UN HRC: Statement during Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Human Rights Council: 28th Session
Item 3: Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

9th March 2015

Oral Intervention
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)
Delivered by Ms. Estella Kabachwezi

Thank you Mr. President,

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project warmly welcomes the first official report of Mr. Forst to the Human Rights Council. Mr. Forst, we are grateful for the detailed roadmap set out in your report, and for the specific plans to interpret your mandate widely and pragmatically.

Mr. Forst, we would first like to thank you for the immediate attention you have devoted under your mandate to Burundi, conducting your first official visit to this small and frequently overlooked nation in November 2014, and for working closely with civil society. As we have recently documented, the risks and threats facing human rights defenders in Burundi is extraordinarily serious, and we await your report keenly.

Mr. Forst, as you note in your report, any person who cooperates with the United Nations or international organizations, or who reports abuse or human rights violations, may be considered a defender.

Last week, the director of this organisation spoke to the High Level Segment about the Human Rights Council’s legal and moral responsibilities to address cases of reprisals against human rights defenders. He spoke of one ongoing case in which a human rights defender who is a key part of our network was intimidated and threatened by the security services of a state represented in this room. These threats were so extreme, that he is now unable to be here this morning to brief you. We make this statement in solidarity with Edmund Yakani of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation in South Sudan, and all other human rights defenders who cannot be here in Geneva today.

Mr. Forst, your report mentions the many reports you have heard of reprisals against those who have spoken to the United Nations, made statements, sent documents or messages, or cooperated with it. You mention the sophisticated forms that these reprisals can take, and the awareness by states of the power of reprisals to muzzle human rights defenders or prevent them from speaking out. We echo your recommendation to the United Nations that it should provide human rights defenders who are subjected to threats with systematic support and protection.

I thank you.

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