Oral intervention on the report of the Chairperson, Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa
53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Banjul, The Gambia, 13th April 2013
Honorable Chairperson, commissioners, distinguished delegates,
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project would like to thank the honorable commissioner for his valuable work to promote and protect human rights in the context of extractive industries and the environment in Africa.
We welcome the honourable commissioner’s call for civil society in the field of extractive industries to collaborate with the Working Group on Extractive Industries, as stated in the Resolution on the Establishment of a Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa. However, we must note that environmental rights defenders often face serious risks when trying to exercise their rights. Research carried out by EHAHRDP in Uganda and Tanzania in 2012 highlighted the violations experienced by human rights defenders engaging on extractive resource industries – including arrests and detentions while conducting research and awareness-raising activities, confiscation of recording equipment and computers, and reports of surveillance and restricted access to the areas in questions. Human rights defenders are often stigmatized because of their work and accused of trying to create instability. In addition, those working in rural, resource-producing areas are often disconnected from partner NGOs, resources and other allies and therefore more at risk. We will make this report available to the Working Group.
EHAHRDP calls on States to recognize the important work carried out by human rights defenders working on the extractive industries, land and other environmental issues in trying to find a balance between economic development and environmental protection, and to ensure prompt and impartial investigations into alleged violations of their rights.
In addition, EHAHRDP recommends that the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights closely collaborates with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in Africa, as well as the UN Independent Expert on human rights and the environment and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, to develop strategies for the protection of human rights defenders working on sensitive issues related to the resource extractive industries and the environment.
Thank you Madame Chairperson.