UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to review France, Sweden, Honduras, Burkina Faso, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Angola, United Kingdom

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The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is meeting in Geneva from 6 to 24 June to review the following countries: France (6-7 June); Sweden (7-8 June); Honduras (8-9 June); Burkina Faso (9-10 June); the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (13-14 June); Angola (14-15 June); United Kingdom (15-16 June).

The above are among the 164 States* that have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and so are reviewed by the Committee on how they are implementing the Covenant. The Committee, which is composed of 18 independent human rights experts, will meet delegations from the respective States to examine a range of issues relating to the Covenant.

The meetings will take place in Room XXII (the dialogue with the UK will be in Room XIX) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The morning sessions are from 10:00 to 13:00 and the afternoon sessions from 15:00 to 18:00. More information, including reports submitted by the States, civil society groups and national human rights institutions, can be found here: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=1059&Lang=en

The Committee will issue its findings on the respective States on 27 June and publish them at the above link.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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Categories: AFRICA

Joint Statement on Aerial Bombardment in South Kordofan and De Facto Expulsion of OCHA Head

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Joint Statement

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

May 27, 2016

The text of the following statement was issued jointly by the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Norway.

Begin Text:

The members of the Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States) are appalled by the Sudanese government’s aerial bombardment of civilians in Kauda and the Heiban area of South Kordofan, including the bombing of St Vincent Elementary School on 25 May. The Sudanese government has a responsibility to protect all its citizens. We urge all parties to end the violence and allow immediate humanitarian access to those in need. We believe that the Roadmap presented by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel represents the way forward.

The Troika countries are also deeply concerned by the Government of Sudan’s de facto expulsion of Ivo Freijsen, the Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan. The Government of Sudan’s action contributes to the increasingly difficult environment to address humanitarian needs in Sudan. The humanitarian situation remains critical, with over 5.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid. We fully support OCHA’s mandate in Sudan and call on the Government to review this latest decision, and lift restrictions on the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to all Sudanese affected by crisis and conflict.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Africa Regional Media Hub.

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Categories: AFRICA

Coalition of activists chart Bidco abuses on new platform No2Bidco.org

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The Bidco Truth Coalition, an online activist organisation, has launched www.No2Bidco.org, a platform dedicated to charting the human rights and environmental violations of Bidco Africa, the Kenya-based edible oil producer headed by CEO Vimal Shah.

No2Bidco.org includes a catalogue of Bidco’s violations, including illegal labour practices in Kenya, deforestation in Uganda and tax evasion across East Africa. The platform also provides visitors with the ability to add their voices to a global campaign of petitions and letter-writing to reveal Bidco’s business practices.

No2Bidco.org’s central archive of independent reports about Bidco provides activists, businesses, governments and NGOs unfiltered access to information free from Bidco’s influence on the media.

The platform’s anchor organisation is the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), the respected Uganda-based Friends of the Earth affiliate. Other organisations include the Bugala Farmers Association, a Ugandan group of more than 100 farmers who lost their land to Bidco; Citizens for Tax Compliance, a Kenya-based group that advocates corporate tax compliance; the Association of Non-aligned Bidco Workers.

Founded in 1997, NAPE has been instrumental in giving a voice to farmers displaced by Bidco’s deforestation on Uganda’s pristine Ssese Islands. NAPE and its dedicated staff have a history of exposing corporations and governments that collude to earn vast sums of money at the expense of poor individuals.

The Bugala Farmers Association, which has successfully challenged Bidco in court for more than a year over its members’ loss of land, recently submitted a petition to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for partnering with Bidco. As a result, UNDP has launched an investigation into its partnership with Bidco.

The Association of Non-aligned Bidco Labourers is a group in Kenya and Uganda that gives informal representation to aggrieved casual workers at Bidco’s factories. Most workers supported have been terminated illegally, experienced abuse by Bidco management or been injured at the workplace.

The Bidco Truth Coalition invites other like-minded organisations to join the No2Bidco.org platform to demand change at Bidco and accountability for those who support the company.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of The Bidco Truth Coalition.

Contact:

James Kisangani
[email protected]
+256 414 530181

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Categories: AFRICA

Statement by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Conviction of Hissène Habré

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Ambassador Samantha Power

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York City

May 30, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

I welcome the conviction of former Chadian President Hissène Habré for war crimes and crimes against humanity. At long last, the people of Chad have received a measure of overdue justice for Habré’s eight-year rule of murder, torture and rape, during which an estimated 40,000 people were killed. I congratulate the people of Chad whose dogged, decades-long pursuit of justice made this day possible.

