold-blooded murders in the Congolese capital,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Fighting crime by committing crime does not build the rule of law but only reinforces a climate of fear. The Congolese authorities should investigate the killings, starting with the commander in charge of the operation, and bring to justice those responsible.”

Human Rights Watch conducted interviews in Kinshasa with 107 witnesses, family members of victims, police officers who participated in Operation Likofi, government officials, and others. Human Rights Watch also released new video footage and photographs, including of suspected kuluna who were killed during Operation Likofi and interviews with their relatives.

The Congolese government launched Operation Likofi on November 15, 2013, following a public commitment by President Joseph Kabila to end gang crime in Kinshasa. Kuluna had been responsible for a surge of armed robberies and other serious crimes across Kinshasa since 2006.

During the three-month operation, police conducted widespread raids, targeting many who had nothing to do with the kuluna. Some were street children, while others were youth falsely accused by their neighbors in unrelated disputes. Some happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In all the cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, those who were killed posed no imminent threat to life that would have justified the police using lethal force.

Initially the police appeared to use their brutal tactics as a warning to others. Many victims were beaten and humiliated by the police in front of a crowd before being killed, and the police sometimes called people to come look at the body after executing a suspect. In many cases, they left the body in the street, perhaps to frighten others, and only later collected it for transfer to the city’s morgues.

When the United Nations and local human rights organizations publicly raised concerns, the police changed their tactics: instead of executing their suspects publicly, they took those arrested to a police camp or an unknown location. According to police officers who participated in Operation Likofi, as well as a confidential foreign government report, some of the suspected kuluna abducted by the police were later killed clandestinely.

Police warned relatives of victims and witnesses not to speak about what happened, denied them access to the bodies, and prevented them from holding funerals. Congolese journalists were threatened when they attempted to document or broadcast information about Operation Likofi killings. Police told doctors not to treat suspected kuluna who were wounded during the operation, and government officials instructed morgue employees not to talk to anyone about the bodies piling up in the morgue, because it concerned a “confidential government matter.”

A military magistrate who wanted to open a judicial investigation into a police colonel who allegedly shot and killed a suspected kuluna detained during Operation Likofi received oral instructions from a government official to “close [his] eyes” and not follow up on the case.

“The evidence implicates senior officials in the killings and disappearances, as well as the subsequent cover ups,” Bekele said. “Family members deserve to know the fate or whereabouts of their children who were taken away or killed by the police. Congolese authorities should immediately make this information available and ensure that the victims’ families are able to seek justice and organize funerals without fear of reprisal.”

Command of Operation Likofi officially alternated between Gen. Célestin Kanyama and Gen. Ngoy Sengelwa. Police officers who participated in the operation and a senior police official interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that, in practice, Kanyama was the primary commander of Operation Likofi who gave the orders on how the operation should be conducted. Police officers said Kanyama gave orders to kill suspected kuluna and was present during some of the attacks.

Kanyama, in a meeting with Human Rights Watch in August 2014, rejected these allegations and said the reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances were “rumors.”

Other senior government and police officials acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that there were cases of police misconduct during Operation Likofi, including killings. However, magistrates assigned to the operation said that no police officers who took part in Operation Likofi were arrested or convicted for killings or abductions, although some were convicted for extortion and other lesser offenses.

Human Rights Watch called on the Congolese authorities to immediately suspend Kanyama and launch a judicial investigation into his alleged role in the abuses committed during the operation.

On November 13, family members of 25 victims who were killed or forcibly disappeared during Operation Likofi called for justice in a letter to Congo’s national prosecutor. They urged the government “to inform us as soon as possible on the fate of our missing children, to tell us where those who were killed are buried, and to allow us to organize funerals with dignity and in accordance with our customs.” They also called for investigations and requested that “the highest civilian and police officers involved in the operation are brought to justice … and that reparations are given at the end of the trials.”

On October 15, the UN published a 21-page report documenting summary executions and enforced disappearances committed by police taking part in Operation Likofi in Kinshasa. Two days later, the Congolese government told the UN human rights director in Congo, Scott Campbell, to leave the country.

“The expulsion of a senior UN official for exposing police abuses during Operation Likofi shows that Congolese authorities are not serious about tackling the crimes committed by the police,” Bekele said. “The government should focus on investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the crimes, not continue to cover them up.”

Nov 182014

NEW YORK, November 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The members of the Security Council welcomed the signing on 16 November 2014 of a Charter for the Transition in Burkina Faso, which provides the legal framework for a civilian-led transi…

Nov 182014

CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa, November 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — UNHCR and the University of Cape Town today launched the inaugural session of the Cape Town Programme in International Refugee Law. This Programme seeks to improve the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in Southern Africa by fostering constructive dialogue between policymakers, academics and civil society.

Senior government officials from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are attending the four day programme where they will be encouraged to explore the legal and policy changes required to bring the region closer to international standards of refugee protection.

