Civil and political rights
Civil and political rights are rights that permit people live in freedom and liberty: they include the right to life; the right not to be tortured, enslaved or required to perform forced labour; the right to liberty and security of person, including freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, the right to be equal before the courts and tribunals and the right to a fair trial; freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression, opinion, assembly and association, as well as the right to vote; and the rights to equality and self-determination.
These rights are enshrined in various international documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966).
ASF’s approach to promoting civil and political rights
The 1966 ICCPR calls for the creation of conditions enabling all persons to enjoy their civil and political rights. ASF uses the law as a tool to promote such conditions, assisting those people whose rights have been violated, working to ensure the universal recognition and sustainable implementation of these rights.
ASF’s strategies for intervention in relation to civil and political rights are based on three principles:
- To provide legal interventions on behalf of people whose rights have been violated, in partnership with local legal actors, such as legal analysis, judicial assistance, amicus curiae*, observation of the trial, advocacy, etc.
- To assist local lawyers and society in general on using the law to promote respect for, protection and fulfilment of civil and political rights.
- To implement the principles of interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights to enhance their effectiveness. These principles include: non-discrimination, transparency and access to information, participation, and access to remedy and recourse. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ASF organises the criminal defence of detainees to ensure access to a fair trial and to hold the government to account to provide sufficient food for incarcerated persons.
Examples of ASF activities
Right to a fair trial
ASF defends victims of crimes and human rights violations in situations where they may not receive a fair trial given the involvement of prominent persons close to those in power:
- In Burundi, an international team of lawyers is defending the Burundian organisation OLUCOME, which works to combat corruption, in an extremely sensitive trial.
- In the Democratic Republic of Congo, ASF is helping the brothers and sisters of Floribert Chebeya in a trial to shed light on the circumstances of the death of this defender of human rights in 2010.
Right to liberty and efforts to combat illegal pre-trial detention
In the African Great Lakes region, ASF is setting up several programmes to combat illegal pre-trial detention on a massive scale by inspecting places of detention, providing free legal advice and judicial assistance to victims, publishing practical training resources, and training lawyers.
Freedom of expression and freedom of the press
Between 2007 and 2012, a large-scale judicial assistance programme was implemented in Rwanda to benefit dozens of defendants, including freelance journalists Agnès Uwimana and Saidat Mukakibibi, prosecuted for “genocide ideology” or “threats to national security”. ASF intervened through an amicus curiae* before the Supreme Court of Rwanda – a first in the country’s legal history – and to produce several technical and legal analyses of Rwandan jurisprudence on these sensitive matters.
* Legal arguments presented to a court by an organisation or a person who is not a party to the dispute.