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RFK Human Rights co-hosts consultation on nomination and selection of members of human rights mechanisms in Africa

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights participated in the ongoing 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Commission is the treaty body for the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and has the mandate of promoting and safeguarding human rights across the continent, as well as interpreting the Charter. These ordinary sessions provide a platform for direct engagement between the Commission, non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, and state parties to the African Charter. The ongoing session commenced on October 20, 2023 and was preceded by a series of civil society events including the litigants group meeting.

The recent session marked the 20th anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, known as the Maputo Protocol. Discussions during this session centered on various human rights challenges in Africa, including the shrinking civic space, attacks on human rights defenders, and the impact of unconstitutional changes of government on human rights.

On the sidelines of the session, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights co-convened a consultation on the involvement of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the nomination and selection of members of human rights mechanisms in Africa, including the African Commission. The primary objective of the consultation was to assess the current scope of civil society participation in the nomination and selection process and to identify strategies for meaningful CSO engagement in future cycles. This assessment considered both domestic and international best practices for the nomination, screening, and selection of human rights mechanism members, drawing from experiences in regard to the Inter-American and United Nations human rights systems. The consultation was held on October 21, 2023.

This consultation, organized in collaboration with our African partners, including the Center for Human Rights of Pretoria University, the Pan African Lawyers Union, and the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa, attracted participants from national human rights institutions, academia, and regional human rights organizations. Additionally, partner organizations involved in the consultation included the International Service for Human Rights, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Defend Defenders/African Defenders, and Synergia.

The consultation emphasized the importance of a transparent, participatory, and inclusive nomination and selection process, given the crucial role of human rights mechanisms in safeguarding human rights across the continent. Participants identified several factors that CSOs must consider when developing a system for meaningful engagement in the process, including the lack of awareness and coordination, over-politicization of the process, and attacks on the independence of human rights mechanisms by states. Participating organizations committed to developing an online platform to host information on upcoming vacancies, widely disseminating information on the nomination and selection process, and adopting an engagement strategy focused on these stages. Furthermore, the participating organizations agreed to create guides and conduct capacity-building sessions to facilitate greater participation in the nomination and selection process.

In addition to the consultation, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights facilitated a training session on the communication procedure of the Commission on October 18, 2023. This training session was convened by the group of CSOs that litigate before the Commission, known as the Litigants Group, and it focused on the procedure for submitting complaints of human rights violations before the Commission. Litigants from all five subregions of the continent attended the training session.