13 May, 2022
News from AfricanDefenders: March & April 2022
Posted at 06:35h in AfricanDefenders
Expanding the Ubuntu Hub Cities Initiative
- The Ubuntu Hub Cities initiative is now in Accra, Ghana! This was after a feasibility study we conducted to identify the next city to host the Ubuntu Hub Cities Initiative in an Anglophone West African country determined Accra has a suitable human rights and political environment to host an Ubuntu Hub City. During the launch, Hassan Shire, the Executive Director of DefendDefenders and our Chairperson gave a philosophical overview of the initiative and stressed that Ubuntu Hub City want to challenge the narrative that Africans cannot be safe in their own continent;
- The initiative was welcomed in Ghana as the Director of Human Rights at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ-Ghana) Mary Nartey pledged CHRAJ-Ghana’s support towards the implementation of the Hub City in Accra. The event was highlighted online by Ghana Broadcasting Corporation as well as award-winning journalist Oforiwa Darko on her media platform; and
- At the launch, we had a panel discussion to discuss the push factors that force human rights defenders (HRDs) into exile and what and should be done to ensure HRDs meaningfully contribute to the aspiration of the Africa we want.
More from the secretariat
Advocacy at the 71st ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR 71)
- Together with ACHPR and DefendDefenders, we co-organised a joint panel on the ‘Judicial Harassment of Human Rights Defenders and attacks on Civic space in Africa’. Our chairperson, Hassan Shire spoke on the manipulation of the judicial system to suppress and silence HRDs. He stressed that this manipulation often lead HRDs to flee their countries and get themselves stranded in exile in a cycle of socio-economic challenges, which silences their activism. He further highlighted the Ubuntu Hub Cities Initiative as a response mechanism to ensure the safety, physical and mental wellbeing of HRDs during their relocation period while allowing them to continue their work and have a positive impact on their host communities;
- During ACHPR 71, we made the following interventions together with DefendDefenders:
- Statement on the human rights situation in Africa, where we highlighted the regression of human rights specifically civic space that has been fuelled by impunity during election periods, structural and institutional gaps that allow constitutional and unconstitutional coups to occur and conflict as a driver of shrinking civic space;
- Statement in response to the activity report of the Chairperson of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa. We urged the commission to call on state parties to set up effective and systematic mechanisms to address attacks on environmental defenders ensuring accountability and non-repetition;
- Statement in response to the activity report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point of Reprisals in Africa where we highlighted the weaponization of laws to crackdown on HRDs and urged state parties to adopt laws that protect HRDs and ensure there is effective implementation of the laws;
- Statement on the activity report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa where we highlighted the challenges of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and called on the commission to urge state parties to adopt legislative, policy, and administrative measures to ensure the protection of women and girls on the continent and eradicate all forms of violence against them; and
- We also made an intervention on the panel on the 10th anniversary of the Addis Ababa Road Map where we urged the commission to develop a clearer coordination mechanism of the Road Map to foster progress and its implementation.
On the side-lines of ACHPR71
- We also organised a side event where we launched a report “Overlooked and Unseen: Human Rights Defenders living with disabilities in conflict areas,”. The panellists and participants had in-depth discussions on the findings of the research which focused on South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The research analyses the challenges faced by defenders living with disabilities.
Ngo Forum preceding ACHPR71
- AfricanDefenders and DefendDefenders virtually hosted the NGO forum preceding ACHPR71in which we delivered a statement on the state of democracy and rule of law in the East and Horn of Africa. The statement highlighted the continued downward trend in violations of the rights to freedoms of opinion and expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Among other recommendations, we called on the Commission to urge all Member States to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, notably by observing the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
- Under the Strengthening Civil Courage (SCC) Alliance, we took part in an advocacy workshop to push for the passing of the draft law to protect HRDs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Furthermore, we mapped out potential protection partners and assessed their needs, good practices, challenges, and capacity gaps, which will inform our interventions in the country;
- We also conducted a fact-finding mission to Liberia to hold strategic meetings to assess the state of civic space and the situation of human rights in Liberia ahead of the 2023 presidential elections. The overarching goal is to contribute to a safe and enabling environment in which HRDs and civil society actors in Liberia can operate free from hindrance and insecurity;
- In commemoration of the King’s Day (Netherlands), Hassan Shire did an interview piece with New Vision (media house in Uganda) to highlight the support the Dutch Embassy has afforded DefendDefenders and AfricanDefenders including the Ubuntu Hub Cities initiative. He stressed that the Dutch government is one of the biggest financial partners of the Kampala Ubuntu Hub City;
- With support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs fund, which aims at strengthening the socio-economic activities of exiled women human rights defenders (WHRDs), we had a meeting with exiled WHRDs from DRC, Sudan, South Sudan, and Burundi to touch base on the implementation of the project. The WHRDs shared their socio-economic interests and some of the challenges they face as not only WHRDs but also women living in exile;
- Together with DefendDefenders, we launched the campaign, #SheDefends, to commemorate the 2022 International Women’s Day. The campaign put a spotlight on the importance of WHRDs advocating for environmental conservation and some of the challenges they face.
Check out the campaign
From the Network
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) together with other 17 Non-governmental organisations issued an open letter to social media companies urging them to take down confession videos of Libyan Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), that were arrested due to their online activism. The videos have incited violence, defamation and hate speech toward other HRDs and Libyan Civil Society. Furthermore, CIHRS called on social media companies to respect the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and their commitments to avoid contributing to adverse human rights impacts.
East and Horn of Africa
- Defenders Coalition-Kenya issued a press statement addressing the shrinking civic space in Kenya and the right to protest. They called on the National Police Service and concerned state organs to desist from arresting protestors under the guise of unlawful assembly and furthermore to investigate and prosecute those who unlawfully arrest protestors.
- The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders) hosted a press briefing regional solidarity on Malawi’s NGO Amendment Bill that seeks to establish a new regulatory authority that will aim at empowering the NGO authority to suspend and de-register NGOs and furthermore impose heavy fines and prison sentences on NGOs that breach the law. They discussed the state of defending the right to freedom of association, assembly and expanding civic space in Malawi;
- Rede Moçambicana dos Defensores de Direitos Humanos (RMDHH) and Southern Defenders opened a new office in Pemba City, Cabo Delgado to widen the protection scope of HRDs in Mozambique on the regional and international mechanisms. This initiative will provide a quick and efficient response to HRDs protection needs; and
- Southern Defenders in partnership with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’, Mary Lawlor, office held a side event at Human Rights Council (HRC)49 addressing the issues faced by HRDs working against corruption. Mary Lawlor highlighted that research cited in her report found corruption as the most dangerous issue for women HRDs and journalists.
- The West African Human Rights Defenders Network issued a statement condemning the arrest of the Deputy Secretary-General and Regional Secretary of Savane and Prefectoral Delegate of the Grand Lome of the Togo Teachers’ Union (SET ) officials demanding their release. They are accused of stimulating revolts through the students and other people.
Do not miss
- Frontline Defenders is recruiting for a head of communications and events, and a research and administration fellow
- DefendDefenders’ Bi-annual report on the situation of human rights in the East and Horn of Africa;
- Missing Voices Kenya’s annual report which highlights extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Kenya