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African parliamentary conference on international humanitarian law for the protection of civilians during armed conflict, Niamey, 18-20 February 2002

21-02-2002 Statement

We, Speakers and Members of National Parliamentary Assemblies of Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Rwanda and Tunisia ;

    

 Having met upon the invitation of the National Assembly of Niger, from 18 to 20 February 2002 in Niamey, for the first African Parliamentary Conference on International Humanitarian Law for the Protection of Civilians during Armed Conflict, organized by the African Parliamentary Union (APU) with the support of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and presided over by the Speaker of the host country, Honourable Mahamane Ousmane,

    

 Anxious    to do everything   in our power so that in event of armed conflict, civilians, of whom we are the legitimate representatives, receive the most effective possible protection,

    

 Conscious of the usefulness of this first exchange of experience to assist us, with the help of experts, in further raising our awareness of the principles of International Humanitarian Law so that we may better carry out our mission in this area,

 Deeply concerned  about the number and expansion of conflicts in Africa and alarmed by the spread of violence, in particular in the form of acts of genocide, murder, forced displacement of persons and use of force to prevent their return, hostage-taking, torture, abduction, arbitrary detention, compelling civilians to join in the armed violence, and destruction of movable and immovable property of importance to the cultural or spiritual heritage, actions which often target civilians, thereby causing them immense suffering and which seriously violate the rules of International Humanitarian Law,

 Also concerned about protracted refugee situations in Africa stemming from the continuing political instability or armed conflict in some countries of the region, about the growing presence of armed elements in refugee camps, about the serious violations of the universally recognized principle of non refoulement, about the growing xenophobia against refugees and about the inadequate level of international solidarity and responsibility sharing,

 Aware of the need of preventive measures at the national, regional and international levels so as to prevent the eruption of armed conflicts. Convinced in that connection that there can be no better prevention than good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Further conscious of the need, in this era of gloabalisation, to promote a culture of peace, dialogue among civilisations and solidarity with a view to create a climate of tolerance and stability within our States and in internation al relations,

 Acknowledging the efforts made by African States and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in an attempt to end conflicts, as well as actions undertaken by the ICRC and other humanitarian organisations to protect and assist civilians in time of armed conflict,

    

 Conscious , nonetheless, of the serious difficulties encountered by humanitarian institutions during armed conflict with regard to access to civilians and security,

 Worried in the face of the rapid expansion of arms trade and the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons, notably those which can have indiscriminate effects or cause unnecessary suffering, like antipersonnel mines,

 Adopt the following Declaration :  

1. We pledge our commitment to further uphold of humanitarian principles and to the respect for international humanitarian law.

2. To this end, we resolve to ensure that our parliaments fully play their role in the process of acceding to the instruments of International Humanitarian Law and adjust national legislation in order to ensure the effective application thereof.

3. We undertake also , as men and women elected by the people, to contribute to promote awareness of the relevant humanitarian values, norms and rules.

4. We reaffirm our determination to see to it that our States and all parties to an armed conflict honor their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Refugee Law and respect, under all circumstances, the rights of the victims of armed conflict as well as the dignity of the human person.

 Accession to Treaties  

    

5. In accordance with paragraph 2 above, we undertake to engage in an active national debate and a dialogue in our Parliaments and with our Governments with a view to bringing our States, in case they have not yet done so, to accede to the following treaties:

    

 (i) International Humanitarian Law  

the two Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, 

the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, of 1980, and its Additional Protocols,

the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Transfer of Chemical Weapons, of 1993,

the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Land Mines and their Destruction, of 1997,

the Statute of the International Criminal Court, of 1998

6. In the same way, we undertake to engage in an active dialogue in our Parliaments and with our Governments with a view to bringing our States, in case they have not yet done so, to accede to the following treaties :

    

 (ii) Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons  

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, of 28 July, 1951 ;

Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, of 31 January 1967,

Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, of 10 September 1969,

Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, of 28 September 1954,

Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, of 30 August 1961,

Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, of 30 August 1961,

 (iii) Protection of the child  

Protocol Optional to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2000:

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1999.

    

    

 National Legislation  

7 . We acknowledge that beyond the simple formal accession to the international treaties, we must be sure that International Humanitarian Law and International Law Refugee are adequately reflected in our national legislations and rules. Wherever necessary, we commit ourselves to work towards the inclusion of these humanitarian norms in our national legislation with a view to guarantee their full implementation. In so doing, we have all the parliamentary tools, going from questions put to the Government to private member bills and we are ready to make the best of them by basing ourselves on the suggestions contained in the Handbook for Parliamentarians titled “Respect for International Humanitarian Law” published by ICRC and the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Handbook for Parliamentarians titled “Protection of Refugees : Handbook on International Refugee Law” published by the UNHCR and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

8. We welcome all efforts aimed at regional and sub-regional integration and support them. In that spirit, we encourage the use of common guidelines aimed at harmonizing our national legislations with regard to International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law.

9. We pledge , in particular, to give particular attention to vulnerable groups to prevent all forms of recruitment for military purpose of children under 18 years old.

