Contra Nocendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International have submitted their collective views of the draft revised Rules of Procedure for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the Commission itself. We did so being mindful of the need for the Rules of Procedure, or the rules for the operation of the Commission, to be reviewed at regular intervals. We also did so mindful of the fact that the need for such consultation cannot be understated when it comes to efforts of promoting the mandate of the Commission and its transparency.
Our submission raised deep concerns about the relatively short timeframe that the Commission provided for submissions. We are deeply concerned about the real possibility that interested parties may have been frozen out of the process due to this short window of time. We firmly believe that all organisations, big and small, should be encouraged to provide their views and given adequate time to do so. We were also concerned that this is not the first time we have raised such an issue in relation to a public consultation by the Commission. We think the Commission should do better and we hope to see it change its course in the future.
We were happy to see that the revised Rules of Procedure called for the Commission to have ability to take action to investigate and call witnesses and expert witnesses in order to clarify the facts of a case while examining a Communication. This will allow for all parties involved to have the relevant facts come to light and will afford them a Commission that is more empowered to be an effective and informed independent human rights body. Calling witnesses is possible now, but the increase in detail in the draft revised Rules is important. The inclusion of the ability to undertake visits to the scene or “take evidence in any other manner” allows for a more objective process in which the outcomes are more likely to shed light on the truth of the matter. We were also appreciative of the provisions for the protection of witnesses. This is such a vital part of any process meant to objectively determine the facts.
We were also happy to see the inclusion of more provisions to encourage States to effectively comply with their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in relation to their interactions with the Commission. We feel that the Commission can be a great venue for the positive promotion of human rights and that any State that truly embraces its human rights obligations will see the Commission as a vital tool in their human rights toolbelt.
We called on the Commission to include the role of civil society in express terms in the revised Rules of Procedure. This includes a rule for civil society to be a tool of the Commission in fulfilling its expanded mandate under the revised Rules of Procedure. We also called for the Commission to include in its public consultation process, a summary of stakeholder views, akin to other processes such as the Workgroup for the University Periodic Review that is part of the United Nations Human Rights processes.
Contra Noccendi Cameroon and Contra Nocendi International remain firmly committed to supporting the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We eagerly await the resulting revised Rules of Procedure. We hope that this endeavour will result in a greater appreciation for the fundamental human rights for all persons in Africa.