The Government of South Sudan must protect human rights defenders and strive to create an enabling environment for their work, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) said today on the closing day of a week-long workshop entitled Claiming Spaces: Tactical Tools for Human Rights Defenders. In a week that marked the 15th anniversary of the UN Declaration on HRDs and the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the workshop sought to promote the recognition and respect of the rights of human rights defenders in South Sudan and share new tactical tools to strengthen their work.
During the workshop – which included trainings on advocacy strategies and mechanisms, social media and IT skills, stress reduction, monitoring, documentation and reporting, risk assessment, and resource mobilization – participants were encouraged to strengthen their networks and work in synergy with a wide range of partners. This is the third edition of an annual training workshop organized by EHAHRDP across the region, with forums previously held in Tanzania and Uganda.
EHAHRDP is deeply concerned by the violations of the rights of human right defenders throughout South Sudan and the challenges that they face on a daily basis, including threats by SMS, routine arrests, mistreatment and detention by security services, as well as more general restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and of access to information.
Important support was shown to human rights defenders in South Sudan by members of the international community participating in the workshop’s opening ceremony on 9th December 2013. H.E. Susan Page, the Ambassador of the United States, and H.E Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, Head of the European Union delegation, both spoke about the importance of the work of human rights defenders. Officially opening the workshop, Mr Paul Tholen, acting ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, praised the courage of human rights defenders working in South Sudan.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Hon. Gabriel Gout Gout, and the Deputy Chairperson of South Sudan Human Rights Commission, Hon. Biel Jock Thich, took part in the closing ceremony of the workshop today. They both emphasised the importance of the work of human rights defenders in South Sudan and reiterated their commitment to supporting civil society.
On 9th December, EHAHRDP published a new report, entitled “Change will not come until we talk about reality: The Closing Space for Human Rights Defenders in South Sudan”, which documents a pattern of harassment, intimidation, threats, and serious physical attacks against South Sudanese human rights defenders. “The Government of South Sudan should ensure transparent and thorough investigations into all reported threats or attacks against human rights defenders and commit to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with international legal standards,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director of EHAHRDP while launching the report.
Steps must also be taken to ensure that the Voluntary and Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations Bill currently under discussion meets international human rights standards and can be used to create an enabling rather than restrictive environment for the work of human rights defenders in the country.
To read the report, “Change will not come until we talk about reality”: The Closing Space for Human Rights Defenders in South Sudan, please see:
For more information, please contact:
Mr Hassan Shire, Executive Director at [email protected] or +256 772 753 753
Ms Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer at [email protected] or +256 778 921 274