10. We strongly commit ourselves to support the recommendations of the Comprehensive Implementation Plan (CIP) adopted by the Special Meeting of Governmental and non Governmental Technical Experts organized by the OAU and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Conakry, Guinea, in March 2000 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the 1969 OAU Convention.

 Repression of serious violations  

  We commit ourselves to see that our States have the legislative means of repressing violations of International Humanitarian Law, that individuals responsible for violations of that law be brought to justice and punished, and that any party to an armed conflict which violates International Humanitarian Law shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation.

 Implementation at the National Level  

12. We consider that a multidisciplinary committee bringing together all the State branches concerned and the various organisations, including the national Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, can be a useful and efficient mechanism to ensure the implementation of International Humanitarian Law. We therefore encourage our Parliaments to facilitate the setting up of such a structure if it is not yet in existence, and take necessary measures to be represented on it and to be kept informed about its proceedings and recommendations.

13. We welcome any advice and assistance which the Advisory Services of the International Committee of the Red Cross may be able to offer to this effect. We welcome in the same way the expertise of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Organisation of Migrations (IOM), in their areas of competence.

    

    

 Facilitating access to civilians in need  

14. We agree that all civilians in need are to benefit from impartial humanitarian relief actions. We thus undertake to act in order to offer to humanitarian organizations unimpeded access in times of armed conflict to civilian populations in need and to facilitate the free flow of relief materials. Neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organizations, in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as other international organizat ions, in particular the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), shall be able to count on our fullest support for efficient and adequate access to internally displaced persons and refugees in order to provide protection and humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the relevant provisions of international law.

 Dissemination of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Norms as well as International Refugee Law  

15. We undertake to promote knowledge of International Humanitarian Law and humanitarian norms as well as International Refugee Law among parliamentarians at national, regional and sub-regional levels.

16. We wish that seminars and workshops be organized for parliamentarians on these issues at the national, regional and sub-regional levels with the cooperation of competent organizations, particularly through the APU and other African parliamentary organizations.

17. We encourage the ICRC and National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to intensify their efforts to disseminate the rules of International Humanitarian Law in our States.

 Follow up of the Conference  

 Desirous that this first African Conference should not remain an isolated event but that it should open, on the contrary, the way to a process of long breath which will facilitate strengthening in our States of the rules in International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law with a view to better protect civilian populations in times of armed conflict,

18. We undertake to forward the present Declaration to our assemblies and generate a significant debate on the state of the national legislation concerning, on the one hand, International Humanitarian Law and International refugee Law and, on the other hand, practices and situations which require our attention, including with regard to the action of humanitarian organizations.

19. We intend to see to it that our national parliaments mandate one of their standing committees to supervise action in relation to International Humanitarian Law and International refugee Law, or to establish a sub-committee to this effect.

20. We also encourage, in cooperation with the OAU, the sharing and exchange of information and expertise within African parliaments in order to contribute to the establishing of an African community of best-practices in handling International Humanitarian Law issues and issues relating to International refugee Law.

21. We request the organizers of the Conference to forward this Declaration to the OAU for information and distribution at meetings of Heads of State and Council of Ministers. We also request them to forward it to the competent organs of the APU, Inter- Parliamentary Union and the ICRC as well as other competent international organizations, such as the HCR and IOM.

22. We request the competent political authorities in our States to make sure that humanitarian values and the protection of civilian populations are included in the functioning of the organs of the African Union which is to succeed to the OAU after the Durban Summit of July 2002. Such values must form part of the list of juridical tools and instrume nts that should serve as a reference in case of armed conflicts.

23. We undertake to forward this Declaration for the attention of our Government and to urge them to take every necessary measures to heed to the concerns which it reflects.

24. We request the APU to constitute the Coordinating Committee of this Conference into a standing organ responsible for its follow-up with the support of the IPU Committee to Promote Respect for IHL, the ICRC and the other competent international organizations, and call on the partners in the organization of the Conference and donors, who have generously eased the holding of the Conference, to sustain and encourage its follow-up work.

25. We request the APU, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the ICRC to disseminate on a large scale the outcome of this Conference with a view to facilitating the follow-up in the areas considered.

 *  

 ***  

    

 Motion of Thanks  

We, Speakers and members of national Parliamentary Assemblies of Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Rwanda and Tunisia, who participated in Niamey, from 18 to 20 February 2002, in the first African Parliamentary Conference on International Humanitarian Law for the Protection of Civilians during Armed Conflict,

1. Wish to express our deep gratitude to the President of the Republic of Niger, H.E. Mr. Mamadou Tandja, whose presence and address at the opening ceremony of the Conference bear witness of his commitment to our common ideal: the building of democratic States through the mobilisation of all talents with a view to the welfare of our peoples;

    

2. Also wish to express our gratitude to the National Assembly of Niger and its Speaker for their warm welcome and the excellent arrangements they made to welcome the Conference in the best possible condition;

3 . Wish also to thank the experts for their statements and bright directions;

 Call on the Secretary General of the APU to forward to the Governments of Canada, Norway and Switzerland our deep appreciation and gratitude for the financial support they have graciously offered for the holding of this Conference and to explore the possibility of obtaining funding for the follow-up notably for the organization of the proposed parliamentary seminars and workshops.