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ACHPR 69: Protect defenders in Africa without discrimination

On 16 November, ISHR delivered a statement on the situation of human rights in Africa, with a particular focus on the criminalisation and arrest of women defenders in Sudan, of LGBTI defenders in Namibia and the progress made on legislative protection of defenders in Benin and Mali.

The statement delivered by ISHR shed light on the high number of women defenders being attacked by the army and intelligence services since the coup in Sudan on 25 October 2021 and the urgent need for the Commission to act for the protection of human rights in the country.

“ISHR urges all actors in Sudan to refrain from human rights violations and abuses and to ensure women’s full access to justice, including by providing the necessary support to victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and by ending impunity for military and law enforcement officials, including for sexual and gender-based violence,” said Adélaïde Etong Kame, ISHR Africa Programme Manager. 

Additionally, ahead of the periodic review of Namibia scheduled during this session by the African Commission, the statement highlighted the need for Namibia to stop criminalising same sex relations and to include LGBT persons in progressive policy initiatives.  

“Namibia’s Constitution provides equality for all but fails to identify sexual orientation nor gender identity as grounds for discrimination. LGBT persons are physically and verbally abused and excluded from even progressive policies, including universal healthcare,” said Etong Kame.

Finally, as more and more countries in Africa adopt legislation affecting the rights of defenders and their work, ISHR highlighted the risks associated with the recent adoption of a decision establishing a professional card for defenders in Mali. In particular, ISHR is concerned that these measures restrict who can obtain such a card, as well as limit the protections it provides to Malian and not to foreign defenders established in Mali. Moreover, any defender not affiliated to an organisation could be refused the card if they cannot prove their status as a defender in any other way, a request that remains very vague and opens the door to the arbitrary nature of the acceptance or non-acceptance of the supporting documents produced.

“ISHR reminds Mali that the spirit of the UN Declaration is to protect all those who protect human rights without distinction,” concluded Etong Kame.

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