ACHPR54: Overview of the human rights situation in the East and Horn of Africa (April – September 2013)

Report submitted to the 54th ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)

Banjul, The Gambia, October 2013

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network welcomes the opportunity offered by the 54th  Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to highlight some of the current human rights issues in the East and Horn of Africa region for the period of April to September 2013. This report was prepared with the assistance of reports and information received by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (the secretariat of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network) from our members and partners from the sub-region.

The past six months has been marked in most countries in the sub-region by renewed government clampdowns on fundamental human rights, and the targeting through various means of human rights defenders working on the front lines of human rights protection. In many countries regressive legislation was passed, curtailing citizens’ rights to free expression and peaceful assembly. Increasingly, administrative and bureaucratic obstacles were used by governments to disrupt the work of human rights defenders and journalists.

In all countries in the sub-region, EHAHRDP has reported on the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists, and increasing attempts by state and non-state actors to undermine and disrupt the activities of civil society. These attacks take many forms: from the widespread murder of journalists in Somalia, to the government-led takeover of a human rights NGO in Rwanda. Consistently throughout, human rights defenders continue to place themselves on the front line of human rights protection in the region, often at intolerable risks to their own safety.

Recommendations

In light of the updates and observations contained in this report, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project offers the following recommendations for actions by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

  • Call on member States to ensure the protection of HRDs, notably by observing the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights treaties to which most of these countries are signatory;
  • Call for an end to all practices, notably legal restrictions, which threaten the fundamental rights contained in the Charter, in particular the freedom of expression, the freedoms of assembly and association,  and the work of human rights defenders;
  • Carry out a Commission of Inquiry into violations of the Charter and international humanitarian law in the regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan;
  • Reaffirm its support for the International Criminal Court, and again urge AU member states to “ensure that the perpetrators of crimes under international human rights law and international humanitarian law should not benefit from impunity” (resolution 87, 5th December 2005);
  • Take all necessary measures to follow up on decisions taken by the Commission on communications that remain unimplemented, so that victims’ may receive a remedy for the violations of their rights as contained in the Charter, especially requests for provisional measures;
  • Recognise that the rights contained in the African Charter apply to all people without discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Promote international criminal investigations into serious human rights violations committed in the region, where domestic remedies have failed;
  • Encourage all members of the African Union to ratify and implement the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance;
  • Encourage full engagement with the ACHPR by States in the sub-region, especially those in transition periods, such as Somalia and South Sudan, including by urging states to invite visits from the Commission and to submit periodic reports;
  • Call on member States to deposit the declaration under article 34 (6) of the protocol of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to allow individuals and NGOs to directly submit their cases to the court.

To read the full report, please click here: EHAHRDP Report to the ACHPR 54th session April- September 2013

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