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As a renewal of violence in South Sudan threatens to plunge the country back into full-scale civil war, Amnesty International has published a list of seven recommendations for the African Union, ahead of the 27th AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

From rhetoric to action lays out concrete steps leaders should take to guide the continent towards a culture that respects human rights, including in countries in the region that continue to be rocked by armed conflict.

“The latest horrific bloodshed in South Sudan demonstrates the urgent need for African leaders gathering in Kigali to take steps not only to resolve such conflicts but also to tackle their root causes,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa Director, Research and Advocacy, Amnesty International.

“Most if not all conflict and instability in Africa is linked to failures to address gross human rights violations, and which allow a cycle of impunity to continue. The African Union must show this week that it has the determination to confront these and other pressing issues head-on.”

Amnesty International’s recommendations also call for the AU to address the growing repression of dissent, restrictions and attacks against civil society, human rights defenders and political opponents.  

“In many countries, including Burundi, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, peaceful protests have been met with brutal crackdowns. Political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders suffer increased repression ahead of elections in Gambia and DRC. Activists continue to be subjected to unfounded criminal proceedings and arbitrary detention in Angola and Egypt,” said Belay.

“This summit provides an opportunity for the AU to call upon states to commit to creating an environment conducive for civil society and human rights defenders to carry out their work free of unwarranted restrictions and harassment.”

Amnesty International’s seven recommendations for the 27th AU Summit in Kigali are:

·             Take urgent steps to ensure human rights protection is at the center of conflict prevention and response; 

·             Commit to fighting impunity by taking steps to ensure accountability for perpetrators of crimes under international law;

·             Member states should urgently comply with their reporting and other obligations under regional human rights treaties;

·             Strengthen and ensure the independence of regional human rights institutions;

·             Take steps to decriminalize abortion and ensure full ratification of the Maputo protocol on the rights of women in Africa;

·             Member States should commit to create an environment conducive for civil society and human rights defenders to carry out their work free of unwarranted restrictions and harassment; and 

·             Member states should push for a new global system of responsibility-sharing for refugees.

BACKGROUND

2016 marks the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the 30th anniversary of its entry into force, and the 10th anniversary of the establishment and operationalization of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Given the convergence of these auspicious anniversaries, the African Union has declared 2016 the “African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women.”

This is the first time that the AU has decided to place human rights as a theme of its summit agenda and calendar year.