The enforcement of laws towards combating insurgencies and COVID-19 should not be an avenue to repress citizens, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has told the governments of Nigeria, Ethiopia and other African countries.
The Commission also expressed worries over the increasing number of human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials during recent peaceful demonstrations in some African countries, including Nigeria.
The commission called for respect for the freedom of expression and access to information, freedom of association as well as freedom of peaceful assembly and demonstration, as stipulated in the African Charter, which all the 54 African countries are signatories to.
During its meeting, which was held in February, ACHPR stressed that these freedoms constitute a free civic space and are essential towards strengthening democracy.
In Nigeria, for instance, citizens protested against police brutality in October but were dispersed with live bullets by security agents, an act that killed no fewer than 20 people.
Citing Nigeria as one of the examples, ACHRP expressed deep concern about “the increasing number of human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials during recent peaceful demonstrations in many States, including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Guinea and Uganda, through disproportionate and violent interventions by law enforcement officials during protests and peaceful demonstrations”.
In fighting the pandemic, the commission advised that African countries should ensure that measures taken as part of national responses to the COVID-19 are not used to discriminate, stigmatize or target particular individuals or groups, including civil society organizations and human rights defenders.
The governments of these countries should also “ensure that they meet their human rights obligations and that law enforcement officials, when policing protests and demonstrations, use force only as a last resort and always in a lawful, proportionate and necessary manner”.
“They should refrain from using the State of Emergency Declarations related to COVID-19 or the fight against terrorism to justify the introduction of repressive measures to restrict the freedoms that constitute the civic space.”
Non-state actors were also admonished to respect all human rights and not to undermine the ability of civil society to operate safely and unhindered.
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