The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) Permanent Committee on Justice and Human Rights triumphantly launched the Guidelines for Parliamentarians on eliminating harmful practices and other human rights violations at the ongoing sittings of the Permanent Committees of the sixth Parliament of the PAP in Midrand, South Africa.
The Guidelines seek to enhance current and future discourse of legal and non-legal frameworks to end Harmful Practices occurring in Accusations of Witchcraft and Ritual attacks (HPAWR) and to drive change at national levels across the African continent to contribute to safe communities where all persons, regardless of status, are free of all forms of harm stemming from accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks.
“On behalf of the Bureau of the PAP, we thank all the Members of PAP who participated in debating these guidelines and eventually adopting them in the PAP Plenary of October 2022,” said PAP’s 3rd Vice President Hon. Lúcia Maria Mendes Gonçalves dos Passos (Mrs) while delivering a speech on behalf of H.E Chief Fortune Charumbira, President of the PAP, on the occasion of the launch, which took place on the margins of the ongoing sittings of the Permanent Committees of the sixth Parliament of the PAP in Midrand, South Africa.
“We are honoured and proud of the achievement scored by our Committee in developing the Guidelines for Parliamentarians on eliminating harmful practices and other human rights violations.
“We are pleased that our members showed great attention and commitment throughout the discussions that led to the adoption of this historic document. As the PAP, we have no doubt that these guidelines will further assist in creating shared values amongst the member states of the African Union. They are also a tool that will play a meaningful role in uniting the continent of Africa through spreading standardised continental integration on human rights-related matters. Most importantly, they are a tool that PAP can tap on in its endeavour to promote a united Africa,” said H.E Chief Charumbira.
H.E Chief Charumbira also mentioned that legislators must recall that the new PAP Protocol of 2014, which has not yet been ratified by most member states of the African Union (AU), bestows on the PAP the responsibility of developing model legal instruments for the AU.
“The Current PAP Protocol, even though it doesn’t clearly confer that mandate, is not prohibitive on this responsibility of developing model laws. We have decided to proactively approach the responsibility of developing model legal instruments.
“We shall continue to draft model laws and guidelines for parliamentarians on key policy areas even before the full ratification of the new PAP Protocol. That will enable us to be better acquainted with our new responsibility and strengthen our capacity as a legislative body within the African Union governance system.”
He further underscored that regarding the importance of model legal instruments, PAP recognises that they are normative standards that can be used to promote shared values that are found in several AU instruments and decisions.
“The guidelines that are being launched today are also an instrument that speaks to the matters raised above. They are a practical tool that members of parliament in Africa can use as a reference point to advocate for the inclusion of best practices and protecting the human rights of minority communities or persons in Africa,” he added highlighting that the development of guidelines for members of parliament is an intricate process that most of the members may need extensive exposure around if they are to carry out the task diligently.
The President also appreciated the Office of the United Nations Independent Expert on Albinism and the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights for supporting PAP with their technical expertise throughout the formulation, development, and adoption of the guidelines.
Meanwhile, Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Chairperson, Hon Jean Marie Nibirantije applauded the legislators, the Office of the United Nations Independent Expert on Albinism and the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights for pioneering a better and safe Continent for everyone.
Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond, a UN Independent Expert on Albinism, expressed gratitude towards parliamentarians who saw the need to act and adopt the guidelines on harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks.
“These guidelines give us hope that, if implemented, these harmful practices can start to be eradicated. In my official capacity, as the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; and in my personal capacity, as an African woman who, God willing, will one day grow up to be a much older woman, I would like to thank you for adopting these guidelines. Thank you for providing a ray of hope in a very bleak picture,” she said.