HRC39: General debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner

UN Human Rights Council – 39th regular session
Item 2: General debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner

Oral statement delivered by Hassan Shire.

Mr. President, Madam High Commissioner,

DefendDefenders associates itself with the statement delivered by Human Rights Watch, and endorsed by over 750 organisations. We congratulate you on your appointment as High Com­mis­sioner and reiterate that the current climate highlights the need for a strong public advocacy role for your mandate in the defence of human rights and the international human rights system, as well as a strong role internally within the UN to mainstream respect for human rights.

We will address Burundi, Djibouti, South Sudan, Sudan, and Soma­lia under dedicated items. We are particularly worried about the negative steps Tanzania and Uganda have taken in recent months.

In Tanzania, while we welcome the granting of a license to Jamii Forums, we call on the govern­ment to cease any form of intimidation, harassment and attacks against human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, and opposition members and their suppor­ters, and amend laws and regu­la­tions to bring them into line with international human rights standards. We make particular refe­ren­ce to the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (2010) and Online Content Regulations (2018), the Statistics Act (2015), the Cybercrimes Act (2015), the Me­dia Servi­ces Act (2016), and the Access to Information Act (2016).

In Uganda, we witnessed a dramatic crackdown on civic space as protests rocked the nation following the August 2018 Arua by-elections characterised by violence. Security forces responded to demonstrations with excessive force, killing three. Several journalists covering the events, and detainees have made allegations of torture.

Thank you for your attention.



Human Rights Defender of the month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed. Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

“I grew up in a society where ageism and sexism were so entrenched. As a young person, you weren’t supposed to give your opinion on public issues, especially if you were a woman. Women who dared to speak up were caricatured and branded as frustrated, unmarriageable prostitutes, all designed to shut them up,” she says.