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Protectors or Pretenders? - Government Human Rights Commissions in Africa, HRW Report 2001



International Standards: The Paris Principles

Important Factors

Examining the Record in Africa

Innovative and Positive Contributions by Commissions

Regional Iniatives

The Role Of The International Community






      Human Rights Watch would like to thank the many human rights commissioners who took the time to speak with us about their work and share their observations, particularly those who were frank in their assessments. In the course of our ongoing work and in researching this report over the past several years, Human Rights Watch representatives have met with members from nineteen national human rights commissions in Africa: Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. In almost all cases, Human Rights Watch researchers conducted first-hand research within the country and met with commissioners in their offices. Human Rights Watch also conducted countless interviews with members of nongovernmental human rights groups and others throughout Africa and elsewhere. We are grateful to them for sharing their opinions on the human rights commissions in their countries.

      Human Rights Watch attended the second regional meeting of African national institutions held in Durban, South Africa in July 1998 which brought together many African human rights commissioners, international donors, and United Nations (U.N.) agencies. In March 1999, Human Rights Watch attended the third West African Human Rights Forum, a meeting of national human rights commissions from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries, both Francophone and Anglophone, to foster coordination and integration between the commissions in West Africa. Human Rights Watch was also present at the first Mediterranean Encounter of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in Marrakech, Morocco, in April 1998.

      A report of this magnitude could not be completed without the combined efforts and insights of many people. Within the staff of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, the writing and editing of the report was coordinated by Binaifer Nowrojee, counsel. The analysis was written by Binaifer Nowrojee with significant input from the division staff. The country chapters were written by: Suliman Ali Baldo, senior researcher (Ethiopia); Peter Bouckaert, researcher (Uganda); Alison DesForges, consultant (Rwanda); Corinne Dufka, consultant (Sierra Leone); Bronwen Manby, counsel (Nigeria, South Africa); Binaifer Nowrojee (Ghana, Kenya, Liberia co-author, Malawi, Zambia co-author); Jemera Rone, counsel (Sudan); and Alex Vines, research associate (Zambia co-author). As always, invaluable production assistance was provided by associate Zachary Freeman. Eric Goldstein, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, contributed to the report's analysis of the commissions in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

      Pascal Kambale, a Congolese human rights activist, received a fellowship from Human Rights Watch/Africa, to research the human rights commissions in Francophone West Africa, accompanied by Peter Rosenblum, associate director of the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program. Pascal Kambale wrote the chapters on Benin, Cameroon, and Mauritania. Peter Rosenblum wrote the chapters on Chad and Senegal. They co-authored the Togo chapter. Ngande Mwanajiti, executive director of the Inter-African Network for Human Rights and Development (Afronet) and a Zambian human rights activist, also received a fellowship from Human Rights Watch/Africa and wrote the Zambia chapter with Binaifer Nowrojee and Alex Vines.

      Human Rights Watch would like to thank the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program for its assistance, in particular, Peter Rosenblum and Deborah Anker for organizing and supervising student research work through their clinical program. Thanks also to Professor Henry Steiner, director, for supporting the collaboration. Invaluable research at the preliminary stages of this report was provided by (then) Harvard Law School students Anusha Rasalingam and Uzma Ahmed. Anje Van Berckelaer expeditiously translated several of the chapters from French. Additionally, the report could not have been completed without the conscientious work of Rena Marie Strand, a Vassar College senior, who updated the Uganda chapter, co-authored the Liberia chapter, and diligently provided research assistance at the final stages of the report.

      Human Rights Watch is grateful to Peter Rosenblum for his pro bono work and support throughout this project. Human Rights Watch is indebted to Richard Carver for his keen insight and to the International Council on Human Rights for the research work on national human rights institutions it commissioned from Richard Carver. The report benefitted from the support and insight of Ibrahima Kane, legal officer for Africa at Interights, particularly with regard to the Francophone countries. Human Rights Watch also thanks Brian Burdekin of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights for sharing his extensive knowledge and experience in this area.

      The report was edited by Peter Takirambudde, executive director, Human Rights Watch/Africa; Eric Goldstein, deputy director, Human Rights Watch/Middle East and North Africa; Rumbi Mabuwa, researcher, Human Rights Watch/Women's Rights Division; Joanna Weschler, U.N. representative; Wilder Tayler, general counsel; Malcolm Smart, program director; as well as Richard Carver, Ibrahima Kane, Anusha Rasalingam, and Peter Rosenblum.

      Human Rights Watch is profoundly grateful to the John D. & Catherine T.

    MacArthur Foundation for providing funding for the Africa Fellows Program. These fellowships are providing unprecedented opportunities for African human rights activists to learn from, and make valuable contributions to, our work. This report greatly benefitted from the contributions of Pascal Kambale and Ngande Mwanajiti.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2001

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