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ACHPR58: Updates from the East and Horn of Africa (October 2015 – March 2016)

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network welcomed the opportunity offered by the 58th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to highlight some of the current human rights issues in the East and Horn of Africa region for the period from October 2015 to March 2016, and did so in the report it submitted this morning.

This report was prepared with the assistance of reports and information sent to DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), the secretariat of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network by our members and partners from the sub-region.

The past six months have seen heightened restrictions of civil and political freedoms during electoral periods in countries across the sub-region such as Uganda, Tanzania and Djibouti, as well as the grave and extremely worrying deterioration of on-going crises in Burundi and South Sudan. We have witnessed worsening patterns of harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders across the board, and renewed government clampdowns on human rights activities.

In many countries regressive legislation was passed, curtailing citizens’ rights to free expression and peaceful assembly. Increasingly, counter-terrorism laws are being misused to target the legitimate work of human rights defenders. NGO and Media Bills are increasingly being passed with broad and vague terminology, facilitating judicial proceedings against independent human rights organisation and media outlets under the guise of “threatening national security”. Across the region, administrative and bureaucratic harassment is used to disrupt the work of human rights defenders and journalists.

The report contains a number of recommendations to the ACHPR, as well as detailed country overviews for the East and Horn of Africa.

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Leon Ntakiyiruta

As a child, Leon wanted to be a magistrate – whom he saw as agents of justice. Born in 1983 in Burundi’s Southern province, he came of age at a time of great social and political upheaval in the East African country. In 1993 when Leon was barely 10, Burundi was besieged by a civil war that would last for the next 12 years until 2005, characterized by indiscriminate violence and gross human rights abuses in which over 300,000 people are estimated to have died.In 2012, still struggling to find her footing in Kampala, Aida was introduced to DefendDefenders, where she was introduced to the organisation’s resource center, and assured, it (the center) would be at her disposal whenever she needed to use it.