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Publication: The State of African Human Rights Defenders 2015

(Banjul, The Gambia)

A compilation of country studies examining the situation of human rights defenders in Africa has been released today by the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network. The State of African Human Rights Defenders 2015 explores challenges, restrictions, and protections on the fundamental freedoms necessary for human rights defenders to operate freely and challenge human rights abuses in their communities.

Launched on the sidelines of the 56th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the report serves as a call to African states to uphold and protect civil society space as envisioned in national constitutions and as represented in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The report covers country situations in Egypt, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Burundi, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.

Honourable Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa called the publication a “step to sensitise African States on repressive laws and restrictive spaces that impact the work of HRDs.” The Special Rapporteur continued, “As African Commission we will ensure constructive dialogue between human rights defenders and states and will reiterate our position to protect their operational space in Africa.

Launching the publication, Hassan Shire, Chairperson of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network said, “By tracking the de facto and de jure status of the key freedoms for human rights defenders we hope to play a role in holding African governments to the higher standard that they themselves have committed to through instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

Honourable Commissioner Maiga Soyata, Special Rapporteur on the situation of women in Africa said “States should provide multiform supports to HRDs in order to carry out their work with professionalism and without any fear of reprisals and repression.”

Receiving a copy of the report, the Nigerian state delegation to the African Commission said “violations committed against human rights defenders are so often the result of a lack of information and cooperation between state actors and non-state actors, thus there is a need for more interaction and engagement with the Government on important issues.”

Physical copies of the publication were distributed in Banjul, the Gambia and an online copy is available at

The Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network is the secretariat of a collaboration between five sub-regional organizations dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights defender across Africa. It is hosted in Kampala, Uganda, by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project.

It’s membership is additionally comprised of the Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humain en Afrique Centrale (Central African Human Rights Defenders Network), the Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains) (West African Human Rights Defenders Network), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (hosted by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights).

Download the report: State of African Human Rights Defenders 2015