Reports

Uganda: Data on internet blocks and nationwide internet outage amid 2021 general election

Amid its 2021 general election, Uganda was disconnected from the internet entirely. The country experienced a widespread internet blackout that lasted 4 days, starting on the eve of the election (13 January 2021) and ending in the morning of 18 January 2021. In the days leading up to the election, access to major social media platforms and circumvention tools was blocked – even when the OTT (Over the Top) tax (commonly referred to as the “Social Media Tax”) was paid. In this report, we share OONI network measurement data on the blocking of social

Security and safety during elections

Elections are a challenging period in many African countries. In the past ten years, many African nations have experienced pre- and post-election violence which resulted in the loss of lives, properties, and stability. Human rights defenders (HRDs) involved in electoral processes as observers, civic educators, and monitors have in the past been targeted. They are at high risk for potential physical assaults and attacks, office break-ins, arrests and detentions, and targeted cyber-attacks. To ensure their safety, security, and wellbeing, DefendDefenders continuously engages with HRDs to

OPEN THE DOORS! Towards Complete Freedom of Movement for Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Uganda

In a new report launched today, Open the Doors! Towards Complete Freedom of Movement for Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Uganda, DefendDefenders examines freedom of movement of exiled human rights defenders (HRDs) in Uganda. Due to Uganda’s ‘open-door policy’, Kampala acts as a hub city for exiled HRDs seeking respite and safety. “The publication of this report coincides with DefendDefenders 15-year anniversary, marking a decade and a half of support to HRDs in some of the most difficult points of their lives. It is

Annual Report 2019

Read our Annual Report 2019 In 2019, DefendDefenders and its partners continued to monitor and document human rights violations across the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, with a focus on the contexts affecting the work of HRDs. A shrinking civic space and press freedom violations were of particular concern, across the sub-region. The year was shaped by Sudan’s revolution ousting Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopia’s new leadership under Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his conflict resolution with Eritrea. Our 2019 performance

Making a Difference for Women and Girls? East and Horn of Africa countries and women’s and girls’ rights at the UN Human Rights Council

In a new report, DefendDefenders examines to what extent, and how, the 11 States of the East and Horn of Africa contribute to the advancement of the rights of women and girls at the United Nations (UN). “Making a Difference for Women and Girls?” aims to make knowledge about States’ behaviour at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) available to civil society partners, observers and the general public, contribute to citizen engagement with governments of the sub-region, enhance scrutiny, and further efforts towards the realisation

South Sudan: Ongoing Grave Violations, Volatile Security Situation

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Despite a tenuous ceasefire, the signing of a revitalised peace agreement, and modest steps taken with regard to transitional security arrangements, including the 22 February 2020 announcement of the formation of a unity government, South Sudan remains embroiled in one of the most complex security situations in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region. Based on primary evidence gathered during an in-country mission conducted by DefendDefenders in early February 2020 and available secondary sources, four key areas of concern are outlined: (1) An

On the Legal Frontline: Lawyers and Paralegals as Human Rights Defenders in the East and Horn of Africa

Introduction Legal activists in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region navigate a complex legal terrain and are routinely subjected to intimidation and violence due to their human rights work. This policy brief is based on lessons learned from a vanguard of lawyers, paralegals, and activists who are “working towards the application of the law with a human rights approach” in the sub-region.[1] They are acutely aware that the law has often been used as a political instrument and a “shield for violations”[2] but they

Navigating Justice: Lawyers as Human Rights Defenders in Ethiopia and Somalia/Somaliland

In a new report launched today, Navigating Justice: Lawyers as Human Rights Defenders in Ethiopia and Somalia/Somaliland, DefendDefenders examines the work of lawyers to identify their best practices, vulnerabilities, and needs in these rapidly changing environments. This report outlines several avenues governments, donors, and non-governmental organisations can take to help effectively promote the work of lawyers, such as capacity-building activities, and areas of immediate focus like psychosocial support. “There can be no lasting peace without justice, and no fulfilment of basic human rights without peace,”

Annual Report 2018

Read our Annual Report 2018.  In 2018, DefendDefenders and its partners continued to monitor and document human rights violations across the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, with a focus on the contexts affecting the work of HRDs. The year was filled with human rights contrasts in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, and worldwide, as vastly constructive and destructive human rights actions took place in parallel. The sub-region witnessed a rising trend of shrinking civic space, affecting the respect for human rights and rule of

