Dear friends and colleagues,
Last week, we commemorated the International Day of Victims
of Disappearance, in solidarity with the many African human rights defenders
(HRDs) that have disappeared, been tortured, and/or killed. It is an atrocious
crime which demands our immediate attention.
FOCODE have reported 140 disappearances of HRDs and political
opponents in Burundi over the past five years. In Sudan, during the recent
revolution, reports show that hundreds of peaceful
protestors have disappeared, allegedly at the hands
of security forces. In November 2017, the Tanzanian journalist Azory Gwanda
went missing, and no investigation and accountability has been ensured. Last
week, Kenyan land rights activist Esther Mwikali was found dead two days
after she disappeared. These grave human rights violations illustrate that
enforced disappearance is a widespread tool used to silence HRDs and spread
terror. DefendDefenders will continue to call for justice for HRD victims of
The number of journalists that have been arbitrarily arrested recently is
another reason for concern. Last week, Joseph Gandye, the prominent Watetezi
TV journalist, was taken from his home in Dar es Salaam and placed in police
custody. On 29 July, Tanzanian journalist Eric Kabandera was arrested by the
police. The arrests are a clear sign of Tanzania’s sustained
attack on press freedom and free speech.
Sudanese women HRDs have been on the frontline in the
Sudanese revolution, and their remarkable human rights work will not go
unnoticed. In relation to this, we were pleased to recognise, through
AfricanDefenders, the work of the Sudan
Women Protest and present them the African Shield Award. We are closely following
developments in Sudan, and will continue to push for justice at the 42nd session
of the Human Rights Council (HRC42) –
especially in light of the Council’s failure during HRC41 to address
the human rights violations, including the 3 June 2019 massacre in Khartoum.
Executive Director, DefendDefenders
Human Rights Defender of the Month (August 2019): Alaa Satir
As an inspiring activist, illustrator, and graphic designer, Alaa Satir uses her art as a tool to promote women’s rights and justice in Sudan. “The challenges that we,women, have faced in Sudanese society have been enormous – we have been the main casualties of Omar al-Bashir’s regime,” Satir says. “Art makes people question things. It allows them to practice their freedom of speech. This way, art can create change.” Read more.
- Call for participation: With the fundraising
campaign #ClimbForJustice, the National Coalition
of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K) invites everyone to raise awareness
of the situation of HRDs through hiking. For more information, see here.
- Call for registration: The registration for the
panel discussion at the NGO Forum on 17-19 October 2019, in relation to the 65th
Ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
(African Commission) in Banjul, The Gambia, is now open. Sign up here. Deadline: 15
- Call for applications: International Service for
Human Rights (ISHR) call for applications for a fellowship at their office in
New York. For more information, contact Tess McEvoy at [email protected]
- DefendDefenders article, ‘For each disappeared, more activists stand up! Stop enforced disappearances against human rights defenders’, August 2019.
- Human Rights Watch report, ‘‘They Are Making Us into Slaves, Not Educating Us’: How Indefinite Conscription Restricts Young People’s Rights, Access to Education in Eritrea’, August 2019.
- Nairobi Wire,‘Q&A With Activist Okiya Omtatah’, September 2019.
Updates from DefendDefenders:
- DefendDefenders continues to prepare for HRC42, taking place on 9 – 27 September 2019. Ahead of the session, DefendDefenders joined international civil society organisations (CSOs) to call on States to support a resolution extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi for another year, until September 2020, and another letter urging the Council to address the serious human rights violations and abuses in Sudan and support systemic reforms in the country;
- DefendDefenders carried out research on Somalia, including Somaliland, to examine the state of lawyers working as HRDs, as a baseline for our next report. The report is expected to be published at DefendDefenders’ annual flagship event, Claiming Spaces, in December 2019;
- In relation to the International Day of Victims of Disappearance on 30 August, DefendDefenders and AfricanDefenders carried out the campaign #JusticeForActivists to raise awareness of enforced disappearances of HRDs, and call for investigation and accountability;
- DefendDefenders received ten protection grant requests: three were approved, one is pending, five were rejected, and one was withdrawn;
- DefendDefenders delivered a session on HRDs protection at a workshop organised by the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), that took place from 19 – 21 August in Kampala, Uganda. The workshop aimed to support Sudanese HRDs to develop advocacy strategies to address issues of accountability, fighting corruption and impunity, and institutional reform during the transitional period;
- On 20-21 August, DefendDefenders organised a planning meeting with partners in South Sudan, including the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN), Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), and Anataban. The two-day meeting was a part of the preparation for the Resourcing Resilience Through Artistic Expression Clinics and Exhibition that will be taking place between October and December 2019;
- In collaboration with SSHRDN and NP, DefendDefenders conducted a refresher training of trainers (TOT) for ten local trainers in South Sudan. Among other matters, the participants conducted individual training simulations in digital and physical security management;
- DefendDefenders carried out a follow-up mission to South Sudan to assess the implementation of knowledge and skills acquired by the women HRDs who attended our Bread for the World training earlier this year, from 20 to 23 August; and
- DefendDefenders participated in the Citizen Lab Summer Institute in Toronto, Canada.
