Webinar series: Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights defenders

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a serious global health crisis that has already caused several hundred thousand of deaths worldwide and continues to be a threat to our health and livelihoods. Measures to contain the spread of the virus are vital, but they also bear potential for new risks. In response to this, governments and industry bodies are introducing extraordinary measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

Respect for human rights across the spectrum is central to the public health response’s success. States continue to be duty bearers and to hold obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights. Any restrictions to rights must be temporary, lawful, non-discriminatory, strictly necessary, and proportionate to the threat. They must not outlast the pandemic. Are state security and public safety measures guaranteeing respect for rule of law and upholding human rights?

DefendDefenders and AfricanDefenders will host a series of webinars to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on human rights defenders. We will explore challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic specific to the protection of human rights, freedom of expression, access to information, lawyers and the justice system, human rights defenders in situation of conflict, and women human rights defenders, as well as coping mechanisms.

Webinar 4: Sustainable Human Rights Activism

Webinar 3: Views from Human Rights Experts

Webinar 2: Challenges faced by HRDs (FR)

Webinar 1: Challenges faced by HRDs (EN)

The first webinar was held on Wednesday, 27 May 2020, from 4pm–6pm East Africa Standard Time.


Arnold Tsunga

Fatou Jagne Senghor

Enguday Ashine

AfricanDefenders Steering Committee Member and Chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

Steering Committee Member of AfricanDefenders and Executive Director of Article 19 West Africa

Ethiopian Woman Human Rights Defenders Coalition Steering Committee Member

Simon Ndaula

Riad Alakar​

Moderator: Hassan Shire​

Freelance Psychologist and Counsellor

Human Rights Lawyer

Chairperson of African Defenders and Executive Director of DefendDefenders

For any further questions, please contact [email protected].


Human Rights Defender of the Month: Anny Kapenga

As a young student, Anny Kapenga used to cringe at the cult-like worship of Mobutu Sese Seko, the then Zaire’s President. By then, in the early 1990s, Zaire was still under one party rule, and calls were increasing for Mobutu to open political space to allow other parties to operate. In the meantime, however, all Zairians were expected to show affection for Mobutu wherever they gathered in public.

Students across Zaire’s schools were required to sing and dance adoringly before his (Mobutu)’s portrait every morning before they went to class, and all school scholastic materials were emblemed with his portrait. A young Anny never really appreciated the obsession:


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