No Advice without Knowledge: Scrutiny elements in the UN Human Rights Council’s item 10 resolutions

In a report published today, DefendDefenders analyses the content and evolution of resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (hereafter “Council”) in the framework of its agenda item 10, which is dedicated to technical assistance and capacity-building. No Advice without Knowledge focuses on the presence of scrutiny (understood as monitoring and public reporting) elements in the Council’s item 10 resolutions. As Hassan Shire, DefendDefenders’ Executive Director, highlights in his Foreword, the Council’s agenda item numbers reflect different possible approaches to human rights violations, from exposure

Turning the Page: Rebuilding Civil Society in Ethiopia

In a new report launched today, Turning the Page: Rebuilding Civil Society in Ethiopia, DefendDefenders examines the challenges faced by Ethiopian human rights defenders (HRDs) amid the ongoing reform process and makes concrete recommendations for rebuilding a robust and inclusive civil society ahead of elections planned for 2020. Despite some positive developments, serious gaps remain, and rights-based organisations in the country currently lack the capacity to keep pace with these developments. This report outlines several avenues donors and international organisations can use to help effectively

Uganda’s Social Media Tax through the lens of network measurements

Today, in collaboration with OONI (Open Observatory of Network Interference), DefendDefenders co-published a new research report: “Uganda’s Social Media Tax through the lens of network measurements”. Our research report is available here. As of 1st July 2018, Uganda has introduced a new OTT (Over The Top) tax –  commonly referred to as the Social Media Tax – which requires people in Uganda to pay taxes to the government in order to access several online social media platforms. Unless this tax is paid, access to these specific social media platforms is blocked.

Annual Report 2017

Download report Dear friends, colleagues, and fellow human rights defenders, Throughout 2017, the human rights situation in the East and Horn of Africa remained extremely precarious, with five (5) of the eleven (11) countries under our mandate currently subject to UN Special Procedures. Continued internal conflict threatens to destroy countries like South Sudan and Burundi, while more stable nations like Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia continue to feel civilian pressure for more representative democracy. The push and pull of progress remains twofold: whereas nations like Somalia

Uganda: Data on internet blocks and nationwide internet outage amid 2021 general election

Amid its 2021 general election, Uganda was disconnected from the internet entirely. The country experienced a widespread internet blackout that lasted 4 days, starting on the eve of the election (13 January 2021) and ending in the morning of 18 January 2021. In the days leading up to the election, access to major social media platforms and circumvention tools was blocked – even when the OTT (Over the Top) tax (commonly referred to as the “Social Media Tax”) was paid. In this report, we share OONI network measurement data on the blocking of social

Security and safety during elections

Elections are a challenging period in many African countries. In the past ten years, many African nations have experienced pre- and post-election violence which resulted in the loss of lives, properties, and stability. Human rights defenders (HRDs) involved in electoral processes as observers, civic educators, and monitors have in the past been targeted. They are at high risk for potential physical assaults and attacks, office break-ins, arrests and detentions, and targeted cyber-attacks. To ensure their safety, security, and wellbeing, DefendDefenders continuously engages with HRDs to

OPEN THE DOORS! Towards Complete Freedom of Movement for Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Uganda

In a new report launched today, Open the Doors! Towards Complete Freedom of Movement for Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Uganda, DefendDefenders examines freedom of movement of exiled human rights defenders (HRDs) in Uganda. Due to Uganda’s ‘open-door policy’, Kampala acts as a hub city for exiled HRDs seeking respite and safety. “The publication of this report coincides with DefendDefenders 15-year anniversary, marking a decade and a half of support to HRDs in some of the most difficult points of their lives. It is

Annual Report 2019

Read our Annual Report 2019 In 2019, DefendDefenders and its partners continued to monitor and document human rights violations across the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, with a focus on the contexts affecting the work of HRDs. A shrinking civic space and press freedom violations were of particular concern, across the sub-region. The year was shaped by Sudan’s revolution ousting Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopia’s new leadership under Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his conflict resolution with Eritrea. Our 2019 performance

Making a Difference for Women and Girls? East and Horn of Africa countries and women’s and girls’ rights at the UN Human Rights Council