Last month in Ndjamena I had the privilege of meeting with some of Habré’s victims and their remarkable lawyers. One man told me of the mass graves he was forced to dig to hold the bodies of his fellow detainees. Their lead lawyer, who still has shrapnel lodged in her leg from a Habré supporter’s grenade attack, told me of the continuing climate of fear and intimidation sown by defenders of Habré’s murderous reign.

Their vindication – and sense of relief – today is a lesson to all of us about the importance of perseverance in the face of injustice. It also reminds us of our shared duty to confront dark chapters in our past – including in the United States, where today’s verdict provides an opportunity to reflect on our own connection with what happened in Chad.

The Chadian people today have affirmed for the world that the enduring longing for justice leads to accountability, even for the most powerful. Today’s triumph over impunity serves as a reminder to brutal leaders of today, such as Bashar al-Assad or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that their crimes will not be forgotten, and that one day too, they’ll face a reckoning for the horrors they have perpetrated.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Africa Regional Media Hub.

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UNAIDS announces 2 million more people living with HIV on treatment in 2015, bringing new total to 17 million

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An estimated 17 million people were accessing life-saving antiretroviral medicines at the end of 2015, with an additional 2 million people gaining access over a 12-month period. The announcement, made in a new UNAIDS report entitled Global AIDS update 2016, comes as world leaders prepare to gather for the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, to take place in New York, United States of America, from 8 to 10 June 2016.

The extraordinary scale-up of antiretroviral treatment since 2010 by many of the world’s most affected countries has reduced AIDS-related deaths from 1.5 million in 2010 [1.3 million–1.7 million] to 1.1 million [940 000–1.3 million] in 2015. As more countries adopt new guidelines from the World Health Organization to treat everyone diagnosed with HIV immediately, public health benefits are being realized for individuals and for wider society.

“The full potential of antiretroviral therapy is being realized,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “I urge all countries to seize this unprecedented opportunity to put HIV prevention and treatment programmes on the Fast-Track and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

Global coverage of antiretroviral therapy reached 46% [43–50%] at the end of 2015. Gains were greatest in the world’s most affected region, eastern and southern Africa, where coverage increased from 24% [22–25%] in 2010 to 54% [50–58%] in 2015, reaching a total of 10.3 million people. In South Africa, 3.4 million people had access to treatment, followed by Kenya with nearly 900 000. Botswana, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe all increased treatment coverage by more than 25 percentage points between 2010 and 2015.

The report was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, one of the countries showing the most remarkable progress in expanding access to antiretroviral medicines and reducing the number of new HIV infections.

“The Kenyan government, in partnership with UNAIDS and other development partners, is committed to the Fast-Track approach to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” said Cleopa Mailu, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health. “We must catalyse investments across different sectors, with a focus on cost-effective and socially inclusive programmes, if we are to succeed.”

The UNAIDS Fast-Track approach to treatment is proven to work in countries adopting it. The momentum must continue to achieve the UNAIDS 90–90–90 treatment target by 2020, whereby 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads. Reaching the 2020 treatment target will set the world on course to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Reinvigorating HIV prevention

Preventing new HIV infections by countering stigma and discrimination and ensuring that 90% of people have access to HIV combination prevention services will also be crucial to ending the AIDS epidemic.

The UNAIDS report shows that declines in new HIV infections among adults have slowed alarmingly in recent years, with the estimated annual number of new infections among adults remaining nearly static at about 1.9 million [1.7 million–2.2 million]. The global figure masks striking regional disparities that must be addressed to achieve the reductions required to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

The largest reduction in new adult infections occurred in eastern and southern Africa. There were about 40 000 fewer adult HIV infections in the region in 2015 than in 2010, a 4% decline. More gradual declines were achieved in the Asia and Pacific region and western and central Africa. Rates of new adult HIV infections were relatively stable in Latin America and the Caribbean, western and central Europe, North America, the Middle East and North Africa. However, the annual number of new HIV infections in eastern Europe and central Asia increased by 57%.

