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ACHPR59: Updates from the East and Horn of Africa (April – October 2016)

On the opening day of its 59th Ordinary session, DefendDefenders calls on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to address human rights violations across the East and Horn of Africa, including in Ethiopia and Burundi.

In a bi-annual report submitted today, DefendDefenders provides the ACHPR with a six-month update on the severe human rights crises that have engulfed parts of the sub-region, and governments’ sustained and targeted attacks on human rights defenders and civil society more broadly.

“Shutting down the internet, prohibiting protests, attacking and arresting journalists, and closing down NGOs are now the go-to moves for governments attempting to quell unrest and suppress dissent, but clearly the strategy is not working,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director of DefendDefenders. “Across the sub-region we have seen people take to the streets and social media to express their grievances, and as the premier regional human rights body, the ACHPR should play an integral role in defending their right to do so and ensuring they are properly addressed.

In its report, DefendDefenders calls on the ACHPR to urge the Ethiopian government to allow access to an international, independent and impartial investigation, and ensure that the current State of Emergency does not lead to further violations of fundamental, non-derogable human rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Moreover, in light of the Burundian government’s alarming suspension of cooperation with the UN human rights office, the ACHPR should condemn and call the AU to take a firm stance on the decision to declare three UN-mandate experts, including an ACHPR Commissioner, persona non grata; and call on the Burundian government to fully cooperate with AU-mandated observers and allow them safe access to information, witnesses and victims in all parts of the country.

The report, prepared with updates from DefendDefenders’ partners on the ground, finds that severe political, human rights, and humanitarian crises in BurundiEthiopiaSudan, and South Sudan have had a dramatic impact on the space for human rights defenders, who have been targeted repeatedly through arrests and detentions, physical attacks, torture, disappearances, and killings.

At the same time, tensions triggered by political disputes during electoral periods in Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda have continued to rise, resulting in increasing sensitivity to criticism and renewed clampdowns on civil society and the media.

The full report was submitted on 21 October 2016 at the 59th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, the Islamic Republic of the Gambia.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Apollo Mukasa

Apollo Mukasa’s journey into activism is deeply rooted in his commitment to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). As the Executive Director of Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), Apollo is a driving force behind initiatives aimed at combating discrimination among PWDs. UNAPD was established in 1998 as a platform for voicing concerns of persons with physical disabilities to realise a barrier free environment where they can enjoy their rights to the fullest.