UN HRC: Statement During Interactive Dialogue With the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, Peaceful Assembly and Association

Human Rights Council: 26th Session

Item 3

Oral Intervention

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)

Delivered by Mr. John Foley


Thank you Mr. President,

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression, and his focus on the stress placed on these rights in electoral contexts.

Mr. President, we remain extremely concerned by ongoing legislative and de facto restrictions on freedom of expression in the east and horn of Africa region, especially in the context of many forthcoming ‘heads of state’ elections in the region. In Ethiopia, nine journalists and bloggers have been detained since April 2014 for exercising their right to freedom of expression. As the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted on 2nd May, in Ethiopia ‘the fight against terrorism cannot serve as an excuse to intimidate and silence journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and members of civil society organisations’.

In addition to the ongoing intimidation, harassment and arrest of independent journalists in Rwanda, and the numerous extra judicial killings of journalists in Somalia, we are also deeply concerned by the ongoing detention in Burundi of intentionally renowned human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa. He has been detained since 16th May 2014, and is subject to baseless criminal charges of endangering internal and external national security and forgery simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression. His detention should be a source of profound concern to the Human Rights Council.

Mr President, we echo the Special Rapporteur’s call for states to take measures to eliminate the structural, legal, and practical barriers to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression.

We also welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and his particular focus on groups and individuals who are targeted because of their identity, or because of their active lobbying for the rights of those most at risk of discrimination and retribution.

Mr President, in our sub-region, we remain deeply concerned by the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 in Uganda, that purports to criminalize LGBTI associations and other human rights defender organisations. More broadly, we remain concerned by the willful misapplication across the region of criminal law, national security laws, or anti-terrorism laws to curb the rights to freedom of association and assembly.

Finally Mr. President, the the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project echoes Mr. Kiai’s words, in calling upon States to take positive measures to ensure that all individuals belonging to groups most at risk have the ability to exercise effectively their rights, including to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

I thank you.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.