In its bi-annual report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), DefendDefenders highlights the most pressing human rights issues in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region for the period October 2019-April 2020, focusing on issues pertaining to civic space.
Although the Commission’s 66th Ordinary Session (ACHPR66) has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation – a decision DefendDefenders supports in light of the current grave public health concerns – DefendDefenders hopes that the session will take place as soon as the situation allows and provides analysis of trends and developments in the sub-region.
Over the past six months, governments have continued to restrict legitimate expressions of civilian dissent, including peaceful demonstrations and gatherings, free expression of human rights defenders (HRDs), media professionals, and citizens, as well as targeted civil society organisations (CSOs) through various strategies of harassment and repression. Positive trends and developments have been noted in Ethiopia and Sudan.
The COVID-19 pandemic, a global public health threat, justifies temporary restrictions to certain rights, including to freedom of movement and freedom of peaceful assembly. However, all restrictions must be lawful in light of a specific, legitimate aim (protecting public health), non-discriminatory, necessary, and proportionate. DefendDefenders expresses concern over the fact that in several countries of the sub-region, authorities have committed violations while fighting the pandemic or used the latter as an excuse to violate rights.
During the reporting period, DefendDefenders monitored the situation in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia/Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. We conducted our first-ever official mission to Sudan and published original research on the situation of HRDs and civil society in Ethiopia and Somalia/Somaliland and South Sudan (a larger report is upcoming).
This submission was prepared with the assistance of reports and information sent to DefendDefenders, the secretariat of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net), by our members and partners throughout the sub-region.