In a new report, DefendDefenders examines to what extent, and how, the 11 States of the East and Horn of Africa contribute to the advancement of the rights of women and girls at the United Nations (UN). “Making a Difference for Women and Girls?” aims to make knowledge about States’ behaviour at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) available to civil society partners, observers and the general public, contribute to citizen engagement with governments of the sub-region, enhance scrutiny, and further efforts towards the realisation

South Sudan: Ongoing Grave Violations, Volatile Security Situation

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Despite a tenuous ceasefire, the signing of a revitalised peace agreement, and modest steps taken with regard to transitional security arrangements, including the 22 February 2020 announcement of the formation of a unity government, South Sudan remains embroiled in one of the most complex security situations in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region. Based on primary evidence gathered during an in-country mission conducted by DefendDefenders in early February 2020 and available secondary sources, four key areas of concern are outlined: (1) An

On the Legal Frontline: Lawyers and Paralegals as Human Rights Defenders in the East and Horn of Africa

Introduction Legal activists in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region navigate a complex legal terrain and are routinely subjected to intimidation and violence due to their human rights work. This policy brief is based on lessons learned from a vanguard of lawyers, paralegals, and activists who are “working towards the application of the law with a human rights approach” in the sub-region.[1] They are acutely aware that the law has often been used as a political instrument and a “shield for violations”[2] but they

Navigating Justice: Lawyers as Human Rights Defenders in Ethiopia and Somalia/Somaliland

In a new report launched today, Navigating Justice: Lawyers as Human Rights Defenders in Ethiopia and Somalia/Somaliland, DefendDefenders examines the work of lawyers to identify their best practices, vulnerabilities, and needs in these rapidly changing environments. This report outlines several avenues governments, donors, and non-governmental organisations can take to help effectively promote the work of lawyers, such as capacity-building activities, and areas of immediate focus like psychosocial support. “There can be no lasting peace without justice, and no fulfilment of basic human rights without peace,”

Annual Report 2018

Read our Annual Report 2018.  In 2018, DefendDefenders and its partners continued to monitor and document human rights violations across the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, with a focus on the contexts affecting the work of HRDs. The year was filled with human rights contrasts in the East and Horn of Africa sub-region, and worldwide, as vastly constructive and destructive human rights actions took place in parallel. The sub-region witnessed a rising trend of shrinking civic space, affecting the respect for human rights and rule of

No Advice without Knowledge: Scrutiny elements in the UN Human Rights Council’s item 10 resolutions

In a report published today, DefendDefenders analyses the content and evolution of resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (hereafter “Council”) in the framework of its agenda item 10, which is dedicated to technical assistance and capacity-building. No Advice without Knowledge focuses on the presence of scrutiny (understood as monitoring and public reporting) elements in the Council’s item 10 resolutions. As Hassan Shire, DefendDefenders’ Executive Director, highlights in his Foreword, the Council’s agenda item numbers reflect different possible approaches to human rights violations, from exposure

Turning the Page: Rebuilding Civil Society in Ethiopia

In a new report launched today, Turning the Page: Rebuilding Civil Society in Ethiopia, DefendDefenders examines the challenges faced by Ethiopian human rights defenders (HRDs) amid the ongoing reform process and makes concrete recommendations for rebuilding a robust and inclusive civil society ahead of elections planned for 2020. Despite some positive developments, serious gaps remain, and rights-based organisations in the country currently lack the capacity to keep pace with these developments. This report outlines several avenues donors and international organisations can use to help effectively

Uganda’s Social Media Tax through the lens of network measurements

Today, in collaboration with OONI (Open Observatory of Network Interference), DefendDefenders co-published a new research report: “Uganda’s Social Media Tax through the lens of network measurements”. Our research report is available here. As of 1st July 2018, Uganda has introduced a new OTT (Over The Top) tax –  commonly referred to as the Social Media Tax – which requires people in Uganda to pay taxes to the government in order to access several online social media platforms. Unless this tax is paid, access to these specific social media platforms is blocked.

Annual Report 2017

Download report Dear friends, colleagues, and fellow human rights defenders, Throughout 2017, the human rights situation in the East and Horn of Africa remained extremely precarious, with five (5) of the eleven (11) countries under our mandate currently subject to UN Special Procedures. Continued internal conflict threatens to destroy countries like South Sudan and Burundi, while more stable nations like Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia continue to feel civilian pressure for more representative democracy. The push and pull of progress remains twofold: whereas nations like Somalia