Motion for a resolution on Gabon: repression of the opposition – B8-2017-0512

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the United Nations International Charter of Human Rights,

–   having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of June 1981,

–   having regard to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance,

–   having regard to the revised Cotonou Partnership Agreement,

–  having regard to the 11th European Development Fund 2014-2020 National Indicative Programme, which prioritises strengthening democracy, governance and the rule of law,

–  having regard to the African Union’s Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa (2002),

– having regard to the statement made by the UN Secretary-General Spokesperson of of 31 August 2016 following the announcement of the provisional electoral results in the Gabon.

– having regard to the joint statements by the spokespersons for High Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica on Gabon, issued on 11 and 17 September 2016, and following the announcement by the Gabonese Constitutional Court of the final results of the presidential election, issued on 24 September 2016,

– having regard to the press release issued by the African Union on 1 September 2016 condemning the violence and calling for the peaceful resolution of the post-electoral conflict in Gabon.

– having regard to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Republic of Gabon and the European Union concerning the European Union’s Elections Observer Mission (European Union EMO),

–  having regard to the final report of the European Union electoral observation mission (EOM),

– Having regard to the European Parliament debate, of September 13, 2016 on the situation in Gabon

having regard to the statement by the Head of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Gabon on the results of the elections, in particular in the province of Haut-Ogooué

–  having regard to the Gabonese Constitution,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions and in particular the Resolution of 2 February 2017, on Rule of law crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Gabon

–  having regard to Rule 135 of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas Ali Bongo, the Gabonese outgoing president, in power since the death of his father, Omar Bongo, in 2009, was declared the winner of the presidential election held on 27 August 2016;

B. Whereas incumbent president Ali Bongo won the elections with around 5600 votes more than his main rival, Jean Ping, according to the results provided by the National Electoral Commission (CENAP);

C. Whereas a number of international observers monitored the Presidential elections, including an European Union EOM; whereas the European Union EOM identified clear anomalies in the analysis of the final results of the presidential election, in particular in the home province of Ali Bongo, Haut-Ogooué; whereas other anomalies denounced include the refusal to recount votes and the burning of voting bulleting, upon request by the African Union to publish the vote polling station by polling station;

D. Whereas the EU EOM has been the target of repeated acts of intimidation during its activities in Gabon, in particular through an intense campaign of defamation in the press; whereas President Ali Bongo himself strongly criticized the mission after questions were raised over his narrow victory;

E. Whereas an appeal alleging electoral irregularities and calling for a recount was lodged with the Gabonese Constitutional Court; who eventually confirmed the result; whereas, however, consideration of the appeal has not dispelled all the doubts surrounding the outcome of the presidential election;

F. Whereas after the announcement of the elections results clashes between opposition supporters and security forces broke out in the capital of Gabon and in other major cities, causing the death of at least seven persons, the injuring of dozens and the detention of thousands; whereas Gabonese security forces stormed the headquarters of the opposition candidate, Jean Ping, internet access was cut and numerous cases of alleged human rights violations linked to the political situation took places; whereas Gabonese security forces have been accused by International NGOs of being responsible for these acts;

G. Whereas the 18 august 2017, the leader of opposition Party Jean Ping called Gabonians to rise up against the Government;

H. Whereas the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced on 30 September 2016 she was opening an initial probe into the post-elections unrest in Gabon;

I. Whereas on 5 January 2017 President Ali bongo announced his intention to convene a national dialogue to attempt to reconcile the country; whereas members of the opposition held their own conference in December, where Jean Ping introduced himself as president elect and escalated verbal attacks on the government urging Gabonese to “take their destiny in their own hands” and foreseeing new protests;

J. whereas freedom of the media is constantly under attack and journalists intimidated; whereas media outlets and radio stations have been shut down by the authorities, and restrictions have been put on the internet and social networks;

K. whereas NGOs continuously report on the worsening situation with regard to human rights and freedom of expression and assembly, including the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and politically motivated trials;

L. whereas the authorities have clamped down on members of the opposition and of civil society opposing the power in place and several senior leaders of the opposition has been denied the right to leave the country;