People being left behind

In the report, UNAIDS urges countries to continue to scale up HIV prevention efforts while continuing to roll out treatment, since many people are still not being reached. Young people and adolescents, especially young women and girls, are still being left behind in the AIDS response. Adolescent girls and young women 15–24 years old are at higher risk of HIV infection globally, accounting for 20% of new HIV infections among adults globally in 2015, despite accounting for just 11% of the adult population. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women account for 25% new HIV infections among adults. Harmful gender norms and inequalities, obstacles to education and sexual and reproductive health services, poverty, food insecurity and violence are the key drivers of this increased vulnerability.

The report also shows that more than 90% of new HIV infections in central Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East and North Africa in 2014 were among people from key populations and their sexual partners, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who inject drugs. In sub-Saharan Africa, key populations accounted for more than 20% of new HIV infections. These groups of people are still not being reached with HIV prevention and treatment services despite having the highest rates of HIV prevalence.

The report urges countries to work closely with partners, particularly civil society, communities and people living with HIV, to ensure that they know where their epidemics are concentrated and that they have the right services in the right places.

“We need a people-centred response to the AIDS epidemic that removes all obstacles in the path of people’s access to HIV prevention and treatment services,” said Mr Sidibé. “These services must be fully funded and appropriate to people’s needs so that we can end the AIDS epidemic for everybody.”

The report outlines that science, evidence and policy have opened up a unique opportunity to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The global community has to unite around this common goal to realize the full potential of the opportunities or risk the epidemic being prolonged indefinitely.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

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Categories: AFRICA

United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Concludes Official Visit to Côte d’Ivoire.

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On 27 May, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, concluded a three-day official visit to Côte d’Ivoire during which she met with senior Government and United Nations officials to discuss the progress being made to address sexual violence crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis and beyond.

“I welcome the progress made thus far by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and in particular by the national armed forces – the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), in addressing sexual violence crimes”, Special Representative Bangura said.

“I have been able to interact with the national authorities and FRCI leadership, and see for myself the practical and operational steps being taken to prevent and respond to sexual violence crimes. We have been able to identify remaining challenges in the implementation of the FRCI Action Plan to combat conflict-related sexual violence and discussed the way forward towards the delisting of the FRCI from the annex of the annual report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence”, Special Representative Bangura stated.

The FRCI was included in the annex of the annual report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence in 2012 as a party credibly suspected of being responsible for committing rape and other sexual violence crimes during the post-electoral crisis in 2010-2011.

During her stay in Abidjan, Special Representative Bangura met with H.E Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan; the Minister of State on Interior and Security; Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals; Minister on the Promotion of Women, Family and Children Affairs; the Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Cohesion and Victims Compensation; the Chief of Army Staff, Head of the Gendarmerie, the leadership of the United Nations’ Operation in Cote d’Ivoire and the United Nations country team.

In meetings with the national authorities and military leadership, the Special Representative noted the progress made, including the development and implementation of the FRCI Action Plan, training and sensitization of FRCI soldiers, signing of undertakings by senior commanders of the FRCI, and the review of the code of conduct of the FRCI. “It is important that such positive steps are shared with countries facing similar challenges. For this reason, later this year my Office will convene a meeting in Côte d’Ivoire, which will bring together African national armies from countries where we work – namely, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan – to facilitate an exchange of good practices in addressing conflict-related sexual violence”, the Special Representative said.

She also raised remaining challenges faced by Côte d’Ivoire, including the need for legal reform to harmonize national laws with international standards, prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011, the provision of reparations to victims, and the improvement of multi-sectoral services to survivors.

“The political and military authorities in Côte d’Ivoire have confirmed my long-held view that when national authorities demonstrate leadership and responsibility, they create an environment in which sexual violence crimes can be prevented and addressed”, Ms. Bangura noted. “My Office, through the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law / Sexual Violence in Conflict, will build on this progress and support the Government in addressing the remaining challenges of justice and accountability”, Ms. Bangura added.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

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Categories: AFRICA

UN Special Representative welcomes conviction of former Chad President Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity including rape and sexual slavery.

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The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, welcomes today’s judgment against former Chad President Hissène Habré, who was convicted of crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery.

“I welcome the ruling of the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal that convicted former Chad President Hissène Habré of crimes against humanity for sexual violence crimes. It represents an important milestone for international criminal justice in Africa and holding former heads of state to account for sexual violence crimes through the use of universal jurisdiction. It will certainly act as deterrence for further mass atrocity crimes in the region”, Special Representative Bangura said.

