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Geneva: Action on Eritrea, South Sudan and Somalia at Human Rights Council

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project welcomes resolutions adopted on the human rights situation in Eritrea, South Sudan and Somalia, as well as on the role of freedom of opinion and expression in women’s empowerment and on attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism, at the recently concluded 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council. EHAHRDP was disappointed, however, that Burundi rejected many positive recommendations from its Universal Periodic Review.

On 5th June, the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea presented her first report to the Human Rights Council in which she gave an overview of the most serious human rights concerns in the country. During the presentation the mandate-holder, Ms Sheila Keetharuth, reiterated her desire for open and frank discussion with the government, which has to date denied her access to the country. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate was extended by a consensus resolution adopted on Friday, which also invites Ms Keetharuth to present her current report to the UN General Assembly in October. EHAHRDP calls on Eritrea to engage positively with the mandate-holder and to end ongoing serious human rights violations in the country, including the incommunicado arbitrary detention of thousands of individuals.

EHAHRDP also welcomes the resolution adopted on assistance to South Sudan in the field of human rights that inter alia calls on the Government “to investigate the alleged human rights violations by security forces against the civilians and to bring the perpetrators to justice.” While EHAHRDP welcomes South Sudan’s commitment to implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, we are disappointed that the resolution did not specifically call for action to address attacks and harassment of civil society, human rights defenders and journalists. The High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed serious concerns about the human rights situation in South Sudan in her report.

Following a decision initiated by Somalia and the United Kingdom in follow-up to the 7th May Somalia Conference, a stand-alone high-level interactive dialogue on the implementation of Somalia’s forthcoming human rights road map and the realization of human rights in Somalia will take place at the 24th session of the Council in September 2013. EHAHRDP welcomes this initiative and would encourage the organizers to include a representative of civil society in the panel.

At the adoption of Burundi’s UPR working group report, EHAHRDP was disappointed that Burundi rejected all recommendations on minority rights, public freedoms and extrajudicial executions. Burundi’s new press law, promulgated on 4th June, violates a number of constitutional provisions and journalists’ code of ethics. Restrictive new laws on public demonstrations and non-profit organisations are also being considered in the country. EHAHRDP calls on the Government of Burundi to end harassment of human rights defenders and create an enabling environment for them to carry out their work.

A ground-breaking resolution condemning attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism was put forward by the African Group (on the initiative of the delegation of Somalia) and adopted by consensus on 13th June. A report on the issue will be presented at the 24th session of the Council and civil society organisations are invited to share information to assist in the preparation of this report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at [email protected] by 12th July. The issue is especially relevant in a number of countries in our region where persons with albinism are subjected to discrimination and social stigma, as well as physical attacks and murders for the sale of body parts to be used in witchcraft activities.

EHAHRDP commends Council members for recognizing the role of human rights defenders in many of the thematic and country resolutions passed at this session, including in the resolution on Eritrea, as well as specific mentions of women human rights defenders in three resolutions, including on the role of freedom of opinion and expression in women’s empowerment.

Finally, EHAHRDP welcomes the reports of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression that were discussed earlier in this session. In particular, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association reaffirmed that the ability of association to access financial resources is a vital part of the right to freedom of association, echoing the Council’s resolution of 21st March 2013 that called on states “to ensure that they do not discriminatorily impose restrictions on potential sources of funding aimed at supporting the work of human rights defenders […] and that no law should criminalize or delegitimize activities in defence of human rights on account of the origin of funding thereto.” The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression noted another area in which the work of human rights defenders may be unduly restricted that is the surveillance of communications which “may have a chilling effect without careful and public documentation of its use, and known checks and balances to prevent its misuse.”

All resolutions, decisions and presidential statements from the session will be available at:


EHAHRDP statements at the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council

Testimony of Abie Seyoum, daughter of detained journalist in Eritrea (English and French), presented to the Council on 5th June 2013:

Oral intervention on the UPR of Burundi outcomes, presented by Solange Habonimana on behalf of the civil society UPR coalition, 6th June 2013 (French):

Oral intervention on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, read by Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera on 10th June 2013:

Oral intervention on situation of HRDs in South Sudan, 12th June 2013:

Statement on Attacks and Discrimination against Persons with Albinism by Peter Ash, CEO/Founder of Under The Same Sun, 7th June 2013:


For more information, please contact:

Mr Hassan Shire, Executive Director on +256 772 753 753, [email protected] or [email protected];

Ms Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer on +41 766 261 204 or [email protected]


Human Rights Defender of the month: Apollo Mukasa

Apollo Mukasa’s journey into activism is deeply rooted in his commitment to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). As the Executive Director of Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), Apollo is a driving force behind initiatives aimed at combating discrimination among PWDs. UNAPD was established in 1998 as a platform for voicing concerns of persons with physical disabilities to realise a barrier free environment where they can enjoy their rights to the fullest.