M. whereas the rule of law, accountability, respect for human rights and credible and transparent elections are essential elements of any functioning democracy; and both EU and African partners have a strong common interest in the continued development of democracy and the establishment of properly functioning constitutionalism;

N. whereas the 11th European Development Fund 2014-2020 National Indicative Programme prioritises strengthening democracy, governance and the rule of law;

1. Expresses deep concern over the violence that took place following the announcement of the preliminary results of 2016 presidential elections and for the increasingly unstable situation in Gabon;

2. Calls on all Gabonese stakeholders to resolve all disputes recurring to any legally established means and to show restraint in their actions and declarations to avoid an escalation of violence;

3. Urges the authorities, and above all the President, to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms and to act in order to effectively grant the strict respect of the rule of law;

4. Recalls that, under the Cotonou Agreement, Gabon is bounded to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights principles, which include freedom of expression and of the media;

5. Reminds Gabon of its duties and responsibilities as a state party, including to provide clear and tangible information on the reforms undertaken, on the post-electoral violence, and on action taken to ensure justice;

6. Strongly condemns any call to violence and reiterates its call for a dialogue involving all the Gabonian stakeholders;

7. Strongly condemns all arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions, political intimidation, restrictions on the freedom of expression prior to and after the presidential elections; calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all arrested peaceful demonstrators, journalists and political opponents, given that their imprisonment relates directly to the legitimate exercise of their fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law;

8. Strongly condemns that several leaders of the Gabon opposition, including the Candidate in the 2016 Presidential election Jean Ping, has been denied the right to leave the country and urges the Gabon authorities to immediately overturn this decision;

9. Calls on the Gabonese authorities and the security forces to refrain from using any type of violence against the population and to guarantee the respect of democracy, the rule of law, good governance and human rights principles, including freedom of expression and freedom of the press;

10. Deplores the fact that the official presidential election results to be non-transparent and highly doubtful, and the appeal procedure which led to Ali Bongo being declared the winner in the election was conducted in an opaque manner; regrets the Constitutional Courts’ refusal to recount the votes and compare the ballots before they were destroyed;

11. Denounces again all forms of intimidation against the members of the European Union EOM, urges the Gabonese authorities to fully respect the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the EU Election Observation Mission; deeply regrets that, despite the memorandum of understanding signed with the Gabonese government, the EU election observation mission had no or limited access to the official minutes needed to check the regularity of the presidential electoral process, revealing a great weakness of the Gabonese electoral process;

12. Believes that the current deep political and social divisions in Gabon require a clear political response in order to preserve the stability of the country, to increase Gabonese citizens’ confidence and to give real legitimacy to the institutions; welcomes the proposal of Ali Bongo to convene a national dialogue to reconcile the country; underlines that such dialogue should be carried out in good faith and in an inclusive and constructive way; laments Jean Ping, rejected to participate to the national dialogue;

13. Calls on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the serious human rights violations which have occurred in Gabon recently;

14. Calls, moreover, for the EU and ACP countries, in collaboration with the UN and the African Union, to continue to monitor closely the overall situation in Gabon and to report all cases of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

15. Calls on the EU Delegation to use all appropriate tools and instruments to support human rights defenders and pro-democracy movements, and to conduct an enhanced political dialogue with the authorities, as enshrined in Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement;

16. Urges the Council to initiate a consultation process under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement; and calls on the Council, if no agreement can be reached within the consultation process, to consider imposing targeted sanctions on those responsible for the post-electoral violence and human rights abuses, and for undermining the democratic process in the country;

17. Urges the Government of Gabon to conduct comprehensive and rapid reform of the electoral procedure to improve it and make it fully transparent and credible; stresses the importance that the Gabon authorities demonstrate willingness to cooperate constructively with the international partners to ensure that next parliamentary elections take place in a free and transparent environment.

18. Calls on the Government of Gabon to ratify and respect the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance;

19. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the African Union, the President, Prime Minister and Parliament of Gabon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

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