Special Representative Bangura congratulated the African Union and the Government of Senegal for convening the trial, and the work done by countless actors worldwide to see justice done. She noted a 1992 Chadian Truth Commission and a Belgian investigation whose work was relied upon during the trial. She also noted the efforts of Human Rights Watch, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, for their ground-breaking work. Special Representative Bangura stated that: “This process was truly a global one and demonstrates how the world can come together to bring perpetrators of mass atrocities, including sexual violence, to justice.”

Special Representative Bangura also noted the importance of the ruling for Habré’s victims and the tireless efforts of their lawyers and advocates, who waited many years to see justice done. “What this verdict signals is that although justice can be delayed for victims of mass atrocities, it can never be denied. It also sends a clear message to the perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes, including sexual violence, that no matter who they are, no matter what position they hold, that they have nowhere to hide. The international community will work as long as it takes to ensure these perpetrators face justice”, she added.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

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Categories: AFRICA

Mohamed Ibn Chambas: « Our Partnership with Chad and the G5 Sahel countries is vital»

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In continuation of his visit to the G5 Sahel countries, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas arrived yesterday in N’Djamena, Chad, for a one-day visit.

During this third leg of his trip, Mohamed Ibn Chambas met with the Prime Minister, Mr. Albert Pahami Padacke. They discussed the security situation in the region and the need to strengthen coordination among countries of the region to tackle threats to peace and security, including those posed by Boko Haram group.

In this regard, Mr. Ibn Chambas commended Chadian authorities’ efforts to preserve peace and stability in the region. He called on the international community to redouble efforts to support the G5 Sahel countries in their fight against terrorism. “The fight against terrorism can be win only through international support and effective regional coordination,” said Mr. Ibn Chambas.

Mr. Ibn Chambas also informed of the continued role and the support of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the new entity established following the merger of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and Office of the Special Envoy of the United Nations for the Sahel (OSES).

“Our partnership with the G5 Sahel countries remains vital to accelerate the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS)”, Mr. Ibn Chambas stressed.

For his part, Prime Minister M. Padacke expressed expectations of the Chadian government that UN support to the G5 Sahel countries must remain a priority in the search of solutions to peace and security challenges in the region. He also reiterated the commitment of his country to work with the UN and to continue its efforts to contribute to peace and stability in the region.

After Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, Mohamed Ibn Chambas will travel today to Mali, to continue his working visit to the G5 Sahel countries.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA).

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Categories: AFRICA

Belgium welcomes verdict in trial against Hissène Habré

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Belgium welcomes the smooth conduct of the trial of Hissène Habré, whose verdict was delivered today by the Extraordinary African Chambers. They convicted H. Habré for crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of torture committed in Chad during his presidency between 1982 and 1990.

Belgium congratulates Senegal for his courage and determination to bringing justice to victims, an advance in the fight against impunity.

As a reminder, Belgium had, since 2005, issued an arrest warrant against Hissène Habré and addressed an extradition request to the Senegalese authorities that remained unanswered. Belgium then seized in 2009 the International Court of Justice in its dispute with Senegal on this case. The ICJ delivered in 2012 its decision summoning Senegal to prosecute H. Habré or, failing that, to extradite him to Belgium.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Kingdom of Belgium – Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.

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Categories: AFRICA

Kerry Kennedy: “Ripples of Hope” Continue to Inspire U.S. – South Africa Relationship 50 Years Later

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Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) and President of RFK Human Rights, is visiting South Africa May 30-June 4 to commemorate her father’s historic visit to South Africa in 1966. Ms. Kennedy will participate in a series of events arranged by U.S. Embassy Pretoria and the U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. She is joined by representatives from the Kennedy family, RFK Human Rights, the Faith & Justice Institute, and a delegation from the U.S. Congress, led by Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE).

Speaking at the opening event for the series, a panel presentation hosted by Wits University on May 30 entitled “Ripples of Hope: Robert F. Kennedy’s Historic 1966 Visit to South Africa – Its Significance Then and Now,” Ambassador Gaspard said, “We are honored to commemorate the 50th anniversary of RFK’s visit to South Africa, in particular, his historic ‘Ripples of Hope’ speech. His words continue to ring true and bring inspiration to Americans and South Africans. They created a current that continues today in the strong relationship shared by our two countries. The visit by Kerry Kennedy reminds us of the longstanding friendship we have shared, exemplifies the support of principled Americans for the anti-apartheid movement, and reminds us of the great leadership of individual citizens in both countries during a dark period of history.”

