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2010: End of Year Message

Dear Friends,

Let me start off by thanking you our partners, defenders and Network members, who have supported us in our work and efforts throughout 2010 without whom we would not have achieved this much.

This year marked the fifth year of operation since EHAHRDP was registered back in 2005. During this year, EHAHRDP has seen added growth – with the addition of two new members of staff as well the creation of national HRD coalitions in several countries. In the East and Horn of Africa, EHAHRDP’s network has further developed. Regular meetings are held with the strategic focal points of HRD’s in the countries in the sub-region.

EHAHRDP held its second Focal Persons Meeting in May 2010 during which it was resolved that national coalitions of HRD’s would strengthen and complement the various efforts implemented by EHAHRDP at a regional and international level.  I am very pleased to note that a number of country coalitions on human rights defenders have been established- most notably in Burundi, Sudan, South Central Somalia and Tanzania. EHAHRDP continues to provide both technical and material support to these coalitions and to strengthen and complement the work they do at a national level through various regional and international interventions, most notably at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva. This year, EHAHRDP has also carried out high-level engagement in Washington DC with the Executive branch of the US government and at a Congressional level and similar engagement in Brussels with the European Union.

The Capacity Building program has in 2010 focused on the relatively new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the Human Rights Council. In this regard, we held two training workshops for defenders from the countries in the Horn of Africa and for minority defenders with an emphasis on enhancing and encouraging dialogue at a national level between human rights organizations and other key stakeholders and as a channel through which to increase our members’ involvement with international mechanisms.

EHAHRDP’s Protection Program has continued to offer significant support to defenders at risk. Thanks to EHAHRDP’s emergency support, over 56 defenders have received the necessary support to ensure that interventions to mitigate the risks that they are facing have been put in place. These interventions are also aimed at ensuring that the HRDs are able to carry on with their essential work. Efforts to place human rights defenders under the protection programme on internship are ongoing. This ensures that they have workstations to carry on with their work, learn from the best practices of the host organisations and render their expertise to improve the work of the host organisations. This is a vital component of the Protection programme which will be built further upon in the coming year.

Given that most of the countries in the region held their elections in 2010, there were increasing incidents of attack on HRDs especially journalists were targeted as a result of their legitimate work. This saw the number of defenders seeking for protection increasing this year. EHAHRDP strongly believes that the occurrence of defenders leaving their countries for protection reasons must be as a last resort, after all other options available to guarantee the security of HRD”s have been exhausted. In this regard, EHAHRDP has been focusing on preventive mechanisms including working on providing HRD’s skills in security management to address emerging/potential threats they may encounter in their work. Continuing in partnership with Protection International, EHAHRDP this year increased the number of security management trainings through Protection Desk Uganda (PDU) and opened up a new office in Kenya,  the Protection Desk-Kenya (PDK). PDK has been set up to strengthen and complement efforts of the Kenya HRDs Coalition with which it works with closely. In 2010, in collaboration with Frontline Defenders, Protection International, EHAHRDP organised seven security management trainings for HRD’s from Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and minority defenders from Uganda in 2010.

This year, our advocacy program continued to develop its regional and international efforts with in-country advocacy missions to several countries and increased engagement with regional and international human rights bodies. EHAHRDP’s regional involvement has mainly been through its participation at the African NGO Forum and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) where it has observer status and attending on a regular basis sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. One of the key achievements for EHAHRDP at the 15th Session of the HRC was the stand-alone interactive dialogue on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights. EHAHRDP has been advocating for the holding of such an event since 2009 in the hope that key actors would have a dialogue to find concrete solutions and responses to the dire human rights situation in the country. Another achievement during this session was the extension of the mandates of the Independent Expert on Somalia and the Independent Expert on Sudan. Another milestone during this session was the adoption of the resolution on freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the adoption of a resolution to establish a three-year Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice. This working group represents a new and important tool for the UN in the endeavor to promote equal rights and speed up efforts to abolish laws that discriminate against women.

The African Human Rights Education in Uganda, a project under Amnesty International and headed by EHAHRDP in collaboration with Agency for Cooperation in Research and Development (ACORD) in Uganda has also achieved  a lot in its two years of existence. The project focuses on building the capacity of rural-based civil society organisations in Uganda. 9 micro-projects are supported under this project and over 1000 community members have been reached through the human rights education interventions in the four regions of Uganda mainly targeting women, children and other marginalised groups. The project has mobilised communities and civil society to engage in HRE activities in Uganda such as the day of the African Child, the 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence and a youth procession in Kampala during International Human Rights day calling for free and fair elections in the coming 2011 Uganda general elections.

One of our major activities this year has been working to strengthen the indigenous networks of human rights defenders on the African continent and we have seen some positive developments. All of Sub-Saharan Africa is covered as there are networks working with West Africa, Central Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa and the Horn of Africa. In 2009 at the Johannesburg +10 All Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference, a Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network was conceived with the objective of ensuring greater collaboration between the sub-regional HRD networks. The secretariat of the Pan African Network is hosted by EHAHRDP in Kampala, Uganda and is now in the process of recruiting staff members.

It is hoped that the collaboration EHAHRDP has built over the last year with you, our partners will continue to be reinforced in the coming year. Sadly, the situation of human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region continues to be precarious and the trend is deteriorating.  This has mainly been witnessed through the increasing legislative restrictions being imposed on defenders as well as significant restrictions on the freedom of the media. The fact that most of the countries in the region had their elections this year, the pre and post elections periods were marked with significant violations of human rights defenders. This saw most defenders especially journalists fleeing their countries as their lives were in danger. Impunity has also continued to prevail still remains a big challenge in the region as those responsible for human rights violations are left to go freely. The advent of investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in two countries in this region, Kenya and Sudan, have led to attacks against human rights defenders within these countries who often furnish the ICC with information and assistance in fact-finding and investigations into alleged commission of international crimes. The security situation of defenders in Kenya remains unstable and with the December 15th unveiling of the six suspected individuals alleged to have master-minded the Post Election Violence by the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, this insecurity is likely to remain if not worsen. EHAHRDP believes that the ICC’s   is an important step in fighting the culture of impunity and supports the processes of investigations and subsequent prosecutions through the Court.

In this coming year, EHAHRDP hopes to build on its enhanced interaction with its members and other defenders in the region. In particular, EHAHRDP is looking at enhancing its advocacy strategy by ensuring more involvement of its members at fora like the UN Human Rights Council and the ACHPR. 2011 will see most of the countries in the region being reviewed through the UPR: notably Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan and so EHAHRDP will continue to use the Universal Periodic Review mechanism as a means of enhancing dialogue at a national level between human rights organizations and other key stakeholders and as a channel through which to increase its members’ involvement with international mechanisms. EHAHRD-Net will hold its General Assembly Meeting that is held every five years, a forum giving network members an opportunity to evaluate EHAHRDP’s activities and to plan for the next five years.

I would like to end by thanking you all our dear partners, network members and all defenders for the endless efforts and dedication you have shown towards the struggle to ensure that the rights of every individual are respected. I am encouraged by the commitment and determination of defenders who continue to carry out their work despite the shrinking space and constant harassment and treats that they face. It is such courage that will keep the candle burning.

On behalf of the EHAHRDP team, as we close for the festive period from the 17th December 2010 to the 10th January 2011, I wish you the best for the coming year and we look forward to further cooperation.

Best Wishes,

Hassan Shire Sheikh