Updates from AfricanDefenders:
- AfricanDefenders presented the North African and Pan-African Shield Awards to Hala Al Karib,
Regional Director of the Strategic Initiative from Women in the Horn of Africa
(SIHA Network), who received the award
on behalf of Sudan Women Protest; and
participated at a consultation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the establishment
of an HRD coalition in Ethiopia, to share lessons learnt from the creation and
functioning of other coalitions across Africa.
Updates from the East and Horn of Africa:
- CSOs called on the UN
HRC to extend the current mandate of the Burundi Commission of Inquiry until September 2020.
- Victims of an armed attack
on a refugee camp, which killed more than 150 Congolese civilians and wounded
another 106, and their families are still waiting for
justice and compensation 15 years later. Human rights organisations call for
- As Burundi prepares for their 2020
presidential election, observers are concerned that the violent events of the 2015
presidential election will reoccur.
- A video clip of a brutal police assault on a man in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, has gone viral and drawn widespread
condemnation and a call for authorities to deliver justice for the victim.
- Despite the peace deal
with Ethiopia in July 2018, which inspired hope for reform, President Isaias
Afwerki’s regime has not enacted meaningful changes in the system, a Human Rights Watch
- Recently, anti-government protests
have surged in Eritrea, speared by the youth human rights group #yiakl (enough).
The group has protested outside diplomatic missions, as well as UN offices,
calling for investigation and accountability of the human rights abuses in the
country. Additionally, the use of graffiti as a tool to call for justice has
emerged around the capital.
- The Kenyan activist Esther
Mwikali, who championed land rights in Muthini village, was found dead two days after she
disappeared. Human rights groups demand investigation and accountability
for the murder of the prominent
- Kenya has been given
the African Union’s (AU) endorsement for a UN Security Council (UNSC) seat after they
defeated Djibouti with 37 votes to 13 during a vote at AU headquarters in Addis
- Kenya’s police force is
being accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings of around two dozen young
men and boys in the low-income areas of Nairobi over the past year.
- Rwandan President Paul
Kagame and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni recently signed a memorandum of
understanding (MoU) aimed at enhancing cooperation between their countries
after months of tension.
- Human rights organisations
call for investigation
of the disappearance of Rwandan journalist Constantin Tuyishimire, who was
reported missing on 16 July 2019.
- Enforced disappearances
of anti-government actors continue in
Rwanda, without any investigation and accountability.
Somalia, including Somaliland:
- On 14 August, Al-Shabaab
attacked an army base in southern Somalia, killing seven and injuring 13
individuals. Gacal Abdulle Gacal, a 23-year-old radio journalist, was killed in
the attacks. Gacal is the third journalist to
be killed in the country this year.
- Four journalists from
Eryal TV were arrested in Somaliland. The four journalists were
conducting interviews at Hargeisa University where students were voicing their
concerns about government corruption.
- Members of the UN Commission on Human
Rights in South Sudan carried out their seventh field mission to South Sudan, Uganda,
Kenya, and Ethiopia from 19 to 29 August 2019.The UN expert group said that it is “deeply
concerned” that although the overall armed conflict has waned, there
has been little progress in adhering to the peace agreement.
- As a part of the
reshuffling of President Salva Kiir’s cabinet, Awut Deng Achuil will
serve as South Sudan’s first female foreign minister.
- Sudanese activists say
tribal clashes killed 37 in port city. On August 26, the Sudan
Doctors Committee reported that at least 17 people of the 37 were killed, and
more than 200 were wounded, including children.
- The new leaders in the
transitional government in Sudan, charged with setting clear
benchmarks for progress on justice and a range of reforms during the three-year
transition period, were sworn in on 21 August 2019.
- On 17 August, Sudan’s deposed
longtime president Omar al-Bashir appeared in court for the second hearing of
his corruption trial, during which his defence asked for his release on bail.
al-Bashir has been
detained since he was forced out of power in April 2019, when security forces
withdrew their support for his regime after months of popular protests.
- On 29 July, investigative reporter
Erick Kabendera was forcefully removed from his home and arrested. On 30
August, a Dar es Salaam magistrate declined a request to
take the journalist to a local hospital, despite being in need of medical
attention. Kabendera remains in custody after he was charged with taking part
in organised crime among other crimes. Many actors and human rights groups condemned the arrest of
Kabendera, and the overall deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
- On 22 August, Tanzanian journalist Joseph
Gandye was arrested. Gandye, who works for Watetezi TV, a station established by
the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), was accused of
publishing fake news about alleged police abuse. Human rights groups demand his
- On 17 August, 40 African civil society
campaigners attending the 15-nation conference in Tanzania were questioned and
warned, which is, according to human rights activists, part of the bigger
clampdown on human rights in the country.