​Kerry Kennedy added, “My father came to South Africa in 1966 to listen and to learn. We are here today, 50 years later, to listen and learn also. We look forward to learning the lessons South Africa has for our country and for the rest of the world.​ It’s hard to think of a country that has endured more pain and suffering than South Africa, but as a human rights activist, I have tremendous optimism about the present and the future.”

Commemorative events will continue throughout the week across South Africa. The delegation will travel to KZN, where they will visit the Luthuli museum and attend a public screening of the documentary “RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope.” In Gauteng, they will participate a roundtable discussion at Liliesleaf Farm with senior anti-apartheid struggle veterans, before traveling to Cape Town for a keynote address by Kerry Kennedy hosted by Cape Town University.

For more information about this 50th anniversary commemoration, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter at USEmbassySA and #Ripples2016.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

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Categories: AFRICA

Mr Allotey Jacobs, Statement by the British High Commission Accra

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The British High Commission would like definitively to clarify the situation concerning the alleged arrest of Mr Allotey Jacobs at London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday, 29 May.

We became aware around Sunday lunchtime of online and social media rumours to the effect that Mr Jacobs had been arrested on arrival at London Heathrow from Accra, allegedly variously accused of money laundering or of being involved in a ‘drugs bust’. Both claims are simply untrue. There was no such arrest. Mr Jacobs was not detained, nor was he questioned. There was absolutely no evidence of money laundering or drugs.

Subsequently, there were persistent further rumours that Mr Jacobs had at least been escorted off the plane by UK law enforcement. After exhaustive, multiple enquiries we state unequivocally that the UK law enforcement authorities with jurisdiction at Heathrow Airport all confirm that they did not board the aeroplane to speak to Mr Jacobs, nor did they do so subsequently within the airport, and they certainly did not escort Mr Jacobs off the flight concerned. Our law enforcement authorities keep meticulous records, including of any “escorting off” aeroplanes – there is no such record in the case of Mr Jacobs, as there was no such event. We understand that Mr Jacobs caught his connecting flight to the US on time and without incident.

British Airways tell us that they, too, have no record of any law enforcement boarding directed at Mr Jacobs. A public claim has been made that Mr Jacobs was ‘escorted’ from a seat in Row 15 in business class. However, on the flight in question, Row 15 was not in, and indeed some distance from, business class, the class in which Mr Jacobs travelled, so that claim falls away.

Mr Jacob’s political affiliation is of no interest to us. Had we been asked to confirm or deny the alleged arrest of anyone else of any other political affiliation, we would have acted in exactly the same way – purely factually. The UK government is and will remain entirely neutral in Ghanaian domestic politics. We do, however, have the full right to respond to claims made about law enforcement issues in the UK itself, particularly when, as in this case, those claims are wholly wrong.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of British High Commission Accra.

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Source:: Mr Allotey Jacobs, Statement by the British High Commission Accra

Categories: AFRICA

Chad’s Ex-Dictator Convicted of Atrocities

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The conviction of Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, for serious international crimes, is a vindication of the decades-long campaign waged by his victims, Human Rights Watch said today. Habré was convicted of torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including having raped a woman himself, by the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese court system and sentenced to life in prison on May 30, 2016.

“This is an enormous victory for Hissène Habré’s victims, who for 25 years never gave up fighting to bring him to justice” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the survivors since 1999. “This conviction is a wake-up call to tyrants everywhere that if they engage in atrocities they will never be out of the reach of their victims.”

The trial against Habré, who ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, began on July 20, 2015. Habré does not recognize the chambers’ authority and sat silently throughout the trial.

A summary of the decision was read out in court by chief judge Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, who shared the bench with two senior Senegalese judges. The prosecutor had requested a life sentence.

The written decision will be distributed at a later date. Human Rights Watch has prepared an unofficial summary from notes taken in court.

Habré fled to Senegal in 1990 after being deposed by the current Chadian president, Idriss Déby Itno. Although Habré was first arrested and indicted in Senegal in 2000, it took a long campaign by his victims before the Extraordinary African Chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute international crimes committed in Chad during Habré’s rule.

