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Updates from May 2022

Dear friends,

Welcome to yet another edition of our newsletter.

Internationally, May is recognised as Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health is a major concern for us because human rights defenders (HRDs), by the very nature of their work often find that they must navigate very precarious environments and challenges to not only sustain their work, but also to stay safe. Many times, this takes a toll on their mental health and wellbeing.

So, to commemorate this month, we initiated a campaign to draw public awareness to mental health challenges faced by HRDs, particularly HRDs with disabilities. As I launched the campaign  I highlighted that HRDs with disabilities are doubly at risk of mental health challenges because of additional  institutional, attitudinal and environmental barriers they must confront as they go about their day-to-day lives. As such, we have incorporated mental health and wellbeing as key aspects of our HRDs’ support packages and commit to offer unreserved support to HRDs confronting these challenges.

Early in the Month, I utilised the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to reiterate the importance of a free press, and to highlight the important role journalists play in holding power to account and in exposing human rights violations. I noted that their monumental work qualifies them as frontline human rights defenders who deserve our support and protection. 

On the advocacy front, we will be participating in the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC50), which is taking place from 13 June – 8 July. In particular, we will push for resolutions on Sudan and Eritrea , for more specific measurable yardsticks for monitoring progress on the human rights situation in both countries. We will also push for the renewal of the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on minorities, as we seek to ensure the safety of HRDs working on minority issues within our focus countries.

Thank you for staying interested in our work. I hope you find our ensuing updates informative and enriching.

Hassan Shire,

Executive Director, DefendDefenders and Chairperson, AfricanDefenders.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Esther Tawiah

In Ghana, Esther Tawiah is one of the loudest voices for women empowerment and gender. It is also why she is one of the most loathed.Born and raised in New-Tafo in the country’s eastern region, Esther grew up surrounded by a culture that frowned at the idea of women participating in public affairs, and witnessed firsthand, the backlash those who dared to challenge that cultural norm faced.

Opportunities and Recommended Readings:

An Unfinished Revolution: The situation of Human Rights Defenders in Sudan( Arabic Version)

Call for applications: Special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Updates from DefendDefenders

  • From 1 – 31 May, DefendDefenders received a total of 47 requests for emergency support, out of which 25 were approved, five referred, 10 rejected, while seven are still pending verification.
  • From 27 to 29 May 2022, DefendDefenders took part in the regional workshop on the validation of the Standard Operating Procedures of the Alert and Reporting Mechanism to the ACHPRon Situations of Torture and Related Acts.
  • DefendDefenders conducted three digital security trainings in May, benefitting 26 HRDs (11 male, 15 female).
  • We also conducted one follow up digital security training, benefiting 51 HRDs (31 male, 20 female) and an organisational audit of Feminature Uganda in Arua, from 11-12 May.
  • Ahead of the 50th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC50, 13 June-8 July 2022), DefendDefenders and AfricanDefenders joined 42 other organisations to urge the Council to adopt a resolution that extends the mandate of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and to enshrine clear benchmarks for measuring progress on the country’s human rights situation.
  • Together with AfricanDefenders and 52 other organisations, we called for the council’s similar attention on the human rights situation in Sudan, and called for a resolution to enable the Council to continually debate the fragile human rights situation in the country as the military authorities continue to consolidate their power in Khartoum.
  • AfricanDefenders joined Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and other civil society organisations to launch the NotACrime campaign, which draws attention to the ways in which the Algerian Authorities have increasingly attempted to stifle dissenting voices and independent Civil Society. The campaign called on the Algerian Authorities to end their repression on human rights and unconditionally release those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.

Country Updates:


Human Rights Defender of the month: Apollo Mukasa

Apollo Mukasa’s journey into activism is deeply rooted in his commitment to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). As the Executive Director of Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), Apollo is a driving force behind initiatives aimed at combating discrimination among PWDs. UNAPD was established in 1998 as a platform for voicing concerns of persons with physical disabilities to realise a barrier free environment where they can enjoy their rights to the fullest.