Governments in the region are concerned about national security, trafficking, human smuggling and abuses of the asylum system. This has resulted in stricter border controls. Identifying people in need of international protection is difficult due to the severe capacity constraints faced by the national asylum systems. While nearly all countries are party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 OAU Convention, most have done so with reservations regarding freedom of movement and access to employment. All of the countries, with the exception of Angola and South Africa, have encampment policies that restrict freedom of movement and limit possibilities for self-reliance. Populations in the camps have lived there for decades finding it difficult to envision a better future. With this training, UNHCR hopes to encourage governments to look at refugees from the point of view of the positive contributions they can make to their new host communities and with a view to ensuring their human rights are respected.

“UNHCR provides training to government officials all the time, but what is unique about this programme is that we will focus on the specific challenges of refuge protection in Africa and how to strengthen refugee protection as provided for in the various refugee conventions,”said UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Clementine Nkweta-Salami.

The 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa which came into force 40 years ago will be reviewed in depth, along with the protection regime enshrined in 1981 OAU African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and on regional traditions and values concerning the protection and assistance to others.

“We are excited to be partnering with UNHCR on this programme and to have such distinguished African scholars and experts present to discuss this important issue of our time with government officials who can make an impact on improving the rights of refugees,” states Fatima Khan, Director of the Refugee Rights Programme at the University of Cape Town.

Southern Africa currently hosts some 415,000 refugees and asylum seekers mostly originating from the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa.

Nov 182014

RABAT, Morocco, November 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team led by Jean-François Dauphin visited Morocco during November 5-17, 2014 to conduct discussions with the Moroccan authorities on the 2014 Article IV consultation, as well as on the first review of economic performance under the Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL) arrangement approved in July 2014. The discussions focused on policies to consolidate recent gains in macroeconomic stabilization, and build the foundation for stronger and more inclusive growth.

At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Dauphin issued the following statement:

“Sound economic fundamentals and strong policy implementation have helped stabilize the economy, in spite of the headwinds it has faced. After a bumper crop in 2013, agriculture output has come down and is expected to bring down GDP growth in 2014 to around 3 percent, despite a recent pick-up of non-agricultural activity. Inflation remains low. The external current account deficit is narrowing and should reach about 6 percent of GDP. International reserves have also improved. This performance reflects in part the rise in exports from newly developed industries as well as lower capital good and energy imports, the latter mainly because of the recent fall in oil prices. The fiscal deficit has been contracting since its 2012 peak owing in particular to measures taken by the government. Public debt has increased but remains sustainable. Progress was made over the last decade in reducing poverty, but more needs to be done to increase employment, reduce inequalities, and improve education and access to basic infrastructure. In this context, it is important that the authorities continue the reforms undertaken to stabilize the economy, strengthen competitiveness, and build the foundation for stronger and more inclusive growth.

“Growth is expected close to 4½ percent in 2015, as non-agricultural sectors continue to improve and the agriculture sector returns to a normal trend. However, the Moroccan economy still faces important downside external risks, including in relation with growth in Europe.

“The pace of strengthening public finances, notably as reflected in the 2015 draft budget that targets a deficit of 4.3 percent of GDP, is appropriate. Fiscal reforms that help sustain these efforts, reduce fiscal vulnerabilities, and create space for investment in infrastructure, health, education, and social protection are crucial to fostering higher and more inclusive growth. In that respect, the significant progress achieved in reforming the subsidy system is commendable. The reform of the pension system is urgent to maintain its viability. The adoption of a new organic budget law is also expected to strengthen and modernize the fiscal framework.

“Regarding the external sector, the continued improvement of the current account, external reserves and the resilience of the economy to external shocks, is welcome. This improvement owes in part to the emergence of new export industries, which has mitigated the impact of shocks to traditional exports. Stepped up efforts to improve the business environment, transparency, competition and governance are important to support competitiveness and potential growth. Greater flexibility in the exchange rate regime, in coordination with other macroeconomic and structural policies, would also help support competitiveness and enhance the economy’s capacity to absorb shocks.

“The financial sector remains sound overall. We support the efforts of Bank Al-Maghrib to strengthen supervision, including of Moroccan banks’ cross-border activities in light of the rapid expansion of some banks in sub-Saharan Africa. The adoption of new banking and central bank laws is expected to help strengthen the financial sector. The authorities’ efforts to improve financial inclusion and access to credit are also welcome.

“The mission would like to thank the Moroccan authorities and all those with whom it had the opportunity to meet, including representatives of the private sector and civil society, for their excellent cooperation and productive discussions.”

Background information:

The IMF Executive Board approved a 24-month arrangement under the Precautionary and Liquidity Line in an amount equivalent to about US$5 billion (550 percent of Morocco’s quota) in July 2014 (See Press Release No. 14/368).