“I have been waiting for this day since I walked out of prison more than 25 years ago,” said Souleymane Guengueng, who nearly died of mistreatment and disease in Habré’s prisons, and later founded the Association of Victims of Crimes of the Regime of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH). “Today I feel ten times bigger than Hissène Habré.”

Habré’s trial is the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecuted the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes. Ninety-three witnesses testified at the trial, the majority travelling from Chad to be there. Survivors presented powerful testimony about torture, rape, sexual slavery, mass executions, and the destruction of entire villages.

Notably, the court convicted Habré of sexual crimes, including rape and the sexual slavery of women to serve his army.

The court also found Habré guilty of having raped Khadidja Hassan Zidane on four occasions. The court found Hassan’s testimony credible and supported by an account she gave at the time. It is the first time that an ex-dictator is found personally guilty of rape by an international court.

“Found guilty of sex crimes, including his rape of one woman, Hissène Habré’s conviction signals that no leader is above the law, and that no woman or girl is below it” said Reed Brody.

The chambers will hold a second set of hearings in June or July on damages for the civil parties and other victims.

It appears possible that Habre’s court-appointed lawyers could lodge an appeal without Habre’s consent. If an appeal is lodged, an Extraordinary African Appeals Chamber will be constituted to hear the appeal later this year.

Habre’s trial underscored the importance of universal jurisdiction, Human Rights Watch said. That principle under international law allows national courts to prosecute the most serious crimes even when committed abroad, by a foreigner, and against foreign victims.

In March 2015, a court in Chad convicted 20 top security agents of Habré’s government on torture and murder charges.

Habré’s one-party rule was marked by widespread atrocities, including waves of ethnic cleansing. Files of Habré’s political police, the Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité (DDS), which were recovered by Human Rights Watch in 2001, reveal the names of 1,208 people who were killed or died in detention, and 12,321 victims of human rights violations.

The United States and France viewed Habré as a bulwark against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and so supported him throughout his rule despite clear evidence of his abuses against his own people. Under President Ronald Reagan, the US gave covert CIA paramilitary support to help Habré take power.

Habré was first indicted in Senegal in 2000, but after political interference, the country’s courts said that he could not be tried there, so his victims filed a case in Belgium. In September 2005, after four years of investigation, a Belgian judge indicted Habré and Belgium requested his extradition. Senegal refused to send Habré to Belgium, and spent the next three years stalling on a request from the African Union (AU) to prosecute Habré. Belgium then filed a case against Senegal at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). On July 20, 2012, that court ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré “without further delay” or to extradite him.

After Macky Sall’s election as president of Senegal in April 2012, Senegal and the AU agreed on a plan to create the Extraordinary African Chambers to conduct the trial within the Senegalese judicial system.

The chambers indicted Habré in July 2013 and placed him in pretrial custody. After a 19-month investigation, judges of the chambers found that there was sufficient evidence for Habré to face trial.

After Habré’s lawyers, following his instructions, failed to appear at the opening of the trial in July 2015, the court appointed three Senegalese lawyers to defend him and adjourned for 45 days so they could prepare. The first day back, on September 7, Habré was brought in to the court against his will, kicking and screaming. After that, he was taken into the courtroom for each session before the doors to the public opened.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Habré case, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/habre-case (English)
http://www.hrw.org/fr/habre-case (French)

For the Human Rights Watch Question and Answer document about the Habré case, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/27/qa-case-hissene-habre-extraordinary-african-chambers-senegal (English)
http://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2015/04/27/questions-et-reponses-sur-laffaire-hissene-habre-devant-les-chambres-africaines (French)

For the Human Rights Watch video with highlights of the Habré trial, please visit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFuKOy3qXTY (English)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vCu_FAH6-g (French)

For the website of the Extraordinary African Chambers (in French), please visit:
http://www.chambresafricaines.org/

For a timeline of events in the Habré case, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/09/chronology-habr-case

To follow the Habré case on Facebook, please visit:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hiss%C3%A8ne-Habr%C3%A9-Justice-pour-les-victimes-Justice-for-the-victims/106827982684266

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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Source:: Chad’s Ex-Dictator Convicted of Atrocities

Categories: AFRICA