Human Rights Council: 32nd Session
Item 4: General Debate
Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
23 June 2016
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Delivered by Ms Clementine de Montjoye
Thank you Mr President.
Everyday, human rights defenders in the East and Horn of Africa are forced to flee their countries to seek protection from neighbouring states, due to the repeated and worsening judicial, administrative and physical forms of harassment and attacks they are subjected to.
Mr President, I bring to your attention once again the continuing deterioration of the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi. A deafening silence has fallen over the Great Lakes country, from which the vast majority of civil society has fled, and the rest live in hiding. Over a hundred journalists and activists who were part of Burundi’s once thriving civil society now live as refugees due to the overwhelming and very real fear that they or their families will be disappeared or killed.
Mr President, the Council should hold its members to the highest standards in their promotion and protection of human rights, and Burundi, as a member state, should enable and protect the work of human rights defenders, including their cooperation with UN special procedures and experts mandated, without fear of reprisals.
In Ethiopia, the continued use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to prosecute peaceful protesters, journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, and opposition members is indicative of the Ethiopian Government’s growing intolerance of dissent.
Most recently, on 10 May 2016, blogger Zelalem Workagenehu was sentenced to over five years in prison under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, convicted under charges of conspiring to overthrow the government and supporting terrorism. The activities on which these charges were based included organising a digital security training course.
Protests in the Oromia region, which began in earnest in November 2015, have been violently repressed reportedly resulting in hundreds of killings and thousands of arbitrary arrests. Mr. President, we urge the Human Rights Council to take action to support an international independent investigation into the use of violence and repressive legislation to prevent the legitimate activities of human rights defenders in Ethiopia.
I thank you.